This story inundated my inbox when it came out, and I’m absolutely fascinated by the stats coming out of the Surgeon General’s report.
Murthy issued an advisory laying out the consequence of loneliness, which can include a 29 percent increased risk of heart disease, a 32 percent increased risk of stroke, a 50 percent increased risk of developing dementia for older adults, and an increased risk of premature death by more than 60 percent.
🤯 Those numbers are absolutely bonkers. The data points to not socializing being worse than a pack-a-day smoking habit!
Get to the point, Matt. How does this relate to Vulnerable U readers?
Along with it being an important humanity issue, infosec tends to be a major self-isolating industry. Heck, the whole point of this newsletter is to surface us basement dwellers and start sharing openly in the spirit of greater group resilience.
But while alone time is important and oftentimes (especially for us parents out there) hard to come by, we need to watch out for that line when alone time becomes seclusion. Our industry makes it easy to detach.
👥 Self-Isolation in Infosec
A few things here:
- As an industry of techies, we tend to skew introverted. My childhood was equal parts AIM/IRC and outside/schoolyard. Some folks just avoid that second half entirely because the world is too mean to young nerds, and internet friends are more welcoming.
- Our paranoia in infosec is kind of baked into the job description. We play things close to the chest. Most of the time, this is warranted.
- WFH isn’t just a pandemic thing. My job was remote before that was cool. Way before COVID-19, many of us worked from home, and now that’s trending toward the norm.
- Suburban sprawl has killed the concept of “the third place,” and in infosec, we’ve replaced the corner pub with Twitter and 1 million security conferences. Work from home in suburbia, and you’re even less likely to interact with a non-relative every day.
💪 Building Resilience
The Surgeon General is calling for a nationwide culture shift. I’m calling for one in Infosec. Let’s build stronger connections with our colleagues and fellow professionals, share knowledge, and support each other through challenges.
“Given the significant health consequences of loneliness and isolation, we must prioritize building social connection” … “Together, we can build a country that’s healthier, more resilient, less lonely, and more connected.” Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General
Here’s how you can start:
- Share your struggles When we talk about hard things publicly and ask for help when needed, we give permission for others to do the same.
- Practice active listening Get off your soap box from time to time (he said in his email newsletter) and show genuine interest in what others have to say.
- Build meaningful connections I’ve talked about the power of community in past editions. Get out there. I’m not exaggerating when I call the community our superpower.
- Encourage others to be vulnerable Create safe spaces where people can share their experiences without fear of judgment. (Or tell them to subscribe to Vulnerable U for all their encouraging vulnerability needs! 😉)
🚪 Stepping Outside the Comfort Zone
Let’s get real. The world outside is a chaotic mix of risks and rewards. It’s easy to find comfort in the familiar corners of our digital caves, but there’s a whole universe beyond our screens. It’s about embracing the awkward, the uncertain, and the unexpected. It’s in these uncharted territories where the magic of growth and discovery lives.
I went snorkeling in Hawaii once. At a spot I’d been to a few times and heard that dolphins frequented, but I’d never seen them. Went one more time before coming home to see if I could luck out, and as I pulled up in my car, I noticed the other snorkelers seemed to be way further offshore than normal and got excited that might be a sign of a dolphin pod. I was right.
Loaded up my gear, jumped in the water, and swam out. But as I got further out, I noticed the coral reef under me fading into the blue. The dolphins were further out than I’d ever gone, and I started to get really scared. I couldn’t see the bottom.
If you’ve never swam in the open ocean, it is a trippy experience. Your mind plays all sorts of tricks about what kind of things lurk just out of sight where the light stops penetrating.
But if I had let that fear keep me there, I’d never have gotten one of the best experiences of my life thereafter. I squeezed my wife’s hand. We looked at each other and just nodded.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”
And we swam into the fear. What followed was over an hour of a pod of dolphins putting on a show for us. One even came super close to just us to show off his skills with a leaf.
Anyway, go swim into your fear. You never know what amazing things might happen.