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technology and loneliness SXSW voting session (4)
SF AppWorksAug 9, 2023 12:50:32 AM2 min read

Unlocking the Paradox of Loneliness and Technology at SXSW 2024

Now through August 20th, vote for ‘The Paradox of Loneliness and Technology,’ our live podcast recording at SXSW 2024. 



Technology has enabled us to be more productive and connected than ever before. We've seen virtual reality transport us to breathtaking realms. AI companions anticipate our needs. Social networks bridge the gaps between continents. 


So, why are we lonelier than ever before? 


Nearly one in five people feel lonely, including 37% of older adults and 61% of younger people. Things have gotten so bad that U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murphy recently released a health advisory about America’s loneliness epidemic, noting that “the mortality impact of being socially disconnected is similar to that caused by smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and even greater than that associated with obesity and physical inactivity.”


It made us technologists at The Next Great Thing podcast wonder: is technology a solution or a catalyst for the modern loneliness epidemic? 


We are thrilled to announce that The Next Great Thing is in the running to host a groundbreaking live session at SXSW 2024, diving deep into The Paradox of Loneliness and Technology. 



Andrew Greenstein, host of The Next Great Thing and CEO and Head of Product at SF AppWorks, will lead an extraordinary panel of thought leaders on this important subject. Joining him on stage:

  • Leslie Witt, Chief Product and Design Officer at Headspace, will unveil insights from her journey of developing a meditation app with over 100 million downloads, questioning whether technology can enhance mindfulness or inadvertently disconnect us from true human connections.
  • Kyle Rand, Co-Founder and CEO of Rendever, an award-winning virtual reality platform for senior citizens, will shed light on technology's capacity to combat social isolation, create shared experiences, and cultivate meaningful connections, especially among older adults.
  • Erick Hachenburg, Founder of Tenor and creator of GIF Keyboard — a popular messaging app used by over a billion people worldwide — will explore how technology, especially visual media, can enhance our ability to express and communicate emotions.


Sounds cool, right? Here’s the thing, though: We need your votes to make this session happen! It will make a huge difference in getting our session selected. Here's how you can help:

  1. Vote! Now through August 20th, visit our SXSW session page to learn more and cast your vote. You can only vote once, so…
  2. Spread the word! Help us reach a broader audience by sharing the voting link with your friends, colleagues, and fellow tech industry enthusiasts. 


Together on stage, we will examine the multifaceted impact of technology on loneliness and human connection, dissecting its impact on communication, mindfulness, mental health awareness, habit forming, and social isolation. We’ll seek to answer questions like:

  • Can we harness technology to build a more compassionate society while mitigating unintended consequences? 
  • How do we avoid isolating ourselves while seeking meaningful connections through technology? 
  • Where do the doors of opportunity open for entrepreneurs and organizations to craft mental health-minded digital products and experiences, tapping into cutting-edge technologies like generative AI in unprecedented ways? 


Your support means the world to us. By participating in the voting process, you'll not only support our presence at SXSW but you’ll also contribute to an important conversation around America’s loneliness epidemic. 


Every vote counts, so let’s make this happen together!