Human beings are wired for connection and belonging . Yet, research shows that people are feeling more lonely than ever, with higher impacts on our health than obesity and smoking . The design of social media (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat) is one contributing factor, engaging us in constant comparison with others’ “picture-perfect” lives, and leading us to feel even more isolated and alone in our daily challenges .
There are many possibilities to address this problem. We are currently exploring the embedding of interactive prompts in public spaces (e.g. train stations, parks) to prompt spontaneous and meaningful connections between strangers.
The idea is to unite people who typically may not have much contact with each, other by highlighting our "common humanity" (how all human beings struggle with the same things), rather than our superficial differences.
As urban artist Candy Chang once said :
“In our society, when we feel fear, anxiety or confusion, we often do our best to hide it from others. But what if we could make more safe places to share? There’s great power in knowing you’re not alone.”
=== Format of the meetup ===
The language is English.
We’ll begin with a brief introduction of the problem space and some inspiring solutions from others like this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfHV4-N2LxQ
Next, we’ll ask everyone to break off in small groups for discussion and brainstorming. We welcome different approaches to addressing loneliness and isolation, and for prompting connections between strangers in public spaces. Finally, we’ll come together to share our ideas.
This meetup is part of a long-term research plan for community building and addressing loneliness.
=== Who should come? ===
Since diversity leads to the best innovations, we welcome people from diverse fields and perspectives. For example:
Artists, designers, filmmakers, comedians, podcasters
Programmers, makers, entrepreneurs
Researchers in Urban Design, Community Psychology, Computer Science, Information Visualization, HCI, Machine Learning, etc.
Everyone is welcome! Please RSVP so we have an accurate head-count. Looking forward to seeing you there!
Are you an expert?
If you are an expert on this topic or know somebody who is, please feel free to contact Kamil at [masked]
=== About the Speakers ===
Helen Ai He is a Human-Computer Interaction researcher and artist. After completing her PhD in Informatics at the University of Zurich in 2017, Helen began to explore how her interests in art and technology could be integrated to address important social issues, such as the growing public health concern of loneliness and isolation. Helen was born in China, grew up in Canada, and has lived in Japan, Switzerland and Germany. Her background is in Human-Computer Interaction, persuasive technologies, qualitative research methods, user experience, cross-cultural and multi-lingual collaboration systems.
Twitter: @helenaihe, Web: helenaihe.com
=== References ===
 Brown, Brene. 2015. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.
 Chang, Candy. 2015. Transforming our cities through art and design. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfKPgn4v6Ws&t=5s
 Holt-Lunstad et al., 2015 - Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors.
 Jensen, Sarah. 2018. Social media usage: The Impact on Feelings of Depression or Loneliness.
 Neff, Kristin. 2003. Self-Compassion: An Alternative Conceptualization of a Healthy Attitude Toward Oneself
Photo by Hugh Han on Unsplash