The Innovation of Loneliness from Shimi Cohen.

Dear listener, reader, watcher, hater, lover and friend,

I have a lot of personal goals for this coming year. I’m guessing you do too. A lot could be said about that. In fact, many of you are busy writing your lists and plans right now. And you should!

This time of year however, tends to generate a disproportionate amount of manifesto-like declarations. In fact, I’ve been getting a handful in my inbox most every day lately. I’m guessing you can relate. The same thing happened last year and for the past several.

They tend to arrive some time between Christmas and New Year’s. Some play off the cliché and cleverly write their resolutions closer to Canadian Thanksgiving or Valentine’s Day just to mix it up. I rarely see them in July.

As I read, I began to notice a consistent pattern. Most authors seem to be wanting increased personal honesty and earnestness and hope and possibility in the new year. The same was true when I considered my own declarations. What surprised me was that the experience left me with an odd sense of nostalgia.

Like the familiar tree in our living rooms (you get that it’s weird to kill and prop those things up inside by your couch, right?), it would feel odd not to do it, especially for the productivity-obsessed among us. But even for those who don’t remember what a Franklin-Covey Planner used to be, you can now join the utopian goal setting commune without even standing out.

Because it’s more socially acceptable this time of year, it makes it less threatening to make it public too. In truth, I’m guessing there are lots of July journal entries in people’s private diaries about good intentions for “next” month. They just don’t get published very often.

It’s probably true that most who are writing do tend to be public-facing folks or those who aspire to express themselves more honestly and earnestly, and with greater discipline in the new year coming.

When I’ve written them, I’ve tended to crave a fresh starting line, a renewed hope or some sort of unprecedented possibility. Nothing wrong with any of that by the way. Writing it down really is the smart thing to do.

This year though, I’ve found it useful to pause and wrestle with what I’m really needing, beyond just my hopes for behavior modification.

When I sat down to get my goals on this time around, I also began to notice how much it felt like I was talking exclusively to myself. Not that people wouldn’t read what I wrote or that it wouldn’t be meaningful or inspire others to create meaningful moments for themselves if they went and did likewise. Again, I hope all those things happen. But, on a profound level (at least for me), I am more ok than ever if they don’t.

Why end of year goal setting can remind us of just how lonely online life can be…

What I’m speaking to has more to do with the unintended side-effects of living life in two worlds. With the removal of space and time in the virtual space, it’s just easier to have the experience of a scaling connection with (several) others, when in fact no real connection has happened.

Please hear me: I’m not ignoring all the remarkable good that has come from extending our lives from physical to virtual. It’s incredible. Perhaps even intoxicating. I guess it’s the hangover I’m talking about.

It’s what Shimi Cohen has brilliantly identified as The Innovation of Loneliness. All this edited sharing to connect can leave me feeling more and more alone.

So, why am I writing all this?

Great question. I guess I’m witholding my public declaration of goals this year in exchange for a more personal request… of myself and of you, if you’re game.

Whether you are a listener, reader, watcher, hater, lover, friend or “friend”, would you do me this one favor? I’m personally committed to be more human with everyone I can. Might you be willing to join me? And if possible, can we do it in the real world?

Believe me, this will be as uncomfortable for me as it will be you. No need to be something we’re not. If we’re “friends” online, I won’t be hurt if others more real to you get priority time. But, if we both aspire to upgrade our relationship by losing the “air quotes”, let’s do that out in the open.

Same thing if you consume the content I make, will you reach out and tell me about how you experience it? I’ll be doing the same with those I read and watch and listen to. I can’t wait to make it more personal actually.

Hate me, mad at me or disagree with something I put out there or just what I represent to you? Let’s both be courageous and resist gossiping about it online (or even in private). Here’s a better idea… Call me up! Let me buy the coffee!! If I call you, I’ll let you buy. We can even have a real argument if you want. How much more gratifying would that be in person than by ourselves behind a blue lit screen.

Probably my favorite option on this is to be present proportionately with those I truly love. Enough being out of whack time wise with the wrong people. You know what I mean?

But here’s the deal: We all get to be engaged proportionately to our commitment to each other.

What do you think? Maybe, maybe?

I know I’m asking a lot. I also recognize it’s not going to be very efficient and in some cases, we just won’t have the chance to connect that way this year. If that’s the case, I hope we still take advantage of what the virtual world has to offer.

But if you and I do end up getting the chance to be together, let’s not waste it, ok?

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, that actually is my primary commitment to myself this year. Apparently, I couldn’t resist a goal setting letter after all.