S3 Ep 051 Pete Bombaci Wants You to Talk to Strangers

In this episode, Pete Bombaci talks about human connection and how crucial it is in today’s increasingly digital world.
S3 Ep 051 Pete Bombaci


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Show Notes

Today, our conversation with Pete Bombaci is all about human connection, and we explore the vital role of human connection in today’s increasingly digital world. People in the world are growing more lonely, and it is a concerning universal problem, especially when you look at how loneliness negatively affects the mental and physical health of society. But it is a pandemic that we can directly impact and change. Pete gives us so many ways to increase our connections every day, including easy ways to speak to strangers and how we can all have a better, healthier relationship with the digital sphere. 

S3 Ep 051 Pete Bombaci

In this episode, you will hear: 

  • Why human connection is more important than exercise and eating well. 
  • The importance of turning off distractions and connecting with others. 
  • Making social connection part of your day-to-day life. 
  • How we can consciously build connections one person at a time. 
  • Reasons you should go into the office if you have the choice. 
  • The long-term effects, physical and mental, of chronic loneliness.  
  • How you can change the world just by reaching out to one person and actively listening. 
  • Closing the gap of human connection and learning to talk to strangers. 
  • Ideas for growing the number of connections in your life. 

Pete is a human connection expert and the Founder and Executive Director of The GenWell Project, a Human Connection Movement that has been working since 2016 to educate, empower and catalyze people around the importance of human connection for their health, happiness, longevity, and the benefit of society as a whole. We have all been educated on eating well, exercising, not smoking, and more, but we have never taken the time to educate the broader population about the importance of human connection for our own well-being and for the benefit of those we connect with.

The solution to the disconnected world that we live in today should not be a medical one but one where each of us recognizes that we are all part of the solution and that we need each other, maybe more than ever.

Connect with Pete Bombaci:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thegenwellproject/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/genwellproject/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/genwellproject

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/genwellproject/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8K6MIhIY6y1t7tJqznpBWA

Connect with R Blank and Stephanie Warner: 

For more Healthier Tech Podcast episodes, and to download our Healthier Tech Quick Start Guide, visit https://www.healthiertech.co and follow https://instagram.com/healthiertech

Additional Links:


Pete Bombaci 0:00
And that’s the education that I think we’re trying to bring to people to recognise, Hey, make the time to actively seek out the people in your lives that you care about and say, Hey, Steph, how’s everything going? You know, you want to go for coffee, let’s go for a walk. Let’s go for a hike. You know, tell me what’s been going on in your life lately. Because if we can all think about one more person today that we could reach out to for our own well being or theirs, I think we can change the world.

Announcer 0:28
Welcome to the healthier tech podcast, the show about building a healthier relationship with modern technology. Now, here are your hosts R blank and Stephanie Warner.

R Blank 0:41
So this interview that we have to do with Pete Bochy, it’s all about human connection. It is really in a lot of ways, it synthesises so much of what we’ve covered in our first 50 or 60 episodes of this podcast, and he does it in such a very effective way. I don’t even want to spend any more time talking about I just want to get into it.

Stephanie Warner 1:02
Yeah, I do. I Yeah. It’s hard not to talk about because it was really just so meaty, some such great content. Great topic, great guy, great movement. And I’m just gonna give one little, little tiny little breadcrumb there. We’re going to talk about why it’s important to talk to strangers.

R Blank 1:20
Okay, so let’s get into it. Let’s do it. In today’s episode, we explore the vital role of human connection in today’s increasingly digital world. Our guest people. Bochy is a human connection expert, and the founder of the Jen well project with his team, they have been on a mission since 2016. To educate, empower, and catalyse people around the importance of human connection for our health, happiness, longevity and the benefit of society as a whole. While we’ve been all taught about healthy eating, exercise, and avoiding smoking, we often overlook the significance of human connection in our well being. In this episode, we’ll dive deep into the science stories and strategies behind building meaningful connections in a disconnected world. Welcome to the healthier tech podcast Pete.

Stephanie Warner 2:13
Welcome, Pete.

Pete Bombaci 2:14
Honestly, it’s so great to be here with you guys. Thank you so much for inviting me along.

R Blank 2:18
It’s I’m really glad that we were able to make this human connection, even if it’s intermediated by by zoom. So just to give our listeners a little bit of context for the questions that will come right after what is the Gen well project?

Pete Bombaci 2:35
Well, the Gen wall project is a human connection movement. And our mission is to make the world a happier and healthier place by educating, empowering and catalysing people around the importance of face to face, proactive human connection, as, as an action that we can all take for our health, our happiness, our longevity, and the betterment of society. And we do that, you know, educate through daily social posts, which we’ve been doing for six years on our platforms, you know, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, trying to help educate people on why they should be more conscious and intentional around their social health. We go do workplace community and classroom programming where we go in and, again, educate people, and then give them tips, tools and ideas on how they can make it happen. And then more broadly, we do things like this, which is an opportunity to bring conversations to the broader population to say, hey, you know, as you as you started off, look, we’ve known about exercise and eating well, we know about eight glasses of water sleeping, you know, smoking cessation, but now the research shows it’s more important to stay socially connected than it is to exercise and is a greater indicator of our health than smoking, obesity and high blood pressure. But we’ve never told anybody.

