Are you struggling to connect with like-minded people in today's world? The digital age is perfect for multimedia connection, but many of us are left lacking when it comes to actual in-person connection and communication. Even when we recognize the problem, the solution escapes us. How do we find communities to connect with outside of the digital world? As entrepreneurs, how do we step away from our duties long enough to engage on a personal level?
The answers don’t come easy, but does that mean we should accept our fates and let go of human connection and rely instead on Facebook likes, Instagram shares, and LinkedIn Connections?
According to research, that’s a terrible idea. Social media use is not only linked to issues of mental health, depression, anxiety, and feelings of isolation; it has a causal relationship to these issues. In other words, you aren’t on social media because you are suffering mentally; you are suffering mentally because you are on social media.
How does this happen?
Simply put, social media removes the human element and instead leaves a false narrative in its place. You aren’t interacting with another human being. Instead, you are comparing yourself to a false ideal of someone else’s life. When sharing something on social media, we remove ourselves from the equation. In place of ourselves, we create a persona we believe our followers will engage with more. In both roles of participation, not only are you losing the human connection, you also lose a bit of yourself in this digital exchange.
As humans, we are social creatures. We thrive off group interaction, we need one another to bounce ideas off, to generate new creative pathways, and to elevate our emotional and cognitive drives. Without one another, we suffer. With one another, we grow. As with all things, an entrepreneurial lifestyle is primarily about balance. Place too much weight on one side of the scale while neglecting the other and the center cannot hold. If you pour all of your energies into a solo endeavor, your abilities to recuperate and grow could diminish over time.
This is why many larger companies have instated policies against full-time remote work. When workers only digitally connect with their peers, communication suffers and new ideas generate at a significantly slower rate than when workers communicate in person.
More than half of remote workers also report feelings of isolation and disconnection. (https://theconversation.com/its-not-just-the-isolation-working-from-home-has-surprising-downsides-107140)
However, working in your company office isn’t the only solution (it may not even be an option if you're an entrepreneur). Research also shows that working from an unaffiliated coworking space can be just as beneficial, or even more beneficial, than working in a corporate office. Coworking allows for higher levels of autonomy than corporate offices and also provides the connections and community needed to diversify a professional network, interact with innovative ideas, and socialize on a human level. It has the perks of connecting with like-minded workers without the drawbacks of a corporate work environment.
Furthermore, the Harvard Business Review reported that coworking members reported significantly higher feelings of thriving than office workers. Coworking members feel more invested in their work, more connected to a community, and more able to socialize and ideate collectively. Interestingly, even coworking members who generally prefer not to socialize benefitted from the option to socialize. Knowing that they could participate in the surrounding community significantly improved a worker’s feelings of connections to that community.
Perhaps you aren’t sold on coworking. Perhaps your home office (or dining room) is just too comfortable to let go of. That’s okay. We’re all built a little differently, and what works for some will not always work for others. But does that mean you’re out of options when it comes to personal connection? Of course not.
Coworking spaces across the country, including The Biz Foundry, recognize that coworking is only part of the solution. These spaces also curate a regular stream of networking opportunities, social events, and community workshops. For meaningful connections and growth to occur, sometimes work has to take a back seat to socializing and communicating. This doesn’t mean you're shirking your business obligations. On the contrary, you are bolstering your emotional and mental state while building new professional networks or creative connections. You’re growing your business by growing yourself. Your business is a part of you, if you aren’t investing in your own best interest, you aren’t investing in the best interest of your business.
So take some time away from the home office, the computer, tablet, and cellphone. Join your local coworking space or find a networking opportunity in your area. If you live in the Cookeville area, The Biz Foundry is a great place to start. Our coworking space and free monthly events are both excellent opportunities to immerse yourself in a creative and human environment on your own terms.