Tablets, smartphones and an ever-encroaching number of demands on our time mean that we're probably the most socially disconnected generation in human history. And no, before you ask, interacting on Facebook is not socialising.
What we're talking about is good old fashioned human interaction: saying hello to someone when you pass them in the street, striking up a conversation with a person you've never met. Instead, we retreat into the safe world that our tablets and phones provide, meaning we don't have to engage with anyone we don't want to.
Slowly, a tide is pushing back against this. HuffPost launched ScreenSense last month to try and shine a spotlight on the ways in which technology is distancing ourselves from human interaction, and riding on this wave is social enterprise company Treetins, based in Mumbai.
The company, which started around nine months ago, has one aim: making strangers social. To this end, former marketing executives Prince Jacob Thomas, Aditya Dhull, Mohit Narwal and Chandy Thomas have created a pretty special concept.
Restaurants are invited to participate in the concept, and then they tell their diners that they have the opportunity to share their table with strangers if they want to. They are given jars with a flag that says 'Hi' and if they want to share their table, they just have to raise the flag.
Talking to HuffPost UK Lifestyle about the concept, Prince Jacob Thomas says: "We realised that people often refrain from talking to strangers out of fear of what it might result into. The beauty though, lies exactly in the uncertainty that goes with it.
"During one of our lunches at Crystal restaurant in Mumbai while we were feasting on some kheer, we realised there were lot of times when seats at tables would be free but the waiting customers were still waiting. Though people may be open to sharing their tables there was no drive for them to do it and we wanted to create that."
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Phone Bans For Certain Times Of The Day
"See if you can build in technology-free times into each day," suggests Mark Williams. "See if these times can be used to do something that either gives a sense of pleasure (such as being with friends without a phone, or reading a favourite book or magazine), or a sense of mastery (such a tidying your desk for 15 minutes, or cooking using a new recipe). "While doing so, notice the tendency during any breaks to check for messages or posts. Notice what your sensations in the body feel like at these times, see if you can ‘surf the urge’ rather than give in to it, and if you must check, see if you can leave it for 10 or 15 minutes before you actually do."
Acts Of Kindness
You may think you don't have the time to be kind or thoughtful to someone you know, but what about that extra time you're spending online? Mark Williamson says: "Make someone else happy – do random acts of kindness, offer to help, give away your change, pay a compliment or tell someone how much they mean to you."
Use Technology To Defeat Technology
Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post and The Third Metric movement to introduce greater wellbeing and balance into our lives, has always maintained that we need to use technology to free ourselves from it. Susie adds: "Use great apps like Concentrate for Mac or RescueTime (pictured)for PC - these are great ways to help you from getting distracted."
Turn Off Message Alerts From Social Networks
Smartphones have made it easier to be connected than ever before. "Be aware of what a drain on time it is to surf social media for hours in a day," says Susie. "Each day, those hours really add up and make a huge difference to your output and time available for real living. Turn off message alerts from your social networks so you don't keep getting interrupted."
Do Lunch Without Your Phone
Rich Pierson, co-founder of online meditation app Headspace, says: "I make sure that I have periods in the day when I don't have any technology on me. Going for a walk or to lunch without your phone can really help. "Having lunch on your own without your phone might be scary at first, but is actually a really nice thing to do."
Take Five Minutes To Breathe
Five minutes isn't much, but the ripple effect it can have on your day last much more. Mark Williamson adds: "Take a breathing space - regularly stop and take five minutes to just breathe and be in the moment - notice how you're feeling and what's going on around you."
Susie Pearl says: "With the increase of screen time, we've seen a massive increase in related stresses to the body - eye strain, back troubles and neck issues. Get out there and get fresh air, daily exercise and movement - essential when we spend a lot of time at the computer."
Actually Hang Out With Your Friends. In Person.
"The studies show that our joy and happiness comes from social interaction yet we do this less and less," says Susie. is it our perception of how busy we are? "Enjoy going out, meeting up, arranging socials and making sure that you put time and energy into making friendships, keeping friendships and being part of real communities. With the rise in social media, we are getting cut off from spending time with friends and this is accounting for a large part of the rise in stress."
Try Something New
Push your conscious mind into action by doing something you haven't done before. It can be as small as "read a different magazine" Mark Williamson says, or "eat something you've never tried before, join a club or take a different route home." It'll certainly help squash any Facebook envy you might be feeling. Susie says: "It's more satisfying to have your own life experiences in the world than read about others having their experiences. Get off line and on life."
Make A Plan Of How Much You Plan To Use Social Media
This one is Susie's suggestion. She adds: "Make sure you stick to it. And run your day so that you do other priority tasks before logging in to social networks."
Sounds controversial but if you have catching up to do with a work friend, double it up with a walk or a run. Mark Williamson adds: "Get active outdoors – walk through the park, get off the bus a stop early or go for a "walking meeting" with a colleague."
Meditate, Surf, Do Anything Else But Touch That Mouse
Rich adds: "Anything is better than being online, if you're stuck for something to do. I like surfing and <a href="http://www.getsomeheadspace.com" target="_blank">meditating</a>, hanging out with my friends in person or actually making a phone call is so much better than hanging out on Facebook. In my humble opinion."
Like any other major city, diners in Mumbai are busy and rushed off their feet, so it's as good a place as any to see whether it takes off. Restaurateurs like the idea (presumably because it means more covers) but Prince acknowledges that diners have been cautious.
"With the patrons it has been a slow-start. While everybody absolutely loves the idea, they are a little skeptical when it comes to sharing but we do see people gradually warming up to the concept. It definitely has the potential to go global, the concept is very simple and appeals to a basic human need to socialize. This idea is a great enabler to kickstart a conversation and should work anywhere."
We're increasingly becoming dependent on technology to fill the gaps in our lives, and that is a problem that needs addressing. "Our dependence on technology for social interactions has to a certain extent taken away our real-world networking skills," says Prince. "Again, I think we are enamoured by our virtual lives. At some point every person would realise the importance of a physical one on one conversation and stop phubbing."