Summary: Our culture of separation challenges a basic need for human engagement. Feeling connected helps us stay On Our Game! Resist being controlled by social queues to ignore others.

– Post 5 of 12 explaining impacts from People, Culture and Technology.


  1. Our culture of separation and loneliness knocks us Off Our Game.

We often respectfully ignore one another in public settings. How deeply kind of us. It happens in stores, on sidewalks, throughout our homes, and on our family room couches. It pretty much transpires everywhere we are, with the rare exception of saying a pleasant, but often superficial, “hello” to a neighbor. Teens even ignore each other when choosing to be together. It’s how they engage. They connect by being physically together yet emotionally and “attentionally” apart.

Why does this matter? First, it creates sadness and loneliness by leaving our deep need for social connection unmet. It’s hard to handle stressful situations without close ties. The confidence and social skills needed to thrive are built on quality relationships. We diminish our performance across professional and personal domains without them. Basically, without sufficient social connectedness, we’re knocked Off Our Game. Second, it closes the doors of opportunity by limiting our network. We all know networks have value. They are social capital that opens doors toward achievement.

Basically, without sufficient social connectedness, we’re knocked Off Our Game.

A study published in August 2018 in the journal Nature Communications is the “first to show a two-way relationship between sleep loss [a cause and effect of neural fatigue] and becoming socially isolated,”109 a driver of off-game performance. We choose to engage with our phones instead of the environment or each other because, as one recent Wall Street Journal article put it, “People are anxious . . . fiddling with their phones helps them escape the pressures of the day.”110 Many of us may not be aware of the degree of social separation or insufficient social support in our lives. The symptoms can be hard to identify because they masquerade as reduced exuberance for life, general discontent, or malaise. Also, they are just not a common topic of conversation.

Another off-game symptom we see with roots in our swelling culture of separation is reduced empathy. In 2010, college students from the previous ten years showed “empathy levels that are 40% lower than those who came before them.” This study, with a significant volume of data from over 14,000 students,113 was presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science by University of Michigan researchers. While it’s hard to tell cause and effect, these trends clearly seem to fit together. Less time and meaningful human interaction leads to less care for each other. Seems plausible. How far will it go? Well, the Michigan study finds that “people don’t even care about seeming uncaring.”114 That’s a pretty far way to go. And it’s a big off-game stimulus, because on-game achievement and a satisfying life rely on meaningful social connection.

Our cultural quadruplets of respect for privacy, device- directed focus, reduced empathy, and need for novelty/switching have fomented an off-game environment. They have culturally disintermediated our social connectedness. We’re expected to do and be more, but do it alone—physically and emotionally alone. This is a dilemma for those of us wanting to experience high-game-level performance.

This cultural outcropping of emotional and cognitive separation is changing the character and direction of relationships that exist today. Personal bonds can start to feel more functional than emotional, let alone spiritual.

All of this further demotes the value and quality of our relationships. It also diminishes the meaningfulness we experience in life. It’s hard to be On Our Game when we’re lonely, financially fixated, and gunning toward our own interests while overlooking our primal need for meaningful relationships.

As described in Chapter 3: “What It Means to Be On Your Game,” maintaining high performance in the long term includes spending sufficient time with family members and friends who are important to us. It’s hard to stay On Game when powerful cultural loops are pulling our relationships apart.

The key question is:

  • How are you passing up productive and enjoyable opportunities for social interaction based on our culture of separation?
  • What progress toward your goals might be available to you if you connect more with those around you?


Also see sister posts for the other Off-Game Impacts from Culture:

  1. Are you working now? This speaks to the impact of blurred personal and professional time.
  2. You’re choosing to do that? This speaks to how we invest our emotions, time, and attention.


For a more thorough description, go to OnYourGame.Today.

Also see posts about how Culture and Technology can work to bump us of off our game.


As always, be in touch. We love to hear about your successes!

Send in game boards, stories or questions. Go to: OnYourGame.Today/Contact


Footnotes:  Full references are in the book.