By Yoram Kraus, Infibond Co-Founder & CEO
Yoram Kraus is a serial entrepreneur, with several investments in high tech over the past decade. He has more than 20 years of entrepreneurship in real estate & global engineering projects, and is the founder of the second-largest REIT fund in Israel. He has a degree in Civil Engineering from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, he served as an intelligence officer in the IDF special forces and is a keen mountaineer and extreme sportsman.
According to a report published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine on social media use and Perceived Social Isolation (PSI) among young adults in the U.S, the definition of social isolation is a ‘state in which an individual lacks a sense of social belonging, true engagement with others and fulfilling relationships’. With over a third of adults over 45 reporting chronic loneliness in the USA (equating to over 42 million people), many U.S experts have declared an impending loneliness epidemic worthy of public health intervention. In the UK, over a fifth of the country’s population suffer from loneliness, with the concern being taken so seriously, a government Loneliness Minister was appointed.
Social isolation, as stated by a report in The Journal of Primary Prevention, can have seriously detrimental effects on both physical and mental health. A Harvard Business Review reported that Americans are the ‘loneliest workers in the world’, highlighting that although physical effects may be less noticeable than with the older adults, loneliness is actually the worst among this sector.
Psychiatrist Dr. Jacqueline Olds, author of ‘The Lonely American’, suggests that when we feel more isolated, there is more of a sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’. This divide enables us to put barriers between one another and so as our meaningful interactions reduce, so too does our ability to empathize. Arguably then, the more digitized our world becomes and the less we physically interact as humans, our capacity to hold compassion for each other shrinks even more. This is exemplified by cases of cyber-bullying in adolescents (and the casualties that can stem from this) which are alarmingly on the rise. Parents of children who have suffered from online bullying consistently highlight that bullies have more confidence online and aren’t dissuaded from crossing boundaries when they are hidden behind a computer screen.
Social media appears to play a complex and mixed role. Individuals who lack impactful connections in their lives will increase their time online to fill the void. In a survey exploring the social media patterns of young adults, it was found that individuals who used social media for a half an hour per day felt less lonely compared to individuals used it for more than two hours daily. Seemingly there is a paradox here because in small quantities, social media can aid loneliness by arguably creating a sense of engagement or community. However, when used too frequently, it can have an adverse effect and enhance the feeling of social isolation.
So how can we embrace the digital revolution whilst also maintaining the core human values we hold dear in the physical world?
We are transitioning into a time where the digital world holds significant influence in replicating real world social interactions. We no longer interact with our local milkman or update our butcher on our family’s latest news. To counter the feeling of loneliness we need to ensure our interactions are heightened ‘quality time’ and the role for companies’ digital presence should be no different. It’s imperative for brands to build their personality in a way which effectively communicates with the consumer. In a saturated market of information, consumers are tuning out as they require authentic dialogue which speaks to them as an individual. Brands need to build platforms which facilitate these authentic dialogues. If human interactions are not closely replicated online, then brands run the risk of enhancing the feeling of distance and isolation people feel without meaningful engagement.
Our online lives should reflect the humanity and compassion we strive to achieve in the real world. That’s why INFI’s EmpathAI technology was created- to humanize interactions in the digital world.