A Harvard-Trained Psychiatrist on How Social Media Is Leading to a Loneliness Epidemic.

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Today, as I was riding the NYC subway, I looked at the passengers around me…

Every single one was hunched over a smart phone.

Remember the days of small talk? People seem to be having better relationships with technology than one another.  So, what’s this obsession with technology and social media costing us?

Apparently, a lot.

In search of deeper understanding, I reached out to Dr. Dan Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute. He warned that an over-reliance on technology and social media may be negatively impacting our relationships in real-time.

Hopefully, this interview inspires you to turn off the phone for a bit--to rest your mind and engage in the real-world around you.

1. We both agree that relationships are the most important factor for a lifetime of happiness. How are relationships faring today? What are the biggest challenges to relationships right now?

Relationships are suffering, as people are losing the art of conversation and connection. Unfortunately, society is losing the understanding that the “self” is not only who we are alone, but also our identity in relationship with others and the world of nature around us. 

2. Studies indicate that technology is leading to a global epidemic—of social isolation, depression, cognitive impairment & spiritual emptiness. What do you think is happening?

The internet and social media often foster a superficial level of communication. We have an "illusory" sense of connection with others. But, the reality of curated images (i.e., how we want others to perceive us) hampers true connection. These "relationships" are being built on a false foundation.

3. What limits should we all place on technology and social media?

That’s a complicated and important question.  Time limits on technology and social media are a good starting place. In this era of overwhelm, it's also important to engage in various activities for optimal mental health.

A “Healthy Mind Platter” requires each of us to make time for: (1) goal-oriented, focused attention, (2) play, (3) connections with others, especially in-person, (4) physical exercise, (5) internal time for reflection, (6) down-time (without a specific purpose), and (7) sleep. 

Hopefully, technology itself will start to create usage boundaries, as well.  

4. I have been meditating for approximately 8 years—and found it to be completely transformative. You’re a Harvard-educated psychiatrist who embraces mindfulness and meditation. Why? What changes have you seen in people who embrace this practice?

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In my recently released book, "Aware," I give practical instruction for mastering the Wheel of Awareness--a meditative tool for cultivating more focus, presence and peace in day-to-day life. As you develop a Wheel of Awareness practice by focusing attention and cultivating kind intention, you can literally grow a healthier brain.

Plus, you experience a decline in fear, anxiety and stress. You learn to be more focused and present, as well as more energized and emotionally resilient in the face of everyday challenges.

5. How can we develop our emotional intelligence for better relationships—with our partners, at work, and in our families?

When we learn to cultivate presence in our lives, we become receptively aware and able to create deeper and more meaningful connections with others.  Sometimes that presence involves looking back and creating a more coherent autobiographical narrative of our lives; it also involves learning to expand our sense of “self,” so that we realize that we are deeply shaped by the authentic connections we have with one another.   

To see Dr. Siegel’s ground-breaking books, including his latest “Aware,” click here.

To practice the Wheel of Awareness meditation, click here.

interviewsMonica Parikh