Editor's note: "The Spoken Word" is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast.
As the world becomes more and more electronic, it also becomes less and less connected. Ironically, technology that helps us communicate with almost anyone at all throughout the world has somehow weakened our relationships with those who are closest to us.
For many people of all ages, in-person conversations are being replaced with the screens of hand-held devices. Small talk on a bus, the friendly chatter in line at the store, or just a greeting as we pass on the street seems to have all but disappeared.
These moments may seem incidental and even insignificant, but without them we lose the feeling of community and neighborliness that used to be the norm but now feels quaint and old-fashioned. The result is that many people aren't getting enough of a basic human need — belonging.
Psychologist Susan Pinker recently explained that the secret to living to be 100 has less to do with diet and exercise and more to do with face-to-face interactions. Studies have shown that simply talking with other people throughout the day has the most dramatic impact on our health, our happiness, and our longevity. (See "The Secret to Living Longer May Be Your Social Life," TED talk recorded April 2017.)
It could be as simple as saying hello to someone — anyone. It could be participating in a book club or other social gathering. Maybe your family would benefit from setting your phones aside to play games or work on a project together. Speaking in person, rather than messaging, gives us a chance to smile, react and sense what another is feeling.
One mother wanted her two teenage children to receive the benefits of social interaction, so she signed them up for an art class and a tennis lesson. For at least a few hours each week, their hands were too busy to pick up a phone. Soon they were talking more with other class members, laughing, asking questions, and building bonds. In other words, they were connecting.
Everyone wants to matter. And when we make the effort to speak face to face, we are showing, by our actions, that everyone does matter.