TED Conversations

Lisa Cook

President and Founder, Plan B Connections

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How do you build offline meaningful social connections?

There are many life transitions which trigger the necessity to make new friends- a geographic move, retirement, new job, divorce, etc. How does one establish meaningful friendships - relationships where you both are able to talk about what's really happening in your life rather than Facebook-type status updates?

The US and other nations are seeing an increase in the numbers of people living alone and studies are showing increased loneliness in society as a whole- it affects people regardless of age and marital status. For all those seeking meaningful social connections and stronger social ties, this is an important question. I think building social capital is very important. What is the glue that makes for meaningful social connections?


Closing Statement from Lisa Cook

I was fortunate to have the chance to share my story at TEDxMahtomedi!

Hope you'll watch my talk and share your ideas on making meaningful connections. Let's keep the conversation going!


Lisa Cook

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    Feb 16 2013: That's hard, giving the loss of communities that were once bonding agents. Today, communities are not groups of people, but they are geographic in nature. (I live in the "name" community - often defined by zip codes). Children no longer play in the streets and back yards, and parents, one of whom was usually home, knew the parents of all of the children, plus the neighbors who had no children. Now, when you move into a "community" you are isolated and alone in an emotionally sterile environment.

    If you do not have a religion, it's very hard. I know. I recently moved to a new area. I have been looking for like-minded people with little to no success.
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      Feb 17 2013: It is a matter of great concern and anxiety. However, the isolation or social alienation that you talked about is also a function of our own 'special-mindedness'. I don't know whether you will agree or not, but I have noticed that our whole media, advertisement campaigns and consumerist economy appeal always either to this extreme individuality or mindless fads, which I think has been designed to alienate us.
      At the heart of meaningful social connection is the wish to share. A meaningful sharing is applicable for things with lasting values. I do not see abundance of things of lasting values around me. You may be surprised to know that India, which is a far more populous country than yours (in fact privacy is a rare opportunity here) we are becoming increasingly isolated and lonely.
      I have started to use my morning exercising sessions to go all the way and smile and say hello at least to one stranger everyday to much ridicule of my friends and neighbors.
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        Feb 22 2013: Beautifully said -- at the heart of social connection is the wish to share. Interesting to hear that this trend is increasing in India too, because I often think of the sense of extreme individualism as being particularly American. I wish more people believed that sharing was better than having.
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          Feb 23 2013: There are many vices of Indian people but not learning fast isn't among those. Indians are learning consumerism and consumerism encourages such individualism. A village girl in India with no decent schooling, with no social security living on insufficient diet will still want a shampoo of international brand because TV shows Miss erstwhile World or Universe is using it. People are talking less to one another as everybody is running after that extra buck that a burgeoning economy promises. All for a new car, fashionable clothes and other luxuries of life. Sad as it is, nobody seems to be much interested in sharing things of lasting value in this 'use-and-throw' culture.
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        Feb 20 2013: In most instances, you are so right. But this is not true in all instances.

        I moved to a community that is almost universally culturally opposed to all of my values. Not only that, but they are downright mean to those who do not agree with their political objectives and their religion (Christian). This is new for me. I was shocked to discover it. At age 62, it's hard to imagine that I didn't know that such areas really existed in this modern world.

        So I have joined groups and tried to sit in silence as they go on about god and christian values, but it is the opposite of satisfying, and these are not people that I want to sit and have a cup of coffee with. This is the strangest place I have ever been in, and I have lived in may places as well as traveled much. I've met mean individuals from time to time in my life, but never a whole community who literally hate (fear) those who do not believe in God, believing them to be spawn of the devil.

        Christians here have abundant infrastructure in that churches are thriving communities that often work with other churches that are their own communities - thus forming a larger one. There is no infrastructure for the spawn of the devil, and I haven't got a clue as to start building one. How can I do that when I don't know how to reach the ostracized or even who they are?
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      Feb 20 2013: Your situation is very challenging, but please know that having a religion does not really solve the social scene in all cases.....church is where you are just in a place with those that share your style of worship. BUT......they might not be like minded.......they might not share your sense of humor, your taste in entertainment, your desire to grow as an individual and learn new things, your need for adventure and travel, your excitement for new culinary experiences, your wish to discuss many interesting topics on the world scene.....

      I have found that my intellect gets a real work out online........I am exposed to thinkers......and those who freely share their opinions and thoughts on a large scale of topics..........noone around me gives me this kind of social interaction.........I've looked and looked and looked.......sometimes I will discover someone who I can have serious deep conversations with at an odd moment as I go about my day.....but it's fleeting....and I never see the individual again.....

      We have all kinds of opportunities around here to volunteer in everything from botanical gardens, to hospitals and libraries....and there are plenty of book clubs and private classes offered in small groups in private homes.

      The internet can help anyone seeking these kinds of groups to find them.

      I do hope that even though it's not face to face social interaction, being here and speaking to us and sharing your views with us helps you.

      Keep looking............I also always continue to look. :)

      • Feb 22 2013: I find much of what you say so accurate. I recently saw a movie called, "Hannah Arendt" which was very different in its emotional core than American exchanges. It provoked me to do some research on Arendt.She emphasized gathering together, disclosing one's identity. I find it unacceptable to settle for slivers when we desire to be much closer to other humans. So going to groups can be just anasthesia when what many of us desire is living transparency. My concept of truth may not be yours. I do not wish validation of my pattern of thinking. I want to know what truly matters to you. Some may find that intrusive. Others may find the same energy welcoming. It would seem easily observable that many of us find we desire more. Honesty is not a personality style application of behavior. We can drown ourselves in the peripherals when isolation and alienation overshadow anything that we place before acceptance and love.

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