3 Simple Ways to Build Real Connections in a Digital World
The hack to making genuine connections on social media and elsewhere online? Show up with intention.
By taking a more meaningful approach to our digital habits, building authentic relationships online has never been more attainable.
Let’s face it. Society continues to embrace technology.
Today an estimated 4.62 billion users tap social media platforms to meet, connect, and interact with other people from around the world. While this gift of speedy connectivity is undoubtedly beneficial to our relationships, work, and entertainment, the downfall of heightened social media use is that it’s completely changed the way we connect with others—on and off the apps–potentially for the worse.
You’ve probably scrolled through your friend’s social media posts and suddenly felt a wave of loneliness or sadness. Whether it’s the fear of missing out, the surface-level context that keeps things shallow, the asynchronous nature that tends to strip the honesty and vulnerability of IRL, or comparing your life to others' curated “shiny, happy, and largely fake” feeds that cause you distress, you are not alone.
A 2021 survey of 1,250 U.S. adults revealed that 58% of Americans believe social media negatively impacts their mental health, citing anxiety, depression, and isolation as common side effects. Despite the benefits of digital connections, we humans crave a particular type of humanity that’s lacking online—for now.
Where humans are, connections will come. So despite it being difficult, it is possible to build genuine connections online and use technology to your advantage to strengthen existing relationships.
Keep reading and discover three practical ways below to connect more deeply and authentically in an increasingly digital world without ditching technology for good:
1. Disconnect to reconnect.
If you’re struggling to be real, and show up authentically and to build relationships online, you may need to remember how to do it in person first.
Yes, especially after the last few years that’ve led us to all been so out of practice. Get off your laptop or phone and connect with your favorite bunch of humans in real-time. You can schedule meetings with friends where you intentionally leave your phone behind and enjoy being in the present moment with people again. If you get hives just thinking about that, it’s a sure sign you need it more than ever.
Truth is, it’s not just about clumsily trying to stay connected in the last few years, if you’ve found making friends as an adult generally difficult, you’re not alone. There’s a fantastic book by author Kat Vellos called “We Should Get Together: The Secret of Cultivating Better Friendship.” So if you’d like a handy guide to adult friendships or a good read to inspire reconnections, give it a go!
If real connections are what you’re craving, then power down your devices and find them offline while you build your online community. Truth is, once you’ve spent some time back in the face-to-face connection space, then you can use technology to build on or follow up on this experience in a way that feels more personal than just tech-alone conversation.
2. Make vulnerability a practice.
It’s challenging to make connections online when conversations only make it surface level. So here’s a secret: you’re allowed to show up online as authentically as you choose.
No one else makes the rules in how you engage online and off beside you. So if you’ve noticed that online communities you’re a part of lack authenticity, don’t be afraid to bring people together by sharing your truth.
There are plenty of highlight moments in our lives to slap a filter on and share online. But some parts of life just aren’t that pretty, and opening up about those not-so-pretty bits can be the missing connector.
Storytelling has the power to inspire connectivity no matter where it occurs. So bring some humanity to your online presence by sharing your narrative and inspiring others to do the same.
Quick note, though - always do a bit of a safety check first. Ask if you feel like the platform or group or community feels safe enough to share your reality and know you’ll be seen, held, and supported in a way that feels connecting and constructive, and not judged and dejected.
3. Ask questions.
Asking people to talk about themselves never fails in person to inspire connections, so apply the same formula to your digital habits.
Whether it’s on an online forum, your most-used social media platform, or even through email or text, ask people questions to encourage opportunities for engagement. A question as simple as, “What did you do this weekend,” can lead to a new friendship if you’re just willing to ask.
Yes, people are “used to” being talked at and not talked to in the real world, but that doesn’t mean they like or benefit from it. So spark meaningful conversations online and off by simply being curious. Make use of handy poll features on platforms like LinkedIn or Instagram, or just sound off a question in an interesting comment section. Open questions often allow us to not only share their own ideas and answers, but also see others’ responses and realize we’re not alone. Essentially, whenever you’re at a loss for creating engagement in a digital space, just ask away!
Keep it real on your terms.
Technology isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and neither are meaningful connections. The digital world doesn’t change the fact that we are relationship-centric beings at our core, so if deeper relationships are what you’re craving online, rather than writing off technology, learn how to turn it into a relationships starting and building tool. Your digital community can be as connected as you make it, and if you’re searching for a meaningful one to be a part of, join the Good Life Project community.
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Building authentic relationships in a digital world against social media effects is possible! Cultivate genuine connections online with just three simple tips.