The Innovation of Loneliness

33 thoughts on “The Innovation of Loneliness”

  1. Thanks for sharing this video, Luis. The central question must be about purpose, don’t you think? If social networking is the means for maintaining relationships, exchanging information, building connection – then it is one of the tools of engagement. But if it is used solely for self promotion, self-aggrandizement, and other selfish purposes, then it is a harbibger of loneliness, as the video ponders.

    Hope you are well!

    1. Hi Jeanne! Thanks a bunch for dropping by and for the wonderful commentary! I think you are right on, as usual! ;-))

      It’s all about finding and striking that purpose, isn’t it? That’s what I loved about the video clip itself in terms of how it tries to differentiate whether folks have got a purpose, or not, when participating in these social networking activities. Some people may state that self-promotion has got a purpose, but I would venture to state it’s a limited one: one where you would eventually end up talking to yourself, or, like it happens in some groupings in Twitter they would all be self-promoting their own stuff and too busy with it that they would not be capable of listening, reading or watching anything else.

      I rather prefer to focus on the conversation that happens where as a result of it I have learned something, or I may have helped others become better at what they do. To me, that’s where it all starts and where magic happens.

      Things are going really well, thanks! Hope for you, too! We should find some time to catch up perhaps through a hangout or something? Let me know please 🙂

      And thanks much for the feedback!

  2. This is a lesson in how stuff goes viral online.

    I posted a link to this video August 17th 2013 on and shared it with ca. 25 influential curators, whom I respect. Now the video is all over the place – so this blog post proves the power of the connected economy.

    Having said that I strongly advice anyone to watch the video and then turn away from your screen and stare out the window for 10 min. – reflecting on the potential learning points you can take away from the video.



    1. Wow, you totally missed the point (and ironically enough made the point in the process). Congratulations?

      1. Shesaidsomething: Sorry, but I think you got my point all wrong. What you might have overlooked in stating that you prefer conversation and real “connections” is that social networks (SN) are just mere tools.

        Lately, I’ve met face to face with people in four different countries where SNs served as the facilitator of our initial dialogue. SN allowed us to explore common professional interests and align values, before we spends time and money on actually meeting. Concretely, it has let to some pretty interesting new projects.

        The artist Amanda Palmer talks about “random closeness” in a connected world. That is the real power of SN. They can help you connect the dots in novel ways and make fortunate discoveries you would never have imagined.

        I’m not talking about using SN for marketing, personal branding or trying to look good in the eyes of others. That’s why I mentioned my network on – to show how this type of relationship can also serve as a personal learning network, where you exchange ideas and synthesize information you know would be of great value to others.

        SN can not replace real time conversations, but they can help you build and strengthen new relationships you would never have come across elsewhere.

        As Luis mentions in a comment the tricky part is how we move beyond the low hanging fruits and start cultivating trust, purpose, and meaning in order to get to where the magic happens.

        1. Hi Ken, thanks for making the point across that social networking (tools), like most technology is just that, a bunch of tools, and enablers and that what we do with them is what really matters. Technology can certainly shape our behaviour and everything, but it’s eventually us the ones actioning it as we may see fit for both that purpose and meaning I shared above as well.

          Thanks for pointing out that important reminder and for sharing along that powerful story on how an initial “contact” in a social network can help drive much more intentional relationships in real life. I can surely vouch for that use case scenario quite a few times 🙂

    2. Small world, eh, Ken? Very interesting to see how interconnected networks can well be in helping spread the news around, but even more important the network effect they provoke in sparking conversations like this one, or additional thinking time on what matters regarding the information shared.

      Essentially, Action!

    1. Hi Keith, thanks for dropping by and for the feedback! Absolutely on that commentary about business, after all, isn’t everything, you may want to check out this cartoon that a good friend of mine shared earlier on privately and which I think would summarise nicely your reflection shared above.

      Jeanne (See comment above) talked about the topic of Purpose and I think another one that would fit in nicely into the mix would be Context. Putting both together working in unison can be very empowering altogether, but, if anything, to prove that there is a whole lot more than just business, or a job, or making sheer loads of $$$ to realise your human self.

      Yeah, I know, there was my Hippie 2.0 flair coming out! 😀

  3. Interesting idea on how you measure success. Based on the ethos ‘what gets measured gets done’, measuring the number of connections or friends or followers may be completely the wrong measure… But how to revert to the old ways? How to incentivize people to respond to the contents of this excellent and thought provoking video. Thanks for sharing! Now do I phone you to discuss this or shall we just be network connections?