Stephanie Warner 3:52
Wow, that’s really amazing. And, you know, I can’t wait to dig into some of this. But what inspired you to start this mission?

Pete Bombaci 3:59
It’s a it’s a great question, Stephanie. And I’ll tell you it flashback to 2003, there was a blackout on the eastern seaboard of North America. 50 million people went without power from two to seven days. And I always talk about when I do a lot of work in the workplace, as I always say, you know, the title of my presentation is, you know, human connection beyond the crisis. On that day, people came together, you know, we it was actually the greatest, the greatest crisis that we could have ever had, because really what happened was, the power was turned off, which meant all the distractions that we face every day, were turned off that phone forced us to sit quietly for a minute, you know, and it happened at four o’clock. So people had to get home and certainly that was a challenge for people with mobility issues, seniors, you know, lots of different people. So getting home was a challenge. But once we got home, we sat quietly and then eventually people well, what you know, suggested like, what am I going to do the TV doesn’t work. My phone doesn’t work. The computer doesn’t work. work, the radio doesn’t work. And I think we struggle to sit in our own silence these days, I think that’s something that’s pretty common. And so what did we do is we walked out of our homes and out of our offices and out of wherever we were, and we connected with people. And so at nine o’clock at night, I was at a friend’s house had gone over, he was having a Barbecue, barbecue, it was 31 degrees out. And I stood on the front porch, and the street was packed with people. And I thought to myself, Oh, my God, this is the type of street that I’ve always wanted to live on one where everybody on the street knows each other. So I walked out onto the street. And I said to the people, because they were riding bicycles, and eating hot dogs and drinks and throwing a football. And I said, Oh, my God, this is amazing. You guys all know each other. And everybody paused and looked at me and when we, we don’t. And so it was right there at that moment, Stephanie, where I went, Oh, my gosh, look at this. It took a crisis, for us to come out of our homes and out of our cubicles to talk to the person in the office beside us. I know people in downtown Toronto, I’m up here in Canada, who went down to the basement of the building, that they’ve been in 50 stories and spent the next eight to 10 hours drinking with people they’d never met before, that on a normal day, they’d walk by in the hallway or in the elevator and not even pay attention to. But when we gave them permission and an opportunity, they enjoyed every minute of it. Because when we connect with somebody, today that we didn’t know, yesterday, you know, they could be a friend tomorrow, they could teach us something, they could make us laugh, they could, you know, so many benefits that come from human connection. But most of us pre pandemic weren’t making time for it. And now I’d suggest on the other side of the global pandemic, it’s becoming more of a challenge for most of us, to make it a part of our everyday life. So that’s what we’re trying to address.

R Blank 6:52
So I want to get back to the role of the pandemic in your work. But you touched on something that I also saw on your website, social connection is a greater determinant to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure now, on your website, you’re citing work out of the University of Michigan. I’m wondering, you know, what your understanding of the research is demonstrating the relative importance of human connection to our health, versus some of these other unhealthy habits and toxins that we are all much more familiar with? Well, I

Pete Bombaci 7:29
think it is, you know, if I understand that question properly our I think that the challenge we have in trying to get people to understand this is that behaviour change starts with knowledge. So we have all the research there. But by the way, this research starting with John Cassie oppo in the 90s. This research has been in existence for some time. But pre pandemic, most of us didn’t think consciously about our social connections because they happened. So naturally, there’s a study at a Julian out of England, Julian Sandstrom, that over 60% of the people that we saw pre pandemic, were not people that we intended to see that thing. They were casual collisions, it was because you went to the office and you met at the coffee machine, or the lunch room, or on the walk to the office in the parking lot, or at the grocery store, all those places that we went. And so we were unconsciously building social connection into our lives, and then the pandemic came along. And, frankly, what it ripped out of our lives, were all those fun moments of connection that fill us up, and what were we left with work, Zoom meetings, you know, and even, and even the social meetings that we normally would have had, because you and I would have ran into each other in a coffee shop? Are you doing what’s, you know, great to see, it’s definitely what’s going on? Well, every social interaction required a zoom link, and a meeting in the calendar. And so we are not used to have to plan our social interactions. So we have a long way to go to take this information that’s been available for 40 years that everybody was ignoring, because it used to just happen as part of the course of our days to actually get people up to speed to go, Oh my gosh, what you really mean is I need to consciously and intentionally build human relations with all different types of knowing your neighbour. Our research shows those who know their neighbour, and spend one to four hours a week speaking to their neighbour, have a three times less sense of loneliness. When we talk to strangers, those who talk to strangers are three times happier than those who don’t talk to strangers once a week, family and friends added value for increased happiness, reduced loneliness, workplace colleagues have a greater positive impact on our happiness and reduced sense of loneliness, then connections with our family and friends. And so some people may question that and go How could that be that my colleagues have a greater impact on me than my family and friends? Well, let’s remember, not everybody has a family. Not everybody has a support Family. Friends could be all over the world. And so we may not get that time. But when we work in an organisation, those connections that are trying to get us through our day, we go through the ups and downs of work, we spend eight to 10 hours, if not longer doing it or thinking about it, you start to realise, wow, if I actually have some positive, fulfilling relationships in the workplace with my colleagues, that’s going to increase my productivity or my efficiency, which helps me finish my day earlier, less mistakes, you know, greater trust, greater loyalty, happiness, well being so so many benefits. But as we come out of the global pandemic, we’re addressing things we’ve never had to think of before. Hey, do you want to go to the office or not? And I think some people the natural inclination is, well, what do I ever need to go to the office for? Well, let me tell you some reasons why I think you should.

