An Open Letter to Humans in the Physical Universe

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.

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14 comments
Dane Sanders
Dane Sanders

Thanks Derek! I'm not sure egos fed by conditioned patterns is central to the breakdown but I do know when all I do is live virtually, I feel lonely. I also know when I drink Mune the loneliness goes away! :)

Derek Sanders
Derek Sanders

Hey Dane, Really appreciated your Open Letter, and the Innovation of Loneliness video. Honest & thought provoking. Succinctly sums up a lot regarding the current state of affairs of the modern masses. How have our communications become so dysfunctional? Could egos fed by conditioned patterns be central to the breakdown? Brave of you to raise an issue central to most people's daily lives. Looks like you've started the year in an 'interruptive' mood. I'm happy to join you! Derek@munehealth.co.uk twitter.com/munehealth

Dane Sanders
Dane Sanders

Hey Jake - I really appreciate your candor man. And to answer your question, of course! Plenty o' grace in this space. I especially appreciate you being public and named in your comments. That's the mark of courageous leadership in my books. Glad to become friends again too! Thanks for your comments.

Todd James
Todd James

Hi Dane, Just wanted to say that I appreciated your post today and your desire for real engagement, even to the point of critique or disagreement. That's a tough thing to welcome for sure. This is a little out of the blue, but I just wanted to apologize because I made judgments about you and about what you were accomplishing through Fast Track years ago from afar that were totally unfounded and unmerited. Perhaps it was out of a place of jealousy or maybe out of not liking or agreeing with some things/challenges you put before me in a random mentoring session session some three years ago, I'm not sure. But whatever the reason, I just wanted to say that I'm sorry and ask for your forgiveness. You've done significant things in the photography world and fostered an incredible sense of community and resource for new photographers. I admire the ways that you've stepped out and taken risks towards those things, I'm sure even in the face of criticism. I can't remember all the specifics in what you challenged me with in that mentor session over coffee, but I know that some of the realities you hit me with have helped make my photography business what it has become. I know we don't really know each other so this is probably totally out of the blue, but I guess your post just inspired me to share. Blessing to you in the new year and here's to living more with more "realness" in 2014. Todd

Dane Sanders
Dane Sanders

You too Julie. So excited for what your 2014 has in store...

julie
julie

I love it!! Being more authentic and taking off the "mask" is one of my continual goals, whether online or in person. I appreciate you addressing this topic and being honest and authentic about it!! HAve a super blessed New Year!

Dane Sanders
Dane Sanders

Ya, I'm smiling Jami. Houston's always had a special place in my heart. It's home to my first Roadshow Workshop and the very first Better Together group years ago. Thanks for the kind words too.

Dane Sanders
Dane Sanders

Ann - you never cease to impress me with your perspective. I love the idea that online social is no less real (and in some cases more real than awkward holiday parties) but used best when instrumental to cementing things in person. Brilliant.

Dane Sanders
Dane Sanders

Me too Tina!!! I can barely believe it's going to finally happen. See you soon at The GO Summit!

Dane Sanders
Dane Sanders

Thanks Angel. It seems like the challenge is not making the virtual thing bad but instead to let acknowledge what it is and isn't made to do for us. If I can't have coffee with someone, a phone call is nice and a G+ hangout is even better.

Jami Lupold
Jami Lupold

Dane - No one could have said this any better. I always feel that the best results come from real time face-to-face meeting, planning, scheming, creating, evaluating, sharing - bringing a much deeper soulful joyful experience for all. I do so hope to meet with you in person this year. You've do much to offer - especially with the unique projects I'm staring at both on, and of the planet. :-) Gotta get you to Houston - where magical things happen every day! Let's do it! (You're smiling - I can hear you!) Happy connecting!

Ann Handley
Ann Handley

I really like this: "...if we both aspire to upgrade our relationship by losing the 'air quotes,' let’s do that out in the open." At a Christmas party this year, a friend observed that I'm different on social media than I am in the real world. She meant I'm inherently more social online than I am in real life. Maybe I am, from the perspective of some friends and neighbors -- but the truth is that I use social media to expand my circles, not simply to engage with people I already know. Which is different than how many in my family and my friends use it. But to your larger point here... I do think that at some point a real-life meeting is key to cementing online relationships. Otherwise, online is air-quote empty. The wonderful thing about meeting people you already "know" online (air quotes!) is that meeting in real life feels like a reunion or sorts. PS Happy to call you my friend in real life and online, Dane! Happy New Year to you and yours!!

Tina Mahina
Tina Mahina

Aloha Dane... working on it! I would love to meet in person. I've messaged that to you before a few years ago. Those few messages after one of your Fast Track calls with Lindsey Adler started a conversation between us that led to a Better Together group here in Hawaii. Starting the BTO group has given me many blessings of real life meetings with others in the industry here in Hawai'i. Real connections... looking forward to the Go Summit in 2014. I can't wait for that conversation in real life. Mahalo nui loa for all you do to connect us all.

Angel pope
Angel pope

I've been feeling the same way! Maybe it's because I'm old enough to remember life without cell phones, and then all the cool features like text messages. The Internet. Facebook. I love the virtual world because I can keep in touch with friends and family on the other side of the country, but it almost feels fake. I don't really keep in touch, just some mild stalking via Facebook/twitter/etc. I'm committed to the old fashioned lunch date, telephone call, or for those I can't physically meet up with a google+ hangout! A commitment to undivided attention. To just listening. To making a real connection, even if it's a friendly disagreement! I love your Fastermind, Dane!