    1. Hi Steve, we are already a whole lot more than just network connections. We have built enough rapport over the course of last few months that those network connections have become strong enough to take things into the next level. I guess that’s where it all starts. Not so much in terms of building followers, but on building, nurturing, and cultivating a network of contacts that you can build trust, purpose, meaning on working out some magic, whether work related or not.

      The problem is that we seem to keep stopping at the low hanging fruit, i.e. measuring the easy bits, versus the profound transformation we keep experiencing every day on not just what we do, but also who we are!

      That’s the transformation power of networks that most folks don’t seem to have comprehended just yet. It’s shifting our collective psyche and although we may not eventually get to fully experience it, as it will take a while to complete, we are living through glimpses of what it is like and, if anything, mind-blowing comes to mind!

  4. This is very astute. Getting together for coffee has been replaced with constant updates on FB and Twitter, replacing intimacy with information. I prefer conversation, which for me is the real “connecting”. Being a node in a network is not for me.

    1. Very good points, and I guess what we are seeing is scalability at its best where we are transitioning from that intimacy into that other ambient intimacy. Essentially, we are learning about scaling our interactions, our networks, our way of working AND living, but, like you well stated, without losing track of what really matters, and which I agree with you 100%: Conversations (With a capital C).

      I don’t mind being a node in the network, as long as that node has got a chance to converse and learn with other nodes and become better as a result of that dialogue 🙂

    1. Very timely links, Ken! Thanks for sharing them along! Both of those reads clearly remind me of quite the opposite in our human nature: i.e. we are gregarious and tribal by nature and, as such, pretty massive SuperCooperators even though the corporate world has managed to destroy that in us over the course of last few decades, as that was the easiest manner to divide and conquer.

      [Book that I can strongly recommend everyone to go through. Stunning read altogether!]

  5. Every medal has two sides and one should be aware of both sides. I see a lot of positive signs of social business in my daily life (also at work) but also the risks of getting addicted to be online. I went two weeks on vacation and my family (2 adults and 2 teenagers) was the only one in the hotel/ streets without smartphones (we left ours in Germany on purpose). We did not check mails, facebook etc. at all. Nobody was able to phone us. It was scary to watch all the tourists being online in the hotel, pubs, beaches and so on. Where does your life take place? On the beach, in the pub or in social networks….What are two people doing when their iPhones get broken? They have a conversation 😉

    PS: Interesting so see if people can remember the last time when they were offline for two weeks at all on purpose.

    1. Hi Joerg, goodness! Talking about powerful, inspiring stories! I doubt very few people would be willing to sacrifice their being connected to the Social Web for much longer than just a couple of days, even while being on vacation! And all of that with very fresh memories for myself, where I spent nearly two weeks with my family in mainland Spain, and the connectivity, even 3G, was not up to the standards. So I was mostly offline throughout the entire time! And what did we do? Entertain some wonderful conversations, of course!

      In fact, these wonderful stories reminded me of the delightful article in the NY Times on Social Networking in the 1600s where the conversations were happening offline, in bars, local gatherings and what not.

      Definitely, technology has helped amplified our connections & online dialogue tremendously nowadays, but we should not forget what we are all along: human beings with a need to connect (physically and mentally) with others who we may share a common affinity or an interest and share and learn together. Technology can help, indeed, but it’s not the panacea nor the whole solution to the equation!

      Glad you had a superb holiday break with the family, Joerg! Time now to get back into the social grid again? 😉 hehe

      1. Hi Luis, indeed we had a relaxing holiday in Majorca! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and I hope someday I will talk to you in real life. Until then we will cruise through our social grid ;-). Have a nice day!

        1. Hi Joerg, oh, brilliant! That’s a very nice place altogether to go on vacation with the family! I am glad you had a great time! And, not to worry, I am sure that sooner or later we will be able to meet up F2F, whether over here in G.C. or over there in Germany 🙂

          Take good care and speak soon!

  6. Brilliant video. We are actually having our most meaningful relationships with our computing devices. Watch: when two or more people are sitting together, how often is their attention on each other versus on their smart phones? These technologies are similar to smoking: quick, addictive hits to the brain’s pleasure center at the cost of significant long term damage.

    1. Hi Alex, thanks a lot for dropping by and for the great feedback! Appreciate you taking the time and share those rather thought-provoking insights. It’s interesting how you make the correlation of digital technologies and smoking as habits that help shape and influence our behaviours turning good habits, into not to good ones.

