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When Was The Last Time You Chatted To A Stranger?

We may scoff at the idea of people not being able to survive without a mobile phone. But these days, if we look around in a public place, there is enough evidence to suggest that many of us look like we would not be able to. Heads bowed & necks curved we’re all looking down watching the world through the devices in our palms.

I spent a few days in a forest chalet this week, and was out of range for most of the time. After the initial shock and horror of my unexpected mobile-less-ness, I survived perfectly well, and was better off because of it. Beautiful family, good friends, delicious food and nature. What more could one want?

For most people, their mobile phone.

These days most of us feel naked without our mobile. Apart from it being able to do pretty much everything for us, it also provides us comfort in times of nothingness. Whether it’s on a train, at the gym, on the streets, in a lift at work or in a café, everybody is filling the eerie nothing moments between other things we do in life by staring at their mobile. Even if you are not obsessed with your mobile, you ended up staring at it, because you can feel a bit of a weirdo just looking out into space.

But what are we missing out on? For some people who’ve had accidents whilst engrossed in their mobile, it might be a curb or car. But for the most part we are missing out on making and maintaining social connections. This can only happen when you are actually aware of the people in your surroundings and being attentive in the moment.

You know, the type of connections we would have made pre hand-held devices. The connections that would have started with a chat over the fence, eye contact on a train, complaining about the weather at the bus stop, flirting in the nightclub line, talking about our lives with the lady next to us on the treadmill or a quick good morning as we pass someone on the street.

This is where many of our connections start, with people we don’t know yet. I am wondering what will happen in the long run if we stop looking up. We will miss out on connecting with strangers that could have, and would have had, an incredible impact on our life, in more ways than one.

Social interaction is an important contributor to good health and longevity. It’s up there with nutrition and physical activity in terms of its value on our life. There is a plethora of research that shows that people with close social ties, live longer than those that don’t. Social connectivity, or lack of, plays an important role in the development and worsening of both physical and psychological conditions.

We need actual people to share our happy moments as well as to help us through the bad times. People provide a sounding board when we need to debrief about life. They help us solve problems and make big life decisions. Social interactions help us get a sense of meaning and purpose in our life.

We need to be noticing and interacting with the people around us to do this. It doesn’t happen so much when we are looking down, in fact, we are perhaps missing out on most of these benefits by doing this.

It’s all well and good to say that our mobiles have actually helped us connect more, but this goes against some recent reports that suggest a societal decline in social connectedness. People are feeling lonelier and more isolated as time goes by.

So for a long and healthy life don’t forget to look up. Interact with the people around you, even when you don't know them. Feel the pain of not looking at your mobile in the next line you stand in and have a chat with a stranger.

It could be life changing for you.

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