10/19/2015 10:24 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How Can We Scale the Depth of Human Connection?


I'm feeling like a mad scientist this fall.

I had been grappling with two big questions this summer and decided to explore them both through one grand experiment.

My two big questions were:
  1. Why am I here? What's my purpose and how do I know when I'm living it?
  2. Can we scale the depth of human connection through technology?

They seem like two totally different questions, right?

Here's how they are connected in my mind. I've learned that you can't discover or live your purpose in a vacuum or by sitting at home alone with a self-help app in hand (believe me, I've tried it). The a-ha moments typically happen when you're out in the world interacting with other people. Someone says something to you and a light bulb suddenly goes off like a hand-delivered message from the universe.

I was craving more of those a-ha moments and thought, "Wouldn't it be amazing to explore this daunting purpose question with other people and learn from their experiences too?"

But I wanted more than a daylong workshop or an extended retreat. Those experiences felt too ephemeral. I wanted a group journey, but something longer lasting and more embedded in my daily life.

That's when the online purpose exploration was born. I would find a way to use technology to connect with others who wanted to go on a similar journey of self-discovery.

Once it was decided, my friend and I went to work. We designed a six-week online experience with two short purpose exploration activities a week, which we affectionately called "group missions." After each mission, we posed a reflection question prompting participants to share their stories, insights, and discoveries.

I couldn't wait to try it. But it felt risky. I was nervous and scared that people wouldn't participate. Or, they would feel obliged to sign up but not really participate. Or, they would participate but share superficial, impersonal things like what people share with their 10,000 friends on Facebook.

Here's the thing about trying to live your purpose. Once you get the a-ha, you can only ignore the message for so long. At some point, the message gets louder and louder or it keeps hitting you over the head over and over again. You eventually have to do something about it.

And so the experiment was launched.

On our six-week group journey, I (along with my fellow travelers) mapped key decision points in my life and included the critical places and people who were with me during those times. I added adjectives and pictures to describe those moments in time. I studied the patterns and pieced together a short story that helped me make sense of those defining moments.

Through this online purpose exploration, I learned that travel helped me gain the perspective I needed to see my life in a clear, new light. I learned that when I surrounded myself with people who represented who I aspired to be, I gained the courage to take bigger risks because I could see an alternate reality, a more authentic possibility for me. I didn't need to wait for external validation or to have all the answers to make a decision. I just needed to get quiet enough for the clarity and intuitive voice to come about.

I was relieved to find that my fears, insecurities, and realizations were shared by many of the thirty multi-generational women who were on the journey with me. The group missions gave us a shared experience and an anchor for deep connection. Many of us had allowed the external world to guide our decisions for a long time, and it was time to listen to our inner voices and let that guide us on our purpose path. The reflections and stories that people shared highlighted our common joys and struggles and also punctuated the uniqueness of our journeys.

I discovered that it is possible to have meaningful, authentic, and vulnerable connections online if you invite people to explore something they deeply care about and create a safe and reflective space to let their stories unfold.

We often blame technology for making us more distracted in our daily lives and more shallow in our human interactions. Despite the abundance of communication technologies and social networking apps, we are more unhappy and isolated than ever before.

Technology has become the scapegoat for the shadow side of our humanity when it could actually be a superpower that we use for the common good. The challenge is finding ways to use our superpowers consciously and responsibly.

Want to explore this with us? Join us on our next journey.

We are are partnering with the Heroic Imagination Project to launch an online Hero in Training challenge, a HiveQuest experiment in using technology for social good.

Let's write the next chapter of this journey together!

Share your insights via twitter @hivequest and #tinyhumanexperiment.

Belinda Liu is a teacher, connector, creator and explorer. She is the co-founder and CEO of HiveQuest, a startup on a mission to catalyze self-transformation and community-building through the intentional use of technology. Want to learn more about her tiny human experiments or share your personal story? Connect with Belinda at or on Twitter @hivequest.