      In fact, your comment reminded me of another recent article I put together on The Power of Habit where I reflected on how for these digital technologies to influence and change behaviours in the corporate world they need to become our new (hopefully, healthy!) work habits, contrary to what we have done with other set of traditional tools, like email, and the bad habits they may have generated.

      I think one of our biggest challenges, as knowledge Web workers, is going to see how we are going to be able to balance it all and make use of these technologies appropriately. I have always believed that in the last 3 to 4 years we seem to have developed that inner urge of embracing oversharing to the extreme and that’s pretty much generating that long term damage you mentioned above of not allowing us to find a way to switch off and disconnect and focus on those offline interactions. I guess we will have to keep reminding each other to find ways to disconnect and stay disconnected, if we would want to keep our sanity intact 🙂

  7. Ken, but people aren’t projects. I don’t think the video is talking about the connecting in the sense of merely conversing or meeting. That definition of connect is the problem. It views others as tools for filling a short-term emotional need rather than viewing it as a reciprocal relationship in which both fulfill emotional and spiritual (not in the religious sense) needs of one another.

    Social media is fostering a very passive form of connecting. I don’t understand how Facebook really allows people to “keep up” with others. I doubt most people have had any sort of real world contact with most of their FB friends recently. I would guess that most have not have even liked, commented, or viewed the status or profile of at least half their FB friends in the last 6 months, with the number rising if its just the last month we are looking at.

    Even of those online interactions that do occur. How is just looking at someone’s photos or liking a status or posting a one liner comment a meaningful connection in any sense of the word? The whole social media thing often reminds me of cargo cults. It is trying to imitate how people connect without understanding what connecting is and ending up with something bizarre.

    Social media can of course be useful as a supplement to real world connections, particularly with family and friends who live far away. But it can’t replace in person contact or phone conversations (and I’d say even handwritten letters).

    Now that I have little nieces who live across the country it’s even more apparent to me that social media is not anywhere near being a one for one replacement for any actual human contact. While it’s great than I can watch them grow up and sing happy birthday to them on Skype, I’ll never have the same connection to them as my other brother who lives close enough that he can see them in person.

    1. Hi Matt, I will let Ken comment further on about your insights shared above, but just thought I would add a quick comment as well on the value of F2F interactions, which I think Ken values just as much as we all do. Indeed, there is nothing, not now, not ever, that would replace that face to face conversation with whoever, whether family and friends, relatives, or work colleagues. Not even the telephone!

      We seem to be having this obsession with technology, what I have been calling now for a while technology fetish which is managing to keep us all separate from one another, more than what we could, or should, for that matter. Yet, because of that fetish driven attraction it seems like everyone is content with it, when perhaps we shouldn’t. We should look for that balance between both the real world and the online one and perhaps more inclined towards the physical one, as that’s the one we can touch, feel, experience every day.

      Not even the phone would be able to replace that. A quick example, I get to talk to my family on a rather regular basis over the phone and we talk about pretty much everything, but just recently I returned from a couple of weeks’ vacation with them, in mainland Spain, and I realised how little context and human emotion even the phone can translate in a phone conversation compared to that breathing of the same space while conversing in the physical world.

      Anyway, I think we are in a way in agreement and everything in terms of how these social technologies should be just meant as tools, tools aimed to achieved something, not the end on itself, and surely hope we would realise about that one soon enough…

      But, like I said, I will let Ken comment on the blog comment you shared above. Apologies this reflection of mine deviated a bit from its original intent. Thanks a lot for the heads up and for the great feedback!

    2. Hi Matt,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree that social media is fostering a passive form of connecting. The major question, I think many people struggle with is: How many people can you keep up with through social media, without being shallow or even burn out?

      Most of today’s “conversations” on social media are likes or short comments. To me this is not a meaningful conversation, but merely a “pad on the back” or an indication that someone “saw you.” To some people these recognitions do become addictive – but they should not be mistaken for conversations.

      From a corporate perspective there has been a fixation on gaining a large followership – and most companies are just now realizing that is worth little if you don’t engage people in a meaningful way.

      Recently, I interviewed professor Adam Grant from Wharton about his latest book, Give and Take, and I think the book offers some good advices in relation to Luis’ blog post. In his book Grant sets out to prove that success in life is not only a matter of hard work, talent, and luck. Success also depends heavily on how we approach our interactions with other people.

