The Importance of Social Connection in the Digital Age

The Importance of Social Connection in the Digital Age
Photo by Thomas Bennie / Unsplash

In the modern world, technology and social interaction are intertwined. As we navigate this dynamic, it is crucial to understand the role technology plays in shaping our social connections. I recently recorded a conversation with Jeff Hall, a renowned professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas, who has extensively researched this topic.

You can listen to our conversation on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Amazon Music.

Hall's research focuses on how our social interaction practices and patterns intersect with new technologies, particularly regarding our inherent need to belong. He found that when our need for connection is high, seemingly small moments of connection facilitated by technology can make a significant difference. These insights have important implications, especially for those feeling disconnected or remote workers who rely heavily on digital platforms for social interaction.

Hall argues that we often underestimate the importance of these forms of connection. This raises the question: are we valuing our digital interactions appropriately, or are we dismissing the true value of our online connections?

Our conversation took an interesting turn when exploring the potential role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in meeting our social needs. As AI continues to advance, its potential to mimic human interaction is a topic currently debated widely. Could AI ever become a trustworth independent actor, and what are the implications of employing AI in fields like mental health?

There are dangers in attributing superhuman abilities to AI. It's essential to remain aware of the technology's limitations and maintain human control in high-risk situations. Much like tech philosopher Jaron Lanier's insight that humans often inaccurately blame themselves when technology fails, we should be wary of attributing superhuman abilities to AI.

As Professor Hall reminded me in this conversation, we need to be kind to ourselves and preserve our social connections in an increasingly technology-mediated world. He emphasized the importance of intentionality in communication, arguing that we must actively foster our relationships to maintain social connections.

This conversation was an enlightening exploration into the complexities of social connection in our digital age. It underscores the importance of understanding the power and limits of technology in shaping our social interactions, and the need to navigate our tech-mediated world with awareness, intentionality, and kindness.