R Blank 10:56
So you know, one thing and you touched on a lot there that already I did no, no, that’s good. That wasn’t a complaint. Just saying that I’d like to get back to but one thing you said was was talking about the number of, I think you use the word collisions or casual collisions, casual collisions. And I reminded me once I saw Tony Shea, who was the founder of Zappos, and the CEO, and he also a lot of people outside Las Vegas may not know this, he was the mind behind something called the Downtown Project in Las Vegas, because Las Vegas was known not known for having a good day. It’s known for the strip, but not having a real downtown. And he engineered this, this whole project where he built this REIT, he was planning retail, he was planning educational, he was planning, you know, dining, and all of these things. And I once heard him talk about it. And one of the things that he said was, the design principle of the Downtown Project, was maximising the number of these unplanned collisions in a day, and that there was some way of measuring the activity of an economy based on how many unplanned collisions you could actually generate with the layout of a city and have a space where people spend time you’re nodding, like, you know, the kind of what the the work that I’m referencing?

Pete Bombaci 12:13
Well, I think, you know, place based, you know, human connection, certainly building spaces that allow people to come together is something that lots of people are focusing on right now. You know, is it parks? Is it dog parks? How do we get people to connect, but I will say that that is a compliment to the concept of educating people on the why connecting is important. And I think there’s a huge opportunity here, and I’m even going to throw it out there. There has to be a dog, provider, a dog food company, who wants to get involved in this movement, because we have a we have a crisis of dog owners out there right now. And that crisis is we only know how to talk to dogs, not to the other owner.

Stephanie Warner 13:01
Great experience.

Pete Bombaci 13:02
Yeah, there’s a great clip on YouTube of two humans walking their dogs and the two dogs talking about their humans very positively about it’s like, Hey, how come those two people don’t? How can they talk to me, but they don’t talk to each other. And it’s so funny. It’s true. And that’s what’s so powerful about it is, you know, we struggle to connect with each other, even when we are standing right beside each other.

R Blank 13:29
And soils, like, yeah, we we went through, at least in North America, we went through over a century of urban and suburban development without this being a design principle,

Pete Bombaci 13:41
well said. Okay.

R Blank 13:44
So before we move on, and there are some more questions that we we want to ask, can you give our listeners an idea like to say, a lack of social connection is harmful to your health? That’s one thing, but what are some of the negative health outcomes that science is demonstrating as a result from this? Yeah,

Pete Bombaci 14:03
so you know, increase of heart disease, you know, by over 30%, I think that’s stroke and heart attack, 29 and 32, early onset dementia, in doubles your risk of diabetes at the age of 50. Increase in anxiety and depression can also impact obesity, addiction, increased risk of suicide. So I think what’s really interesting in that list, and there might be a couple that I’m missing, but that’s those are the major ones is I think a lot of people look at this and say, Oh, you’re talking this is a mental health issue. Right? And the reality is, now, it’s not just a mental health issue. It’s a physical health issue as well. Because really what the stress and anxiety that comes from being from having a sense of loneliness or chronic loneliness is inflammation in the Body and inflammation in the body leads to all types of illnesses, including cancer. And so when we don’t feel a sense of connection and belonging, when we don’t feel that sense of, I should be here, I belong here, I feel like I’m part of this team, this community, this workplace, that can lead to, you know, social isolation, disconnection and loneliness. And the longer term impacts of that can be devastating to our health.

