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What Does a Conscious Community Really Look Like?

I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.

–Dr. Brené Brown

A few weeks ago, I shared a piece titled, How Much is a “Like” Worth? Whether you blog, vlog, or share someone else’s, checking all those looks, likes, and shares is part of the game. The pull of social media addiction isn’t all in our heads. It’s quite real, thanks to dopamine and oxytocin: two neurotransmitters that make us feel good.

Every positive interaction on social media activates the reward center in the brain and gives us a little boost of dopamine. It feels good and so we keep coming back for more. When we connect with others, the brain produces a hormone called oxytocin.  It’s often called the cuddle drug or the love hormone because the strongest surges are produced during breastfeeding and sex.  But, we generate it when we feel a sense of belonging or connection. And, the brain has a hard time differentiating between a face-to-face connection and an online connection.

When we share content that people like and share and comment on, we get a healthy dose of those good chemicals. But, we also gain social currency. Overwhelmingly, people feel better about themselves when others react positively to what they post on social media. Conversely, when people don’t acknowledge us online or we are ostracized by way of nasty comments or online bullying, our social currency goes down along with our self-image.

While technology and social media enable us to interact with people, enhance communication and personal connections, the very nature of the anonymity makes it easier to say things to others that we wouldn’t say in person.  It’s much harder to be mean and hateful to the person in front of you than the name on the screen.

The same areas in our brains are activated when we experience social rejection as when we experience physical pain. That’s why we feel hurt when only 5 people like that selfie or our closest colleagues don’t retweet that LinkedIn article. It’s why ghosting is considered a form of emotional cruelty. It’s why online bullying leads to depression and even suicide.

The irony of social media lies in the illusion of connection. We look to technology to engage with others and that same technology makes it easier to disengage and protect ourselves from human to human interaction.  It also makes it easier to be hateful. Never before have we had more opportunities for social interaction.  Perhaps it’s time to redefine what engagement really means.

I’m excited to share a “conscious community” —one defined as;

A place where people are bound together by choice, founded upon a universal good-faith commitment to listen, understand, respect, empathize with, and support one another. A place for giving and receiving without judgment. An authentic, fresh, uplifting exercise in relational diplomacy – recognizing that the relationship between people of diverse backgrounds and expertise is the foundational building block for uniting the world. Rich, adult conversations. Thoughtful engagement. Real relationships. Humanity at it’s very best.

Given how divisive we’ve become lately, it seems like that’s a pretty good place to hang out these days.  As an ambassador, I invite you to join me at 360° Nation. Take a look around and see what you think.  I’m betting you’ll find a conversation or two to enjoy and a place to be seen, heard and valued.

I’ll save you a seat!

Editor’s Note:  If you’ve already joined our movement,  please now join us in expanding our “conscious community” by sharing this message across YOUR social media networks.

Melissa Hughes, Ph.D.
Melissa Hughes, Ph.D.https://www.melissahughes.rocks/
Dr. Melissa Hughes is a neuroscience geek, keynote speaker, and author. Her latest book, Happier Hour with Einstein: Another Round explores fascinating research about how the brain works and how to make it work better for greater happiness, well-being, and success. Having worked with learners from the classroom to the boardroom, she incorporates brain-based research, humor, and practical strategies to illuminate the powerful forces that influence how we think, learn, communicate and collaborate. Through a practical application of neuroscience in our everyday lives, Melissa shares productive ways to harness the skills, innovation and creativity within each of us in order to contribute the intellectual capital that empowers organizations to succeed with social, financial and cultural health.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Neuroscience identifies the chemophorias and chemophobias that create confusing moments in our lives. Comes with little surprise that these “wee alchemies” play multiple overlapping roles. Surprising for me is that few understand our fleeting joys as the everpresent angels who lure us forward toward heart’s desires. Their behavior remains constant even as our attentions may waver..

  2. You got me to think about this! Indeed, interacting online does seem to have many of the elements of crowds. The good of people gathering for a purpose and the bad of the mindless violence humans have engaged in crowds for generations. Let’s be a force for making the good gently overlay the bad . . . and I suspect when you “see” someone, you’re more likely to be kind! Because then the crowd becomes 1 on 1, one human being connecting with another.

  3. Thanks for writing this piece, Melissa. In all the ways that technology can link and unite us, it often separates us too. I prefer the former, however, and believe that we should be embracing technology to help us thrive, connect, and put good out there. In many ways, removing the face to face layer enables us to go deeper and share on a level that we may not feel comfortable sharing in a F2F encounter. When we do this in a way that benefits others, I think it is a gateway to much more. But, as many of us know, it is also a breeding ground for mean, insincere, and boastful people.
    I want to believe that we will become more aware of navigating the digital world, where the pros outweigh the cons. It will never be perfect, but it can be better. And it is up to each of us to make it so.

  4. You – my friend – are an abundant wealth of knowledge. This platform has allowed me to share my inner experience, both dark and light. A place to exist without the pressure of portraying a persona or playing a role. There is no highlight reel – it’s an insight into who I really am.

    Social media will have a place in our lives – from here on out. If it secretes some dopamine, let’s accept that and harness it for good.

    Here’s to continuing to be authentic, connected, and supportive.

    We’re all in this together.

    • Thank you, JoAnna! I’m so glad this one resonated with you. I’m with you on the authentic, supportive connections, and I’m so glad there are so many in the BizCatalyst community!

