Selfies and selfie sticks have rapidly infected our society with the contagious disease of being self-centered. The "look at me" syndrome is nothing new, but when dramatically heightened through technology, it begs the question:
If we primarily focus on ourselves, what will we accomplish?
When I was going through challenging times in my life, I fully admit, I posted selfies. I realize this was because I was at a low point. I was insecure. I was lonely. I wanted recognition from likes and comments that all was going to be okay.
Interestingly enough, loneliness and selfishness go hand in hand as John T. Cacioppo, Hsi Yuan Chen, and Stephanie Cacioppo discovered in their research. Their article journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167217705120 in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin reveals a reciprocal relationship between loneliness and being self-centered. If you're self-centered, you are more likely to be lonely, and if you're lonely, you're likely to become self-centered.
On the other hand, I realize social media sites are a way to connect and see how your friends and family are living their lives. But it's a fake connection. Let's be honest, social media sites also allow one to accumulate acquaintances and even strangers and 'watch' their lives through the photographs and comments they choose to post. It's a form of unhealthy voyeurism. I would much prefer to spend quality time with friends and family in real life. I want to celebrate their ups and support them in their lows.
So, I urge you to refocus your energies on others and the world. Here are 5 tips to help you:
1. Don't spend mindless time on social media sites. Disconnect from sites that encourage and promote self-centered behavior. This is one of the reasons Linked In is now the only network site I use as it feels like a true place to connect professionally with individuals. It's not a place to collect followers (although that is an option), it's rather a place to connect with leaders and innovators in your field and learn from them, as well as read interesting articles about a myriad of topics. Also, note the key term 'mindless'. Browsing to browse is unhealthy behavior.
2. Don't take pictures of yourself. Instead, photograph those you love, photograph nature, and even take an 'eye' photograph, this means no camera or technology needed. Just be fully present and enjoy the moment!
3. Don't just talk about yourself. When in conversation with another person, focus your energy to learn about the other person. Genuinely ask them how they are and listen. Be present. Don't bulldoze the conversation with your own thoughts. If you're speaking more than you're listening, it's a problem. Fix it.
4. Don't focus on selling yourself. Instead genuinely see how you can help someone else. If you have a service you want to offer, don't shove it down someone else's throat. Instead, seek to learn and find ways to be of service. If you can be helpful to others, the connection will naturally happen.
5. Don't plan your day/week/month/year without considering the needs of others. Take time each morning to think about ways you can be more present and helpful to others. If you have focused your entire day to only serve yourself and your needs, you will be stuck in a self-centered spiral and will gradually shut people out of your life.
Our devices are becoming almost more important to us than nurturing the real relationships in our lives. While we may vehemently disagree with this statement, our actions are frequently proving otherwise.
I am no saint in this area. I too get sucked into my device. While there are times I am reading and responding to important emails, most often I find myself randomly browsing. I even go so far as to justify my browsing and claim it's important. I might be reading articles that peak my interest, or click on a delicious recipe I may want to make, or read someone's story about how they became strong and healthy in under thirty days. I can argue that I've learned something new that I can apply to my life. But really, what I'm doing is losing time that I can never get back with the people I care about most.
The information on the device is available at anytime. If you are by yourself and want to enjoy your device, by all means. But when you have a choice: to be on your device or spend time with someone who is literally in the same room as you, please choose the person!
Something that breaks my heart is when I see two or more people out to dinner but each person is on their own device. They disengage from one another. I've seen people eat entire meals in this state. I wonder why they chose to go out in the first place. Did they really enjoy their meal? Did they really enjoy each other's company?
Have you ever been around someone who is on their device? Did you notice that you too gravitate towards your own device? It's almost as if it gives you permission to do so. And neither party feels guilty and neither party notices how quickly time passes without a word being spoken between the two people.
Please invest in your relationships at work and at home by trying these 3 steps:
1. Put devices away and set them to airplane mode or do not disturb mode at all meals. Fully engage with those at your table.
2. Stop looking at your device right before bed and right when you get up. Instead, develop a night time ritual that allows you to read a physical book, or speak to someone about their day, their hopes, their dreams, their fears, and their life. Maybe use this time to express your gratitude and write in a gratitude journal. Take a bubble bath. Treat yourself to real life.
3. When in a room with someone else, put your phone away and engage with them fully. However, we all need to use our devices at different times. If you must use your device, please be polite and express that you will use it for a specific amount of time and that you will then give your full attention to the person in the room. This allows that other person to know you'll be busy working or browsing or checking emails for a designated amount of time before you spend time together.
And, if you want to be on your own, go to another room, take a walk, do what you need to do, but don't make that person feel less important than your device by turning your attention to the device right in front of them.
Will we allow friendships and relationships to suffer because of our addictions to our devices or will we put down our devices and actually engage with those we cherish? What will you choose?
Listening. We're not very good at it. In fact, most of the time, we're distracted. We're thinking about what we want to say next. Or we're thinking about something entirely different.
Research indicates that we can speak at a rate of 125-175 words per minute but we actually have the capacity to hear over 450 words per minute. This is why our mind often wanders. We are filling in this gap with our own thoughts.
Moreover, our attention span as adults is incredibly short. It is said that it last 22 seconds (less or more depending upon our level of interest). So, no wonder we have a listening problem and a listening deficit in our society. If we want to improve our relationships and make positive social change, we desperately need to become better listeners.
Here are five secrets of effective listeners.
1. They don't pretend they're listening. Have you ever heard of the following tips to help you be a better listener? Make eye contact. Nod and smile to show you're listening. Make sure to say: "uh-huh" every few sentences. Forget those. If you are really invested in what someone is saying you'll do those things naturally. If you're not invested and you don't want to listen, then disengage from the conversation. The worst thing you can do is to pretend to listen when you are disengaged, distracted, or disconnected. It's much more respectful to bow out of the conversation and find a time to connect with someone at another point where you can fully focus on them and nothing else.
2. They are fully present and open. Invest in actively listening and being fully present. Granted, your mind will still wander off at times, but acknowledge this and refocus back on the person in front of you. Give them your undivided attention. This deals with single-tasking. And listen with an open heart and open mind. Forget judgments. If you listen with love, you'll be hard pressed to judge someone at the same time - for those two are opposites. Actively, consciously, and empathetically listen to someone else.
3. They listen more than they speak. Even the word conversation assumes a back and forth between listening and speaking. We assume the two would take turns and would perhaps even be equal partners. To have a truly meaningful conversation, I encourage you to focus on the other person and take the focus off of yourself. Aim to just focus on listening while in a conversation.
4. They listen to learn. A conversation is an opportunity to learn from someone else. If you see it as an opportunity to dominate the conversation and just share your own thoughts and opinions, you may come off as pompous and even narcissistic. Forget your own ideas, thoughts, and contributions, for you already know those things already. What do you learn when you're the only one talking? Instead, truly invest in that other person. Make it your mission to learn something and to simply genuinely be there for someone else. Make it a self-less act. Make it a joy for someone to want to share with you. The goal should be to listen in order to understand the other person.
5. They are curious and ask questions. Find out more! Ask questions that dig deeper. Too often people don't ask enough questions. Pay attention to this the next time you're having a conversation. Notice the amount and kinds of questions you ask. Aim to ask open-ended questions to allow for a longer and more interesting response. You might be surprised at what you discover.
If only more people were fully present, truly listened, were curious to learn more, and with the intent to learn, imagine how much happier and more understood everyone would feel. Imagine the impact on friendships, relationships, and even broken partnerships around the world.