Loneliness and the feeling that life lacks meaning are things I often hear about in my 1:1 work. And, our modern ways of living have a huge role to play in this. Life today has become more anonymous-transactional than it has ever been. By this I mean that human interactions are becoming more detached and abstract, therefore less meaningful. Through technology, we are connected to each other more than ever before, but are we really connecting with each other? Anonymous-transactional living is at play.
What’s going on?
Two related things are happening here:
(I) The sheer volume of people we interact with on a daily basis, physically and virtually
(ii) The lower frequency of interactions with any single individual
If hunter gatherers and village communities had a large number of interactions with a small number of people, today we have the opposite — a smaller number of interactions per person, but with a much higher number of people. To put it another way, the average number of interactions with the same person is much lower today compared to our hunter-gatherer or even agricultural ancestors, who spent much of their time within small tribes and communities.
There are so many demands made on our time in modernity through meetings, emails, telephone calls and social media, that we might not even be nurturing the closest relationships we have with our spouses and children. And, less time spent with a person means less opportunity to form a deeper connection with them.
Let me be clear. I am not suggesting that technology, global connectivity and the flexibility they provide are bad. On the contrary. But, what we must be mindful of is how the way we do things in modernity can fundamentally change how we relate to each other as human beings, without us even having noticed!
Big corporations perpetuate it
Anonymous transactions are a key reason why the corporate world of 9-to-5 can feel particularly sterile and lacking in human connection. It is structurally set-up that way. You don’t need to spend any time getting to know anyone particularly well. You just need to get the job done and deliver.
And, this problem is largely created through size – large organisations that are structurally set-up to create anonymity, bureaucracy and mediocrity, often reducing people to numbers and android like entities.
Beyond anonymous-transactional living
Noticing how you live your life is the starting point for change. Ask yourself:
What is the quality of my relationships?
How much time do I really spend with the people I care about?
How much am I connecting with people I interact with at a deep human level?
Harsha is an executive and life coach based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives. Find out more about Harsha’s work.