  5. This is so true: “…the very nature of the anonymity makes it easier to say things to others that we wouldn’t say in person. It’s much harder to be mean and hateful to the person in front of you than the name on the screen.” I just experienced this – not the first time – when someone reacted to an article I wrote. The response was almost in the third person – it felt like I wasn’t even there. And then two of the respondent’s “connections” joined in with snarky comments. I’m not even sure any of them read the piece as much as they reacted to the headline.

    “A place for giving and receiving without judgment,” doesn’t mean we can’t disagree, but we’re disagreeing with the idea, not beating down the messenger.

    Thank you for articulating a definition of “c.c.”

    • Wow… you just identified another great point, Jeff. How many times does it appear that people read the headline and react or just chime in on the comments. I’ve experienced that myself and walked away thinking, “that had nothing to do with the point of the piece!” Thanks for weighing in!

  6. Dear Melissa,

    I was reading this exquisite share with a peaceful smile from the very first word to the last one. My intuition was telling me there was something very special about you.

    I am so proud of admitting I learned to trust my gut 100% after re-connecting again with my original center through the painful journey of re-writing my invasive subconscious program!

    More to the point, I feel you and your concern abour the humanity… I’m so thrilled of noticing folks having smiliar implicit concerns about the frightening imbalance of the world; which is nothing but the outcome of the harsh life-time conditioning making us feel a profound shame of never feeling good enough.

    The free cruelty is only one of the numerous shields and coping mechanisms we’ve been building in a desperate trial to feel some extrinsic worth. Tricking our system and the pain coming from that void of our intrinsic worth being discriminated for so long — even for a moment — is all what we could access being operating on auto-pilot!

    What is really ironic to me is parents are being shocked when discovering their children could be bullies at schools and even the root cause of another kid committing suicide, while all what we are doing at home is to mistreat each other; sometimes going as far as using the most horrible names!

    Same thing when it comes to media encouraging and celebrating toxic humor putting others down and making people laugh at someone or even a whole community which is only doing one thing: nurturing the sick ego and demons!

    “A place where people are bound together by choice, founded upon a universal good-faith commitment to listen, understand, respect, empathize with, and support one another. A place for giving and receiving without judgment. An authentic, fresh, uplifting exercise in relational diplomacy – recognizing that the relationship between people of diverse backgrounds and expertise is the foundational building block for uniting the world. Rich, adult conversations. Thoughtful engagement. Real relationships. Humanity at it’s very best.”

    That was just gold and very possible if every single person pays the price of unbecoming the filter and coming back to our “universal correct principles” common and original center which was fairly gifted to all of us at the moment of the conception! I’m saying conception — not birth — intentionally here, since the conditioning starts from the belly…

    Thank you again for this exquisite post! Stay blessed!

    Myriam

    • Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and insights, Myriam. I’m so glad this resonated with you, and I’m encouraged by the number of people who share your perspective.

      Just to be clear, the guiding tenets of the BizCatalyst 360 Nation are not my words. They are words that really make sense to me and words that feel necessary to repeat at a time when the world can feel pretty harsh.

      “A place where people are bound together by choice, founded upon a universal good-faith commitment to listen, understand, respect, empathize with, and support one another. A place for giving and receiving without judgment. An authentic, fresh, uplifting exercise in relational diplomacy – recognizing that the relationship between people of diverse backgrounds and expertise is the foundational building block for uniting the world. Rich, adult conversations. Thoughtful engagement. Real relationships. Humanity at it’s very best.”

      It’s heartwarming to engage on a platform that has expectations of elevating our online interactions, and you’re living proof of this given you’ve taken the time to share yourself here with me. Thank you!

  7. A real sense of dignity is our birthright in humanity!
    That’s why I’m here.
    Thank you Melissa, for this well articulated article on how we as humans are now immersed in the cyber revolution of community and what it means In the digital era.
    Communication is evolving… interpretations are always challenged, but the chemical reactions and emotions are still the reactions… but with more factors of influence to contend with.
    This here is the trouble spot…
    The emergence of internet violence…
    “While technology and social media enable us to interact with people, enhance communication and personal connections, the very nature of the anonymity makes it easier to say things to others that we wouldn’t say in person. It’s much harder to be mean and hateful to the person in front of you than the name on the screen.”
    It bewilders me that with a digital footprint so apparently time stamped and evidence so blatantly clear, we are living in fear of online safety..to report, block and carry on… with no closure? It’s not enough for the abused victim to feel their malicious attacker could be around any cyber village. I see a need for online support groups here in social media platforms. It just seems redundant as in real life we file,
    Press charges hopefully and get help.
    So yes. I’m here for dignity, not all of us have the use of our powers all of the time. Sometimes all it takes is a little helping cyber hand.
    “Brave fingers type mighty words but when in person they’re never heard”.
    Thank you for this educational and well needed article. Happy to share too.
    Thank you Melissa!
    Have a great evening too! Paula

    • Thank you for sharing such a thoughtful response, Paula. Whoever would have thought the “internet violence” would be a thing… and yet, here we are. Clearly, the written word lacks some of the nuances (tone, inflection, humility, etc.) that we get from the spoke word, but as you put it so eloquently, “sometimes all it takes is a little helping cyber hand.”

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