Stephanie Warner 15:29
Yeah, that’s really interesting. It makes me think I just have to share a little story, because it’s really makes me think of my grandmother, she is 91 now, and she still is of good health, she lives by herself, and she spends a lot of time crocheting, and, you know, by herself, and I spend a lot of time with her. And I recently went on a little trip, and I’m still on it. And I was speaking to her the other day, and she was talking about how she just wasn’t feeling very good. She just wasn’t, you know, really wasn’t feeling good. She felt like she was in a bad mood. And then a friend came over and just chatted with her for about a half an hour. And she said, and I was just in such a great mood after we didn’t talk about anything specific, I just felt so much better. And I had this just deep realisation of what of the, how critical it really is to have some sort of touch point with other people, and that it can really affect your, your mental well being. And I really hadn’t thought about the physical part of that as well. So thank you for talking about that. And touching on that.

Pete Bombaci 16:38
I think your story to me is, you know, the starting point is we all start usually with seniors in this conversation, because we naturally think okay, well, and I’ve had I had my mum passed, but she was 89. And I thought I was being a good son seeing her once a week. And now I recognise wasn’t good enough. And whether I saw her or else I arranged for other people to see her, we need to do more for our seniors. And it’s not just about educating seniors, on how they could be more socially active, it’s awakening the broader society to say, hey, if that next door neighbour is a senior, and Stephanie can’t see her mum, because Stephanie lives in another town or another country, then maybe you could step in by just going and checking in on Stephanie’s mom and just saying hello, when she walks out of the house every day. And so this is the collective consciousness that I think can, you know, can inspire us all to recognise, we are all part of the solution to the challenge. And it’s no one person’s issue, and it shouldn’t be a medical solution. We shouldn’t wait till people are sick, before we try to help them, which tends to be the way we, you know, grasp

R Blank 17:47
that’s getting into just our fundamental approach to health.

Pete Bombaci 17:51
Totally. And so what we’re trying to do is say, hey, let’s educate everybody, so we can all be part of that solution.

R Blank 17:57
So you Stephanie’s anecdote, and your reply, feeds right into actually my next question, right? Because it’s not just the pandemic, and remote work and life priority, and all the craziness of the last few years that that’s impacting this. I’ve also read for a long time, that it’s increasingly difficult, especially I think, for men to make these types of connections as we age. And so that the older you are, the harder it is to actually, for lack of a better term make friends, what’s what what does the science say about that? And how do you go about kind of remedying that side of of the demographic?

Pete Bombaci 18:39
You know, it’s so funny i I’ve heard the the research that says, you know, men have a tough time building relationships. You know, our research here suggests that women report being lonelier than men do. And so, you know, unfortunate I think the biggest challenge in this conversation is too broad stroke, any gender, any age, our research shows that it’s over 50% of every demographic that feels lonely and isolated on a regular basis. And let’s recognise loneliness as a human innate need or the need to connect is and so loneliness is no different than thirst or hunger. So we all can feel thirsty or hungry but we know what to do you know I go to the fridge I get a drink I go to the fridge I get something to eat and loneliness it’s okay I go through a bad day I you know break up with a loved one or have a fight that I should just know that Oh, I feel lonely. I call up a friend or I go have a coffee and connect with somebody and this is how we need to start getting people to think so sorry our and I lost the other part of that question was

R Blank 19:47
oh well was no I mean, I think you actually addressed it which is different different articles or different studies will say you know, different demographics, different genders will will react if Really, but your point being this is a universal problem, it doesn’t matter, really what demographic you’re talking about, we’re talking about a serious problem and, and even

Pete Bombaci 20:08
from a gender lens. And that was the other part that I wanted to touch on, which is yeah, you know, what, men with the the, the structures that we have created society over the last, you know, 100 years and the roles that were supposed to play, tough he-man, you know, I can get through anything, I can’t be empathetic, I can’t show emotion. You know, no wonder men may struggle a little more at times, some men, I should say, not all men, you know, can struggle to build connection. And on the other flip side of it, you know, women are supposed to be so great at building human connection, you know, they’re so empathetic and compassionate, yet 90% of new moms, as an example, feel lonely and isolated on, you know, on a regular basis. So different stages of life, different genders, different scenarios, every one of us can feel it. And that’s what I think is so powerful about building a movement is when we finally all recognise Oh, my God, this is all of us. Oh, okay, so then I shouldn’t create stigma, or I shouldn’t make you feel bad about feeling lonely today. Because, you know, stuff went down at work today that you weren’t really It didn’t go the way you wanted. What I should say is, hey, are, let’s go grab a coffee, man, let’s go shoot the breeze. And, you know, let’s come out the other side of it. And I hope you’re feeling better because I sat down, and I actively listened. And I said, Hey, so tell me what happened today. Because I’m sorry, you’re feeling that way. And that’s the education that I think we’re trying to bring to people to recognise, Hey, make the time to actively seek out the people in your lives that you care about and say, Hey, Steph, how’s everything going? You know, you want to go for coffee? Let’s go for a walk. Let’s go for a hike. You know, tell me what’s been going on in your life lately. Because if we can all think about one more person today that we could reach out to for our own well being or theirs. I think we can change the world.