      The behavioral styles people adopt in pursuing success are interesting and Grant shows how givers are more likely to achieve success than takers and matchers. If you’re a giver at work, you simply strive to be generous in sharing your time, energy, knowledge, skills, ideas, and connections with other people who can benefit from them.

      You’ll find an interesting article from the New York Times with Adam Grant here:

      I think his perspective is interesting when we talk about how social media influences our reciprocity style.

      I sense you’re more concerned about how social media influence our private relationships. I think there are two ways of looking at it. Imagine you lived across the country from your relatives 20 years ago. Then without social media you would perhaps call your relatives or visit them when your time and resources allowed it. Nowadays, you can supplement that with video calls on Skype, sharing photos online, or texting short messages. Personally, my family and friends are scattered across the world, and I find it highly rewarding to keep up with them via the new technologies.

      Ultimately, it all boils down to whether you have already established a deeper relationship or intend to do so, before you can truly benefit from social media.

  8. Well, I am not confused at all. I think the basic message of the video is true – for people who are lonely in the “real” world already and consider their virtual social environment as “real”. It is probably so that one is tempted to generated an optimized self in social media. But there are many people who don’t act authentically in the “real” world either.
    For myself I can say that I have such an intense and extensive social life with real people in the real world that I often don’t have time for social media. Will we lose this in the coming generations? I don’t think so. Some may – most won’t.

    1. Hi Reiner, thanks a lot for dropping by and for the feedback. I found your remarks above rather interesting and refreshing, specially, the one about how some people fake their own existence in the real world and there is a chance they would also go ahead and extend that in the online world. I guess it’s tough to change one’s behaviour from the real world, whatever those may well be.

      The good thing is that, if we would all pay a bit more of a closer attention and intent we would be able to identify such fake behviours and act accordingly.

      And I agree with you that it’s going to be rather tough, if not almost impossible, to replace the interactions with people in real life. We would always have a need for that social, physical bonding, whether people would like to admit it or not. Another thing would be whether we would feel comfortable about it or not, but that’s another matter, perhaps for another blog post 🙂

  9. Hi Luis
    You always manage to throw up and share such interesting thoughts and links – whether to blogs or videos! I wouldn’t miss this connection for anything! Thanks so much.
    The video raises lots of interesting issues but I think we need to separate the emotion of loneliness from the state of being alone and as @Jeanne Murray quite rightly states – define what our purpose is with “social” and the wider online context of our “socialising”
    I think the idea of collecting “friends like stamps” is something one might associate with “youth” rather than the discerning adult or the business with a defined audience.
    Being social does not sacrifice conversation – unless you want it to – on the contrary it can enhance some conversations and reach new voices with other valid opinions that hadn’t even occurred to you.
    I don’t define myself but what I share (“I share therefore I am”)- though others may attempt to define me by what I say online (probably difficult :-)) – that’s their prerogative in a networked world.
    I do expect a lot from technology but I expect even more from people, not less, and would never forego a conversation face to face if given the choice but sometimes lack of proximity prevents that happening.
    And the idea of not being able to control what you say in realtime conversations is far from the truth. How many times have people regretted what they posted as comments on blogs or tweets? And how many times have you held your tongue in order to control a conversation?

    Loneliness is indeed a common ailment in the modern world but one has to examine the social context of modern society and the fragmentation and displacement of people and communities to understand it – not blame technology!

    I don’t seek to be alone – unless I need to be – but I would not translate that as “being lonely”.

    Thanks for sharing and putting my attention “where it needs to be”!

    1. Hi Marie-Louise, awww, you are most kind! Many thanks for those lovely comments and for the always insightful and refreshing feedback commentary shared along! Glad these thoughts as well as links prove useful and relevant to spark further conversations. Thank you for being there! 🙂

      Very interesting thoughts around collecting “friends like stamps” as an associated thought with “youth”. I think we all know plenty of not-so-young-anymore people who are constantly behaving pretty much like that “youth” collecting them and interestingly enough it seems like the bigger the number, the better. Time and time again I keep going to conferences and I am finding it rather interesting how some folks would only engage with you in conversations, face to face ones, if you have a certain number of followers, with the inner thought coming across of “Yes, I will converse with you, because of your huge following to get *my* messages across to your audiences”. It’s sad, but the current state of things, specially on this neck of the woods where number of followers is still counted as something to be measured upon to have conversations. I know, pretty sad. But still part of the reality we go through.

