In a world of ‘too many, too few, too little, too much’, the toll of loneliness and social isolation experienced by youth globally which can lead to depression, drug use, gang violence, even terrorism, and suicide, is alarmingly prevalent. We need more than a bandaid. We need sustainable long-term transformation.
To affect change, can our global youth–our future stewards of humanity and our planet– be the starting point and conduit we need to get back to happiness? And, can technology fulfill our basic need for personal recognition, and then move fulfillment exponentially, setting the bar above just ‘me’, the individual, to ‘we, not me’ and give ‘me’ the opportunity to exchange and also touch another life to share happiness–which may in fact be life’s greatest gift.
In a recent NPR interview, Dr. Christina Bethell of Johns Hopkins University states, “…positive relationships during youth decrease social isolation, suicides, depression,…” If Love and Laughter are foundations of health (mental and physical), and a sense of worthiness is a foundation of vulnerability which gives us the capacity to open to love and laughter and connection as Dr. Brene’ Brown gives us, then perhaps technology is not the actual root of the problem of increased loneliness, social isolation and the breakdown of happiness, but can be part of the solution.
Relationships in today’s world are not always easy to achieve. Aggressive discourse, fighting vocabulary, bullying, and violence are building all around us while family time is often at scarce, being true to yourself (dinosaur lover that you are) can often lead you directly into the path of the bullies (who are most likely, just like you, trying to find their own solid footing and are too vulnerable to admit they, too, love dinosaurs) and being a kind, positive, trailblazer takes a huge amount of courage and self-empowerment which too often hasn’t been developed yet in the hurried environment and ennui of formal education.
This is where Humanity and Technology are merging. Everyone needs a friend. Sometimes during the time when you are feeling most vulnerable you dive into a silo dream world of films, movies, books, and/or games which give no relationship possibilities. Sometimes you hide behind your avatar until trust is built and you can emerge as your own true self at a moment in time (if you are lucky). And, sometimes you find a global community in which to be yourself stumbling upon other dinosaur lovers who have been looking for you–nirvana! Happiness!
No point in squeezing your eyes and fists screaming, ‘GO AWAY!’, technology is going nowhere. For many youth today, it is their teddy bear, their safety net. So, what if we use the one thing youth use every.single.day to bridge the gap between life on&off the tech grid–to help build self-efficacy, trust, capacity to engage, listen, compromise, and build relationships…not group or classroom-to-classroom relationships or dipping in to view what someone else is doing or making a brief interaction, those opportunities exist everywhere, but with a blockchain (a protected, safe network for active communication over a secure tech bandwidth) for global multi-peer communication as a source for happiness? An environment conducive to interaction and exchange between youth can have a long-term ROI effecting a better world for Humanity at-large.
Technology for positive youth impact does exist. Piggybacking off the gaming world where the youth of today no longer see borders, gender, race, or segregation, but rather compatriots with whom to Create. Connect. Collaborate., can communicate in ways other generations are stressed to understand. Sparkles of happiness magically transcend traditional stereotypes and generational ‘stop’ signs to light the lives of our global youth who see beyond those barriers to find ‘friends everywhere’. And, as shared laughter forges friendships, virtual project building builds respect across the internet and mutual feelings of accomplishment and self-esteem–whether it is sharing a recipe or building an SDG impact on the ground.
Fusing life on&off the tech grid with innovative technology and the virtual world to embrace our fluid and inclusive power of ‘possibilities’, empowering girls, empowering boys–empowering all youth–to help create a more balanced and peaceful world, can be scaled. Virtual connectivity is not about replacing or usurping the tactile exploration of flowers, trees, a soccer/football field or meeting Jill, Jack, Wang Lee, Pedra, Stellah, Kailee in person…but instead it augments life and brings global and cross-cultural dimension where none existed before. Discovering the beauty of diversity, being able to articulate the celebration of people and cultures everywhere through shared love of music, art, sports, science, nature, tech, theatre, writing, and all things cultural, in an environment free from the stresses of politics, religion, causes and socio-demographic segregation–without judgment by elders–gives a freedom our youth know the internet can deliver. When you don’t own a passport (and may never) or have a local friend, the world can come to you. You never need to be lonely or socially isolated, you just need to choose your blockchain, or platform for communicating and connecting, wisely–
Building a solid foundation of friendship, respect, and trust between youth can springboard to more complex discourse thinking. The idea of living in a world where a ‘we, not me’ concept comes alive and is scaled globally among our future decision-makers, can change our current trajectory of chaos and bring us back to the basics of life: Love and Laughter. Connection. Belonging. We are all just people, after all, and we all desire our own sense of happiness. If we listen, and support them, through the power of technology global youth can be, are, and will be, #YouthUnitingNations How about giving Technology for Humanity & Happiness a chance?