Stephanie Warner 22:04
Yeah, I love that. And I had a different question. But now I kind of want to ask, Why do you think it’s so challenging to, to to reach out and to actively? Listen, I think that’s a really key, there’s a key phrase you said, Why is that so challenging?

R Blank 22:20
I’m sorry, what did you say stuff?

Pete Bombaci 22:22
Exactly. Yeah, step, I think it all goes back to the same thing, which is we’ve never educated people on this, you know, we go to school to learn reading, writing, math, science, calculus, algebra, you know, all those other subjects that many of us question during the course of our schooling years, will I ever actually use calculus? And I still to this day, don’t know if I actually ever did use calculus? Maybe I did, I’m not sure. But you know, these are, these are life skills. And you know, we left that to the family, we left that maybe to the church, we maybe left that to those who were a little more conscious than other people. But as we go through, you know, in our generation, and I look at the three of us, and I go, Well, we’ve never been through a war, certainly a war that’s in our vicinity. We’ve lived through a pretty good life. And so I know Tony Robbins, you know, says something like, you know, good times, create weak people, weak people create bad times, bad times, great, strong people. And you know, if you look at the last 60 years, what have we done and, you know, Robert Putnams book, Bowling Alone, highlights that ultimately, what we’ve done this all to ourselves, you know, we’ve slowly disconnected from one another, we build bigger houses for smaller families, taller backyard fences, back decks, instead of front porches, in whole movie theatres, automatic garage doors, we have created the isolation that we are now waking up to on the other side of the global pandemic, and why did we do it? I believe Stephanie, because nobody told us how important social connection was for our happiness, health, our longevity, our well being and maybe even more importantly, you know, certainly in the US right now with many mass shootings. And the research shows there’s no correlation to mental health it’s correlation to loneliness. Because when we feel disconnected from other people, we lash out to blame somebody to you know, is your fault for making me feel this way so we can think about it from you know, the health and well being of people we can think about it from a societal level workplaces. We can think about it from classrooms, and the reality is this. This impacts all of us.

Stephanie Warner 24:42
Yeah, I yeah, that’s that was really powerful statement. And I kind of want to pull on a thread that you said way back in the beginning, which, you know, seems like we’ve been talking for quite a while because we’ve we’ve touched on so many really great points. But the the thread I want to pull on is you said something about talking to strangers and And going back to what you just said to we do have we’ve been taught not to talk to strangers from the time that we’re children. And there’s a very valid reason for children not to talk to strangers. But as adults, we don’t talk about how do you talk to strangers? How do you create those opportunities, without fear to be just genuinely friendly and curious about somebody else? who’s around you that you don’t know? Oh, Stephanie,

Pete Bombaci 25:27
I’m so glad you asked this question. Because I think this is the gap that many of us can fill in our lives, that that gap of human connection, that sense of belonging in our communities, on our streets, you know, in our workplaces, what we need to understand is we’ve been telling people to not talk to strangers for over 50 years, Stranger danger, don’t talk to strangers, you know, and the media certainly highlights when you know, when a child is abducted or something doesn’t go, well, let’s be clear, I’ll bet you that child didn’t talk to the abductor anyway. So that’s not even really what we’re talking about here. What we’re really talking about is I’m not saying talk to people in a dark alley at two o’clock in the morning. I’m talking about the people that you walk by every day on the street in front of your home, I’m talking about the people that you walk by from the parking lot in the at the grocery store, to go into the grocery store, I’m talking about the server at the coffee shop, I’m talking about, you know, there’s a million places where you don’t put yourself at any risk. And all I’m asking you to do and let’s be clear, I don’t mean you have to have a long conversation. A lot of introverts tells me that talking to strangers could be a great entry for them to feel like they’re connected without having to get into a long conversation. I’m talking about eye contact. I’m talking about a smile. I’m talking about a hello, how are you? How’s your day? You know, if you want to turn that into a 15 or 30 minute conversation, because you find something to connect on. But I’m not telling you. But the research shows even a smile to a stranger can have a positive impact on them. And you?

Stephanie Warner 27:16
Yeah, I absolutely agree without the continuing Sorry,

Pete Bombaci 27:19
no. So so we are missing these little opportunities that are all around us every day to build a greater sense of connection and belonging, which may be part of the solution to the disconnected world we find ourselves in today.

Stephanie Warner 27:32
Yeah, absolutely. And I want to add just one more. So in my experience, I travel around a lot. And I’m always taking photos of birds. And what I found is just having this like having a thing that I’m doing and I’m observing people start coming around and asking like, what is that camera? What are you taking pictures of, and I always smiling because I’m doing this thing that I love. And it’s welcoming. And I so I I’ve kind of learned that talking to strangers is really good. Because I get these, I get to have these conversations that I wouldn’t get to have otherwise. And I wonder if you have any strategies for people who want to be a little bit more open, or perhaps want to be a little more open to having a connection with somebody they don’t know. Maybe they feel a little uncomfortable or unsure and don’t want to come off as weird. Do you have any strategies for for for people who are want to start engaging a little bit more?