      Truly loved your comment about always expecting a lot for technology, and even more so from people. I think that’s part of the issues we keep seeing more and more, that is, that our expectations for people are not significant or impactful enough verging, almost, to the point of mediocrity. Specially, if you look into the role of Leadership nowadays, whether in the business world or in our societies in general. Perhaps that’s what we need to start doing more vehemently: expect more from those we know can and will deliver and generate the right expectations with them.

      On the point of regrets, so far, and I knock on wood, I don’t regret a single one of the pieces of content I have put together over the 13 years that I have been using social networking tools, however, RE: your quote: And how many times have you held your tongue in order to control a conversation? I can tell you that I have done that a few times, on purpose, as self-censorship, and mainly due to how opinionated I can become ;-)) about certain subjects: politics, religion and sports. So long long time ago I decided to stay away from those three online. I only get to discuss them over a good cup of coffee or a drink or two 🙂

      I think you pretty much nailed it where the key to the whole matter is: fragmentation of our relationships. We keep aiming higher, larger, bigger, better with global conversations while neglecting the local ones, the physical face to face ones, and I have always thought that fragmentation and displacement from our local communities is what’s bringing forward that rather strong sense of loneliness, and why we keep going online to the other end of the world to try to fix it, and we just embark on a vicious circle very tough to get out of!

      I don’t blame technology, although I know technology could well do a lot more to help, but more of our behaviours and mindset in terms of how most of the times the best in all of us is just in front of our eyes, those face to face conversations, versus having to go to the other end of the world to find them. We probably just should just look up, observe, interact, connect, listen, converse, learn how we may need to go back to basics: the good old conversation(s) we are all so good and natural of doing all along: storytelling.

      Thanks much, once again, for the wonderful comments, Marie-Louise. Look forward to seeing you soon in a couple of weeks! 🙂

  10. Luis, as you suggested, it is a very thought provoking piece. It’s been said that today’s worker is looking for “autonomy, mastery and purpose”…tell me what you want accomplished, let me do it and get good at it, and make sure it’s bigger than myself. It’s that last part, “purpose”, that I believe combats “loneliness” as described in this video. Being appreciated, perceived as adding value to something significant is a yearning of every lonely soul. Yes, we can all get lost in the crowd. And a world of highly connected people offer a large crowd in which to feel lost. But if you don’t let yourself get lost in the vastness, and you think about how you can impact those closest to you (those 150 as the video states), then you won’t throw up your arms and feel like an insignificant drop in the ocean. I like it when someone retweets something I’ve said…it may even be someone to whom I am loosely connected, but it’s meaningful, because I sense I’ve given someone some insight they perceived as valuable. But I could still be lonely if that were the only relationships I developed. People who only focus on extending their digital persona for the sake of enlarging it, go a mile wide, but an inch deep. But when my 3 year old grandson was with my wife and pondering what made the “smoke behind jets in the sky”, and he said, “I’ll ask Papa (my name), he knows the answers to all my questions.” THAT my friend is connectedness and something larger than myself. Which reminds me, I’d better google contrails to make sure I know what causes them. Think about yourself alone…and you will be lonely…no matter what the situation.

    1. Hi Louis, thanks a bunch for dropping by and for adding further up! Delightful story on the last few sentences and I am hoping you may have looked up “contrails”, before you run into trouble! 😛

      Seriously, great point on the need and the urge for “autonomy, mastery and purpose” for each and everyone of us out there. I guess that’s really what it is all about at the end of the day. The interesting thing is that while we may want to have plenty of autonomy from our management line we don’t seem to have such autonomy anymore when talking about technology, specially, if you look into how all of these social networking tools are playing funny games with the streams we help generate to just give us a fraction of it, so that we are not long autonomous about what gets shared across.

      That’s what FB, Google Plus, Twitter, etc. etc. do with their timelines, so you are always glued to your favourite device to keep up. Perhaps autonomy should be both involving your management and the technology around you. Perhaps that would help people understand better their purpose as well, and mastering, instead of trying to figure out how or why a certain social tool works the way it does. Technology should not be a barrier, nor an obstacle, but more an opportunity to achieve that mastery in whatever purpose that drives your passion(s). Alas, we seem to swap quite happily that such passion and purpose just for the sake of getting those likes, comments, reshares that no-one knows anymore whether they are automated or done by real people.

      I guess purpose of social technologies needs to re-find its way and focus, before we just industrialise to a level we cannot longer recover from, which is essentially what has happened with that one tool you and me are so much in favour of … not! :-O

      Thanks again for dropping by, my friend, and for the wonderful feedback comments, as usual!

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