Social media FOMO. Video game addiction. Notification spam. When was the last time you caught up with someone who didn’t check their phone at all during the conversation?
Admirably, Mark Zuckerberg’s latest post addresses the lack of meaningful online connection to be Facebook’s biggest challenge of 2018 — signaling an important change necessary for the technology industry as a whole. Sites like Time Well Spent and The Slow Web Movement are great places to get involved in this campaign.
Instead of bringing technology to humanity, what about bringing humanity to technology?
One promising perspective — there are technology products out there that doinspire, connect, and foster intimate, face-to-face human connection. Below are three consumer technology platforms I’ve personally used for meaningful social interactions, that have given me faith in the promising power of technology to inspire and connect.
Workaway and WWOOF
Opportunities include farms, spiritual centers, sustainable living communities and even individual homes. You need zero experience to get started — just a willingness and determination to offer a helpful hand. Commitments are usually at least a week long, and you work 20 hours a week.
But the true value of these programs isn’t in the free food and lodging. It’s about feeling completely and utterly inexperienced for the first time since you started your job. It’s about learning how to shear a llama or clean an outdoor kitchen. But most importantly, it’s about an intimate connection with your host, and a deep empathy with someone who leads a radically different lifestyle than your own.
Couchsurfing is an online platform similar to AirBnB, except it’s completely free for both the host and the guest. If you need a place to crash on a road trip, or want to check out a foreign city and meet a local, you can use Couchsurfing to find kind souls willing to offer their couch. Hosts and guests have ratings, feedback, and background checks for safety.
Unlike AirBnB, with Couchsurfing, you actually get to talk to your host, and spend at least two to three hours of conversation. Your host just wants to get to know you, to understand your background, and to share stories. Who knows, you may even make a long time friend after your stay!
Personally, I’ve been floored by the incredible kindness of Couchsurfing hosts. For no benefit or reward, altruistic people offer their private homes to complete strangers. Perhaps our world needs more of these fleeting yet magical stranger interactions.
Meetup.com is great for folks who have interests and want to pursue them further in a community format. Meetup.com has practically every interest, from mushroom foraging to cribbage players. At meetups, complete strangers engage in discussions and their passions.
The beautiful thing about Meetup.com is that everyone in the meetup groups are open and excited to have new members join — members will always make you feel welcome strike up a conversation, even if you’re acting shy. Meetups are a great place to get started in interacting with strangers — if you feel comfortable, you could go further and try out Couchsurfing or homestay programs.