Digital and online technologies can build more connected lives and a more connected society. While some digital products encourage users to stay immersed in the virtual world, "pro-connection technology" can bring people together in real life and increase personal health and community well-being.
How great is the need for social connection?
Disconnection is a national problem, as the Surgeon General's new report on social connection emphasizes. Approximately half of U.S. adults report feeling lonely, worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic . Social isolation takes a toll on the mental and physical health of individuals – the Surgeon General report says loneliness is as deadly as smoking 15 cigarettes a day . Additionally, the negative impact that social disconnection takes on entire communities is high.
The report also shares solutions.
Here's the scoop: when people connect and form strong social bonds, it has a major positive impact on our communities. It boosts education, jobs, health, safety, prosperity, resilience, and civic engagement. It's like a superpower that makes everything better. And there’s a way destination marketing organizations (DMOs) and convention and visitor bureaus (CVBs) can support this effort – by connecting individuals with their communities and facilitating real-life social interactions.
Yes, DMOs and CVBs face the challenge of encouraging and inspiring people to step away from their screens, leave the comfort of their own homes, and engage in real-life interactions. But there’s a way “pro-connection technology” can bring people together in real life, as we know here at Vibemap. Our digital platforms connect travelers and locals to great city experiences based on vibes. Drawing from our experience, we’ve got 5 tips for DMOs and CVBs to use digital technologies that enhance social connections:
1. Connect people with their local community
Connecting people with others that share similar interests and needs is vital for combating loneliness and isolation. Digital technology can help by enabling people to find places, events, and experiences that resonate with who they are. Personalized event feeds and notifications keep people informed about things to do and places to go nearby that match their interests. By showing up at local events, people can form meaningful connections, make new friends, and build social-support networks that are critical to their health and well-being.
2. Encourage people to use social infrastructure
Social infrastructure means the physical spaces, institutions, and networks that support community health and well-being. Digital technology such as interactive mapping can help people better connect to public transit, parks, schools, libraries, and other civic places that nurture our civic life. Social infrastructure can be a platform for positive connection whether it’s taking the bus with people you don’t know, meeting with friends in a local plaza, or gathering with a book club at the local library.
3. Make exploring cities fun and rewarding
Community activities such as digital passports or scavenger hunts can be a fun and engaging way to encourage people to get out and explore cities and neighborhoods. These activities can involve creating interactive guides to hidden gems, local landmarks, and cultural attractions as well as bringing people together for fun in real-life experiences. By gamifying the experience with rewards and incentives, people are motivated to actively participate, fostering social connection and benefiting local businesses and attractions.
4. Promote events at local businesses
Local businesses are essential to the fabric of our communities, and they can also be great partners in promoting social connection. By collaborating with businesses, you can create unique experiences that encourage people to get out and stay connected. DMOs and CVBs can leverage digital technology to promote special events and experiences at local businesses, providing opportunities for people to meet in person and foster a stronger sense of belonging.
5. Model positive social interactions
Curate content promoting positive social interactions across various categories of activities, such as arts, culture, dining, and outdoor adventures. Use storytelling through videos, blogs, and social media platforms to emphasize the importance of social connection and the benefits it brings to individuals and communities. Integrating these strategies can encourage residents and visitors to explore the thriving social landscapes, diverse experiences, and meaningful connections that await.
Social connection plays a crucial role in our lives and is as essential to our well-being as food, water, and shelter. The Surgeon General's report emphasizes our biological wiring for social connection and sounds the alarm about the decline in social connections reported by Americans over time. However, there is hope.
“Pro-connection technology” can serve as powerful allies in fostering meaningful connections and improving the quality of our relationships. DMOs and CVBs have the opportunity to create a culture of connection and raise awareness about the importance of nurturing social connections. By embracing these tools and promoting a sense of belonging, we can help individuals cultivate social connections and ultimately enhance their overall well-being.