Pete Bombaci 28:28
Yeah, there’s a researcher out of the UK named Dr. Gillian Sandstrom, we did an interview a couple a couple of months back. And when we as we were asked that question, there was a simple one, which is just try it. You know, when it comes to talking to strangers, over 90% of the time, when we talk to strangers, it ends up in a positive experience for both people. That’s the research. So you know, here we are being told not to talk to strangers. We know that those who talk to strangers are three times happier than those that don’t talk to strangers, and over 90% of the time, it ends up in a positive experience for both people. If you still tell people not to talk to strangers, or you think it’s a bad idea, I’m telling you, you are you creating more grief for yourself, because you’re not taking advantage of this thing is here. But let’s let’s talk about just human connection on a more broad perspective. So first off, let’s all start talking about it. Because you now have more information in this podcast than most people do about the importance of human connection to their health and well being. Number two, when we put it into our calendar, it becomes official. It’s just the reality of the world that we live in today. So if you do want to make human connection a part of your life, put it in your calendar, because whether it’s on this 30 minute period, I’m going to reach out to one friend a week, or I’m going to call some old colleagues or whatever you’re going to do put it in the Calendar Number Three try and make things recurring. So when you go birdwatching, Stephanie, you probably do it same time, every week, I play hockey a couple times a week. So I know I’m going to see 20 Guys twice a week, you know, and then we get to go and have a coffee or a beer afterwards. And that social time is regular, I don’t need to think about it. But then on top of that, I can find those spontaneous ones where I run into are on the street, and I’m like, Hey, are you want to go have a beer, or you want to go get connected, whatever. So volunteering is another great opportunity. You know, when we do volunteer work, it gives us a sense of purpose, which I think is really powerful, and something that I think a lot of people look for, during the pandemic. But when you work with other volunteers, it’s a great opportunity to connect with other people that are empathetic and compassionate. They wouldn’t be doing volunteer work if they didn’t understand that. And so there’s an easy way in to doing good. And building human connection with people who are probably the most kind people you can find, because they’ve already put their hand up to say, I want to help make the world a better place, you know, through my efforts. And so there’s a few ideas on how we can all start building healthier connection habits into our each and every day.

R Blank 31:20
So you mentioned you and me going for a beer, which we’d love to do at some point when we’re in the same vicinity. But I’ve heard you in another interview, right? Because, you know, when you’re talking about building up the courage to talk to strangers, alcohol is very well known to be quite good at that. But in this other interview, you were talking about how a lot of social interactions are built around alcohol consumption. So you know, after work you go out for for happy hour or you know, things like that. What are your thoughts on the role of alcohol in not the work that you’re doing, but in this, this kind of realm of helping to establish social connection, versus encouraging alcohol consumption, versus excluding people who may not want to participate in alcohol consumption?

Pete Bombaci 32:11
Yeah, I think it’s a really great converse, I spent 20 years in the alcohol business. So I come at this with a with a particular lens. And, and we even came up with guidelines in Canada recently, that changed our guidelines up until a couple of months ago, where the was two drinks a day, were said to be good for your heart, good for, you know, different aspects of health. The new guidelines are now saying two drinks a week. And that was a proposed set of guidelines to the Canadian government. And there was a backlash from people that are in the social space. Understanding that, you know, if you are, if you require a drink, in order to get out and actually be social, if that helps you get over your social anxiety, the research would suggest that is better for you to have that drink, and, and get out and build social connections into your life. So as with everything in life, it’s about balance. And so alcohol, no different than social connection, you know, because the person, you know, who spends 24 hours a day socialising, that person’s not going to be in a great space, either. They don’t find time to do other things in their life, like sleep, and, you know, and connecting with oneself. And Stephanie, I love your birding example, because that, to me is about following a passion. You know, we all spend far too much time at work, what do we do to fill us up with the things that make us as you said, I smile when people come and talk to me about birding. And so, you know, to me, this is the holistic I’m a Maslow’s hierarchy fan. And so if I go through the hierarchies and how I, you know, interpreted mental and physical health, social health, financial health and you know, contribution to something beyond ourselves, passions, which is what you were talking about, with birding and then purpose. And that’s a very, you know, altered alternated version of Maslow’s hierarchy. But any one of those levels of the hierarchy, if it’s ignored for too long will provide a gap. And what Maslow always said is that whatever level you are on the hierarchy, if you ignore that level, you will eventually crash to that level of the hierarchy. So when we know that mental and physical health is the foundation, social health is the, you know, the third pillar in that bucket of you know, how do we stay holistically healthy, and then we build on top of those things. It this is the type of life skill that I think if we educated people on we’d all be much more prepared to address the challenges of a global pandemic, a job loss, divorce, you know, whatever challenge we may have Ace

R Blank 35:00
in our lives. So I liked that you mentioned balance. That’s obviously, well, maybe not to you, but to our listeners are running theme throughout the healthier tech podcast also through our work at shield your body. And so going back to that sort of that perspective of finding balance, right, we we I think it’s obvious to people the role that technology has played in disintermediating relationships. What do you think are some ways that our listeners can think about fostering healthier habits by using technology? How can technology help foster human connection?

