A few years ago I started blogging and dedicated that first blog to my father, Carlos Borgialli. Recently we were in discussion about tango and my travels, isolation, loneliness, why do people want to learn tango, etc. Shortly after he crafted a letter to a doctor friend and he cc’d me on it. I am sharing the letter with you today. (I edited it for grammar and spelling and I took out the parts that weren’t relevant.)
January 5, 2017
Dear Dr. M,
Happy New Year to you!
As you well know, I am not a psychologist or a sociologist but I do have over 40 years of experience managing technical teams and the most challenging experience of being a father.
During the last few weeks I was attracted and intrigued by the US Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, in his 2016 commencement at the University of Arizona in which, among other things he stated:
… We have stronger internet connections but weaker personal connections… I learned early on in medicine that isolation was the most common challenge my patients faced. It has real consequences. Isolation and weakening social connections are associated with increased risk of heart disease, declining brain function and shorter life spans.
I thought that these were issues facing retirees or old people but at the same time my daughter forwarded me a video interview of Simon Sinek regarding the millennials. Among the key points of his presentation there is one passage that caught my attention:
Friendships are superficial they will admit to their friends that they don’t count on their friends, they don’t rely on their friends. They have fun with their friends but they also know that their friends will cancel on them if something better comes along. Deep meaningful relationships are not there because they never practice the skill.
Every generation has its challenges and each generation has found ways to overcome them. However, in all of them, it required interacting with a human being. So social skills were paramount to find a job, a wife, partner, friends, etc. etc. in short, to live in a society.
I drive by a school bus stop every morning and I see the kids waiting and no one is talking, all of them are hooked to their phone. Is this the new norm? They are becoming handicapped because by the time they enter the “workforce” they will need to interact with other humans. However, I am finding that his problem is also affecting the older generations. Watch the mall, lonely people walking alone. Maybe it is an epidemic and we, me, are in denial.
As Mother Teresa said, “loneliness (and the feeling of being unwanted) is the most terrible of poverty”. Are we becoming the richest, most technologically advanced but individually “poor” society?
Technology should be a resource to assist humans and not a vice or addiction just as Simon Sinek stated.
The reality is that technology will continue to evolve and perhaps will make isolation more prevalent. Social media and the likes of Facebook do not create friends, nor do dating sites.
My daughter has a masters in dance and teaches tango, travels all over and she confirmed that loneliness and isolation is one of the reasons why she has so many participants in her classes. Some of them have stated time and again that “tango” has changed their lives. I do not think that tango changed their lives, I think that the mere act of socializing, interacting with others is what made the difference, a new world for many, perhaps.
And by the way, learning tango is not an easy task but it does promote nonverbal communication and interactions that are not technically assisted. You have to leave your phones, connect with people!!!!
It could be the cheapest medicine for isolation, although insurance does not cover it, but the results could be a longer life.
All the best,
Carlos G. Borgialli