A group of volunteers called “active listeners” hit the streets of Moncton this week, hoping to make some important human connections.
Through the Sidewalk Talk Community Listening Project, mental health support workers, trained in the art of active listening, sit on the side of the street. People walking by are invited to chat about anything on their minds.
Volunteer Samantha Nickerson said the goal is to raise awareness about mental health and to make face-to-face human connections — something she says is often lost to technology and social media.
“It’s that sense of belonging and of being heard,” said Nickerson. “Sometimes it’s easy to talk to someone …. through social media.”
But social media is turning some of us into poor listeners, said Moncton resident Becky Babineau. The desire to answer texts and check in on social media mid-conversation, she said, can carry more value than the person sitting right in front of you.
“It feels like it’s a waste of time. You have to repeat yourself,” said Babineau.
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As much as technology and social media has connected people around the globe, Moncton counsellor Kayla Breelove Carter says in some ways we are actually getting more and more disconnected.
“We know that with technology of today, it has brought us really far,” said Breelove, who is heading the Sidewalk Talk program in conjunction with the New Brunswick branch of the Canandian Mental Heal Association.
“It has also sort of put this isolation between true human connection, so if we can just do that even by just saying hello to people passing by … I think it’s a job well done.”
Breelove said the goal of Sidewalk Talk is “a social experiment”, with active listeners offering people a chance to sit down and enjoy an active and refreshingly uninterrupted ear.