Pete Bombaci 35:39
Great question, and I don’t even I don’t want to challenge you are but I was, you know, you when you say that, everybody understands the role that is played in disconnecting us. I, you know, if that was the case, I think more of us would actually be taking steps to solve your

R Blank 35:54
write ups. I met everybody who’s listening to this show. You’re totally fair, totally fair call out. But I do think there’s a growing I mean, it’s part of the premise of this show, there’s a growing realisation Yeah, in a way, like throughout my entire life, Tech was viewed as, and we’ve talked about this in multiple episodes at greater length. So we don’t, I don’t need to give the full Spiel here. Yeah, throughout my whole life, every advancement in technology was basically viewed as a good thing. Yeah. And if you could get something, you know, the new tech device that did x, you wanted to go out and do X, and it would make your life better. And I feel like, especially since the pandemic, we’ve seen a real shift. And so that is why we’ve seen the Facebook whistleblower testified before Congress, we’ve seen that Facebook has had their own internal research talking about suicidal ideation among teen girls, we’ve seen Facebook, have some quarters, where they’ve actually lost users, we’ve seen Netflix have some quarters, where they’ve actually lost subscribers, that kind of stuff has never happened. And I do feel like there is it might not be everybody, which is a fair point. But definitely a growing awareness that not everything that’s tech is good, which is in very much in contrast to the first four decades of my life, where it really was a different bias, a different assumption, if you could get something tech, it’ll improve your happiness and improve your productivity. It will do well, and now we’re starting, I think, increasingly realise that that’s not always true.

Pete Bombaci 37:27
Thank you, for I knew what you meant, but I wanted to I wanted

R Blank 37:32
to call it out, they got me on my soapbox.

Pete Bombaci 37:35
That was that was amazing, because I couldn’t agree with you more, you know, when technology advances kept happening, and it was, you know, oh, my God, look at this, we’ll be able to do this and that. But nobody understood the unintended consequences. And we all just assumed that we’ve embraced the good, forget the bad, and we’d go on and live these incredible lives. And I think we’re now waking up, you know, nobody, nobody saw many of the social platforms that were, you know, spending too much time on now. People never would have, you know, nobody could have understood the idea of the attention economy that. So I watched your platform, and you make money. And you know, if I spend more time you make even more money. And so, you know, we are still awakening to this. But you know, as we talked about, even before we got on here, and I think this was your point, which is look at this conversation that we’re having right now. You know, technology is an incredible thing, that Gen wall project, even as a human connection movement that wants you to spend more time face to face is not anti technology. Because sometimes technology is a massive supplement to the human interactions that make us happy and healthy. Whether it’s because we got a busy life. And so Stephanie and I can’t make time to see each other face to face today. Or we’re in a different country, and we’re related or old friends or whatever the case may be. There’s so many ways in which digital technology can supplement the human interactions that we need. But we need to be conscious that doing scrolling and you know, the the morning scroll and the nighttime scroll and the and this is coming from a guy who’s extremely conscious of it. And I still get caught in it. And

Stephanie Warner 39:23
I love the use. Yeah, I love that you use the word and emphasise the word supplement. Because it’s it’s really in this case, it is such a it’s just it’s the perfect word to use. And I think one of the key things that we are starting to collectively talk about is the the this economy of attention of stickiness of you know technology of some of the more treacherous technology is really geared towards and built to take your time and to to get you to stay in and then not have that human connection. So I think that’s, um, they just wanted to point out that I liked that use the word supplement. And I think that the economy, there is something that we we definitely need to be talking about more.

