The Fundamental Paradigms of the Human Experience
There are two fundamental paradigms of the human experience: the first consists of the inherent and inexplicable parts of life; the second is the deliberate cultivation of life within society. It is ethereal, enigmatic, turbulent, yet consistent. Regardless of language, origin, ethnicity, or religion, all people experience pain, lust, laughter, and a craving for connection. This facet is structured, chronic, and systematic. Humans attend schools, apply to jobs, join organizations–all in search of connection. The two aspects of our experience (while opposing in definition) circularly related due to a simple supply and demand model. We are born with this intrinsic and insatiable craving to feel seen and heard by others, then live our lives cultivating spaces in society that allow us to forge these connections. The social media space’s monetization of human connection speaks to this argument.
MySpace’s creation kickstarted the virtual world in the early 2000s. Although only introduced a mere 20 years ago, it seems impossible to imagine an existence without instant access to a constant flow of human interaction. Social media was created with the incentive of allowing people to make more robust and longer-lasting connections. Influencers, entrepreneurs, politicians, and public figures can now use their social media profiles as platforms for their beliefs and build communities through their following. However, as of 2020, statistics show that 70% of Americans use social media, but there has been no decrease in loneliness and disconnect. Why is this so? Why is it that an endless supply of human connection cannot satiate our craving? I believe that with the emergence of social media also came the normalcy of pseudo-connections.
Building Genuine Relationships in the Digital World
A new connection on LinkedIn, follow on Instagram, or friend on Facebook is all different shades of opportunity to build a genuine relationship. Still, it is easy to forget why we wanted to create these connections in the first place when doing so can be done with the click of a button. Human connection is not meant to be surface level. Genuine and long-lasting relationships require a certain level of intent, empathy, and authenticity. The challenge then is to be mindful of effortless networking in today’s hyper-digitized world, given today’s pandemic climate and the influx of virtual meetings, classes, and gatherings. Now, most interactions we have are virtual. We can no longer depend on eye contact, firm handshakes, warm embraces, or face-to-face interactions fundamental in strengthening human relationships. When physicality is taboo, and most people are limited to social media interactions, testing the two human experience paradigms. What are we to do when the demand is high, but supply feels low? How do we attempt to satiate our innate hunger for human connection when the fundamental aspects of making these connections are frequently prohibited? What space do we create for ourselves in a society where we take our classes, attend our jobs, or support organizations through a computer screen in our homes? How do we gain the trust of coworkers, clients, or partners virtually? I believe that the answer is simple. Suppose we could utilize our innate tools, like compassion and empathy, and focus these emotions authentically and intentionally through our social media connections. In that case, we will successfully adapt to the hyper-digitized world’s circumstances in which we live.
When considering the critical role that human contact plays in the two facets of human experience, it is evident that human connection is more than a click of a button, more than a warm embrace, or a firm handshake. Human connection is the antidote to human futility. Our purpose is found within others, and to ensure that this purpose is actualized, we must adapt to the digitized world and practice intent-driven internet use.