Blog By Aruna Joshi

How to Build Nourishing Relationships in the Digital Age

I belong to a generation where we played real games, we chatted real-time, and we could express our feelings in front of a real person and not through emoticons. When I say this, you may think of me as one of those old sententious women in her late sixties; but mind you I have yet a couple of more decades to reach there. Our generation particularly, has seen such a rapid revamp in every aspect of life that it becomes difficult at times to comprehend the enormous shift that has taken place in such a short time.
Undoubtedly, technology has done wonders to our life. We have all the things required to lead a comfortable life. We can connect with anyone in any part of the world instantly, irrespective of where we are. We are exposed to an ocean of opportunities and possibilities; all this has been possible only due to the technological revolution. The advent of smart phones and social media has further brought the world on our finger tips. We can easily reconnect to people with whom we lost touch years ago. Whether it is banking, shopping or commuting; everything has become easy. The whole world is moving ahead at a jet speed and if we are not able to match up with that, we are left far behind. It is quite overwhelming at times.
It will not be an exaggeration to say the technology has firmly subjugated all of us. We are mostly living in the virtual world – a world of ‘click’ ‘like’ ‘comment’ and ‘share’. The whole new era of technology has also induced stress, anxiety, insecurity and depression in our lives. Research shows that depression, anxiety and anti-social behaviour has phenomenally increased in the last decade.
Somewhere along the path, we have forgotten that we are ‘emotional beings’. We often hold back our emotions as we don’t have any one to express them to. We have become so involved with our own lives, tending to our own needs that we are hardly left with the time and energy to lend an ear to anyone else. We are also scared to be vulnerable, and strive hard to maintain the social image of a happy and confident person that we have created. We don’t really have a genuine someone to talk to, who would listen to us without taking advantage or being judgemental, and love us the way we are and protect our vulnerability. Heart-to-heart conversations have become rare. Most of our interactions with other people are superficial, with a formal, “Hi, How are you?” where we don’t even wait for the other person to respond.
We are thus becoming an emotionally suffocated race and these pent up emotions manifest in the form of physical and mental illnesses.
What we need in today’s world is a real-time authentic relationship. We need a real friend to open our hearts to. A study says that an average person taps, clicks or swipes his smart phone 2617 times a day. Here’s some food for thought. How much (forget the quality time) time do we really spend with our loved ones. How many times do we strike a genuine, soulful conversation with them during the day? Even the good old dinner-time conversations have been replaced by Television or smart phones. Today we find people sitting together but each connected to the world outside rather than with the ones physically present there.

I remember the wonderful times we spent with our family on the dinner table where each one of us shared how our day went by. Our parents were aware of where we went, whom we met, what we did, and how we felt. It was a healthy and safe space to be in. We spent quality time with our friends, having hearty conversations – no reservations, no inhibitions whatsoever. We could easily barge in any time in to our friend’s house, have a meal or even stay over.

However, with technology taking over our lives, the concept of “Let’s meet and plan” has been replaced by “Let’s plan and meet”. Time has become a rare commodity. We are all multi-tasking these days and at the end of the day we realize that we haven’t had even a few moments to ourselves. With the kind of life we are living, it is of utmost importance to build strong and nourishing relationships with ourselves and people around us.

Here are a few ways to do so.

–       Integrate the change: Instead of getting enslaved by technology, use it to your advantage. We don’t really need to see our smart phones first thing in the morning and last thing in the night, do we? The world is not going to collapse if we don’t do so. Technology is for our convenience and comfort and should be used that way. For example, we can save time in banking, paying bills, getting groceries, as this is now possible by just a click. By making use of technology judiciously, we can find more time for our real-time relationships.

–       Practice E-Detox: I do this intermittently. When things get overwhelming, it’s best to slow down. It is important to clear your head space of unnecessary things. The best way is to put off your Wi-Fi or mobile data for a day. When you do it for the first time, you may become highly anxious. ‘What if there are some important messages or emails that I may miss?’ you will think. But after doing this a few times, you will start enjoying the fee space that is available in your head. I have made it practice to do this when I am with my family and friends. Those are most soul-nourishing conversations I’ve had. This has also helped me build up some really strong bonds.

–       Plan outings together: In urban India, an outing on weekends generally means going to the mall, watching a movie and going to the restaurant. Since we live in the technological age, we are more in touch with the electronic gadgets, than nature. We are highly exposed to the invisible electromagnetic radiation that affects our well-being. It is a good idea to plan a small trek, a nature trail, a visit to a historical place or even a walk by the beach once in a while. Being with nature helps to nullify the ill-effect and also brings people together and helps in creating a strong bond.

–       Be there for your friends and family: There is an old person I know of. He is rich in terms of material wealth but does not have anybody around him. His whole life was focused on his career and earning money. He never had the time to develop relationships with his friends. His sons went abroad and his wife passed away. He went into depression. He said, “I wish I had spent more time with my family and friends. One needs to strike a balance. What stays with you till the end, are people and the moments shared with them.

It is quite an overwhelming feeling in today’s world with hoard of things that are waiting for your attention. It induces lot of stress as well. But sometimes when your friends and family need you, be there for them. Learn to relax – everything can wait.

–       Value your relationships: Go out of your way to do something for others. Being there for others, helping them in need, goes a long way in creating a strong bond. It takes a long time to build up a relationship, but it just takes a moment to break it. Show the other person that you genuinely care. Value every relationship you have.

–       Empathise and be non-judgemental: Only when you are able to step into someone else’s shoes can you understand that person well. We are often quick in passing judgements about others without even trying to understand the reason behind the person’s behaviour. Create a space around you where people don’t feel threatened. We are all highly stressed nowadays. And most of the times we react to people and situations rather than responding. Every person is right in his/her own way. Probably, ‘you would behave the same way in their situation’. If you are able to adopt a more empathetic approach, you may develop some invaluable relationships.

–       Lend your Ear: We are all running after the unknown and we have no time left for emotional stuff. Everything we do is goal or target oriented. Everyone wants to talk and make an impression but nobody wants to listen. We don’t have time to listen to other person. But do you know that the best gift you can give others is to ‘Listen to them’. Listen, not with the intention of responding or advising but with the intention of making the other person feel heard.

–       Forgiveness & Gratitude: These are the two powerful virtues that create strong bonds. It is said, “Apologizing does not always mean you are wrong and the other person is right. It means that you value your relationship more than your ego.”

Expressing gratitude make the other person feel worthy and strengthens your relationship.

–       Relationship with self: It is said that ‘Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for all other relationships you have’. So the first step is to nourish the relationship with self. It is important to be in touch with your inner core. Only when we are able to do so can we build up authentic relationships.

How much ever we progress technologically, we will still remain human beings with an emotional centre. We are always going to need someone to talk to, share our thoughts, be by our side, motivate us in our low times, support us emotionally, and give us strength mentally. Even the priciest of the material things in the world cannot fulfil any of these needs. We are going to need each other till eternity. So why not truly focus on building such relationships that are strong and soul-nourishing? Doing this will make our life’s  journey fulfilling, happy, and enjoyable.