Pete Bombaci 40:10
Yeah. And I use the doctor, Dr. Phil, you know, phrase when I say, you know, for 15 years, we’ve told people and as I listen to you are maybe it’s 20 years now, or 20 years, we’ve told people to put down the technology. And as Dr. Phil would say, how is that working for you? Nothing’s nothing’s changing, we’re spending more time there’s more mental health issues, we’re more disconnected from one another. So I have a suggestion, rather than focusing on the problem, and saying, don’t look at the purple elephant over there in the corner of the room. Why don’t we focus people’s attention on what the solution is, and recognise that we are all part of it, which is, when you know, somebody, I my wife, and I do this all the time, you know, I will see her and she’s very conscious as well. But when I see her, you know, going through her 27 minute of watching Instagram reels that are very positive and very motivational. And, you know, there’s some beautiful like Gary Vaynerchuk, Tony Robbins, you get Jay Shetty, like, these are all really inspiring people, the reality is, there’s enough inspiration that you can go back to go and do something that’s going to change your life, because we can all get distracted at times. And we are all here to help each other that when I see you doing what I know you don’t want to do, then that could be us to a kid, that could be us to a neighbour that could be us to a family member. That can be us too. You know, I’m a big believer, we created a WhatsApp group on our street during the global pandemic, so that all the parents could reach out and say, Hey, Jimmy’s going out to this park to play? Can anybody else send their kids out at the same time, this is a different world than what I grew up, there was always 10 kids on the street, when I grew up today, there’s no kids on the street, unless somebody takes and makes an effort. And so it may cause a little more time in our lives, it may create more may need more effort. But at the end of the day, we have to be in this for each other. And we have to be part of the solution together. Because that’s the only way we make the world a happier and healthier place for everybody.

R Blank 42:28
Well, Pete, this is been a really motivating and interesting conversation. I know Stephanie agrees. Were in terms of getting people to be part of the movement. And to learn more about you and connect with Jen well project and your work. Where would you like our listeners to connect with you in the project?

Pete Bombaci 42:49
Yeah, thank you are and thank you, Stephanie. First off, I want to say thank you to you guys, for giving us the opportunity, share the message, share the conversation. This is how we awaken the broader society to just how important social connection is. The Gen. Well, project is on, you know, most of the social platforms. And they can tune in and and I don’t even want you to tune into us too often, either. But a Gen Well, project.org is our website, all the social platforms at general project? I think one of them’s at the general project. YouTube, we have a tonne of content that people can go listen to experts talking about the importance of human connection, and it twice a year and ones coming up may 5 sixth seventh, we do Jen Well, weekends when we’re trying to catalyse people around human connection make us the excuse, you know, if you haven’t cause, you know, called up an old friend or you haven’t reached out to a neighbour, it’s springtime. Suicide rates are highest in the springtime. It’s not wintertime. And so what a great time of the year for each of us to reach out to somebody and say, Hey, are Stephanie we haven’t gotten together in a while why don’t we get together for a barbecue or go for a coffee or whatever the case may be, you know, we want people to we want to help make it easier for people to get connected. So if people are interested in finding out more about that they can head over to our website and find out more about Jeonhwa weekends as well.

R Blank 44:14
Excellent. So we’ll include the links to all of those in the show notes. Again, Pete, thank you so much. This is you’re the first. I mean, we’ve touched on a lot of these themes individually in different shows. But you’re the first guests we’ve had, who’s been able to tie it up together the way that you have and I really appreciate meeting you and you having taken the time to share this information with our audience.

Pete Bombaci 44:38
feeling’s mutual guys.

Stephanie Warner 44:40
Yeah, no, this has been wonderful. And I think the I think what you’re doing is is critical and I really appreciate the work that you’re doing and I appreciate you spearheading this.

Pete Bombaci 44:50
That means the world to me, I honestly, it is a it’s been an interesting journey for six and a half years because until the pandemic most people thought I was crazy and we talking about social connection. But now we’re on the other side of the pandemic and you know, conversation like this, not only fill my bucket, you know, I hope they filled your bucket. And I hope that many of your listeners will feel motivated and inspired to step outside and go and talk to somebody today, whether it’s a stranger, saying hello to the barista at the coffee shop, maybe building relationship with their neighbour. You know, spending time with a colleague that you haven’t been going in the office to see, the opportunity to build connection is everywhere. And we all can start today. So thank you so much.

R Blank 45:37
Thank you. Thank you.

Announcer 45:40
Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the healthier tech podcast. Remember to check the show notes for all the links and resources mentioned in the show. Please like and subscribe to the healthier tech podcast on Apple, Spotify or your podcast platform of choice. Get your free quickstart guide to build a healthy relationship with technology and our latest information at healthier tech.co

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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R Blank

R Blank

R Blank is the founder of Healthier Tech and the host of “The Healthier Tech Podcast”, available iTunes, Spotify and all major podcasting platforms.

R has a long background in technology. Previously, R ran a software engineering firm in Los Angeles, producing enterprise-level solutions for blue chip clients including Medtronic, Apple, NBC, Toyota, Disney, Microsoft, the NFL, Ford, IKEA and Mattel.

In the past, he served on the faculty at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering where he taught software engineering, as well as the University of California, Santa Cruz.

He has spoken at technology conferences around the world, including in the US, Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands, and he is the co-author of “AdvancED Flex Development” from Apress.

He has an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management and received his bachelor’s degree, with honors, from Columbia University. He has also studied at Cambridge University in the UK; the University of Salamanca in Spain; and the Institute of Foreign Languages in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.

Connect with R on LinkedIn.

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