“There are billions of connections in the brain, infinite moments and memories, collections of pulses and synames of electricity. All it takes is the right energy to reawaken an old idea and turn it into something new”
This was the essence of the TEDxUMN talks on April 29th at the University of Minnesota. The highlighted talks in this series of articles are by no means fully comprehensive of the event, but most relevant for those interested in entrepreneurship.
Our first speaker, Sona Mehring, spoke about using technology to emotionally connect with others with #SayItForward.
Sona Mehring is the CEO and Founder of CaringBridge, a non-profit social media network that connects patients with loved ones during their health journey through a free personal website. As a computer programmer with loved ones going through a health crisis, Sona wanted to create a solution to use technology to emotionally connect in a meaningful way.
Never in the entirety of human history have we been able to connect with so many different people on so many different platforms. Mehring cites different studies from the University of California, Berkeley showing increases in overall well-being and happiness when sending or receiving a text from a loved one and performing small acts of kindness, which increase the likelihood of repeat behavior. Despite all this evidence, there is large number of cases where individuals reported feelings of isolation and depression due to virtual (non-physical) interaction using social media.
It’s important to remember that technology is a tool, its value is not in its existence, but its utility. We can use social media to bully as easily as we can to form new connections filled with compassion and empathy. People are social creatures and desire genuine social interactions. The tools we use for communications don’t have to correlate with isolation and loneliness, void of feeling and filled with vapid chatter. We can give technology a new way of being meaningful and intentional. We can be there for our loved ones and listen to their stories.
In the case of health crises, there often is a feeling of hopelessness that comes with watching a loved one go through immense pain and not being able physically do anything about the situation. In circumstances that can’t be fixed, we can practice skills of creating positive, open space and giving our loved ones full support by simply being present.
Mehring has suggested a positive revolution where we all take part in #SayItForward, a play on words of the “pay it forward” concept. Random acts of kindness through words facilitated by social media. A thoughtful post or a comment to connect us closer to one another or at the very least, brighten someone else’s day. An excuse to post inspirational quotes with the standard sunset picture.
Mehring makes a call for action: Say it forward to make the world a little more beautiful.