People often ask me what it is that I do. I’ve never been an ‘elevator pitch’ type of person. Once, I blurted out a quick line. I help lonely entrepreneurs. It was meant to be a joke but the person nodded, leaned in and sounded extremely curious. She mentioned that there is such a need for that. I said it jokingly. I had no idea how close to the truth that statement really was.
Helping lonely entrepreneurs was never what I set out to do. Eighteen years ago, when I first began planting the seeds to leave my career as an employee and build that life of freedom through entrepreneurship, the idea of it being lonely was the furthest idea from my mind. In fact, I would have gladly taken a large dose of loneliness, being that I was so tired of the politics of the newsroom and everything that came with the madness of the office that I worked in.
The thought of being alone with my thoughts was enticing. Nobody telling me what to do. Nobody telling me where to go. Silence. Heavenly silence. We’re still around a decade away from being empty nesters but I would guess that it’s like that parent that is overwhelmed by the noise and the mess of raising children, who desperately wants quiet. They long for the days where they can wake up in silence, sip their morning coffee and enjoy a peaceful breakfast without nerf darts being shot into their toast while children run around screaming.
And then they get there. The kids are on their own. They have their quiet. The quiet that they have wanted for years. But it’s not exactly what they expected. As much as they value their newfound freedom, they miss some of the madness. They actually miss the noise. Most days.
You don’t know what you’ve got, till it’s gone.
For lonely entrepreneurs, it’s not the same feeling as your kids growing and leaving the house. But so often, there is a void that is left when we don’t have co-workers any longer no matter how toxic, mundane and aggravating as it all was. Retired pro athletes have told me the same. They don’t miss the game but they miss hanging out with the guys in the locker room.
So what happens to that void that was left? Where do we fill it? And so many of us fill it in the easiest, most convenient way available.
We go online.
Now don’t even get me started on the Metaverse. Call me out of touch, call me old, call me whatever name you want. I have no interest in living in a virtual world with goggles on. I never even liked wearing goggles at the pool. But as we slip deeper into these virtual worlds (many would say that we are already doing so in many ways), it has led to an ease of convenience and a plethora of negative effects.
Heavy use of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have widely been associated with feelings of isolation and depression. In a study by Brian Primack, the director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health at the University of Pittsburgh, it turns out that people who spend more than two hours a day on social media felt twice as isolated as those who were only on for thirty minutes.
Whether it’s because we spend so much more time online or we feel isolated because we see others connected and connecting in ways that we aren’t that make us so lonely, but either way, we are sociatally feeling more lonely and isolated.
And there is no disputing that feelings of loneliness in the United States has reached an all time high. And the more we believe we are connected online, without the real benefits that come with true connection, is pulling us deeper into this trap. Lack of social connection heightens health risks to the same level as smoking fifteen cigarettes per day or having an alcoholic use disorder, according to Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University.
And entrepreneurs are especially vulnerable to this. We control our time more. We have less rules to follow or people to answer to. We enjoy our work, so much so that we often have no idea how much time we spend online, on social media or in front of screens. But we have to protect ourselves from the isolation. It’s simply become too easy to stay in our homes. It’s become too normalized to order online, connect virtually and slowly begin to shun real human connection.
All of this is making us more isolated. With that isolation comes a laundry list of health issues that we don’t see coming. Socially isolated people have a harder time dealing with stressful situations. Do you think that has had an effect over the past two years? They have a harder time processing information, retaining memories and making decisions.
The dream of entrepreneurial freedom did not include the trap of isolation. Yet more than ever, that trap has caught way too many. Whether you are working towards this life or are deeply into it, developing habits to combat isolation is going to be one of the greatest changes you can make for your health- both mentally and physically.