Simone Heng Human Connection Speaker Mark Shapiro

Mark Shapiro: Founder of LoveBomb App and Kindness and Connection Speaker

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Covid-19 has, in one fell swoop, eliminated the debate on whether technology was destroying Human Connection. There is now, without a shadow of a doubt, the need for technology and authentic connection to play ball together. Can you imagine what our global situation would be like right now without video on our phones to stay in touch with our loved ones?

So what better way to marry connection and technology than through a first-of-its kind app which allows us to authentically connect on a deeper level with the people we care about. Allowing them to feel connected and remembered and at the same time remind ourselves of our own connectedness.

The app is Love Bomb and it’s set to launch in April/May of this year. Its founder is kindness and connection speaker Mark Shapiro and he is the embodiment of these two things. I know, because I met Mark in Hawaii in the most serendipitous circumstances (Mark is based in Los Angeles and I in Singapore).

On a recent holiday, before the global shutdown on travel, I was enjoying the jacuzzi with other hotel guests. I started talking and connecting with other people in close proximity. I discover that the man sitting next to me is also a conference speaker. Then I asked him what space he speaks in and he says “kindness and connection.”

Mark Shapiro and I meet accidentally while on vacation in Hawaii

How did you land on Kindness and Connection as your special topic?

A lifelong yearning. A lifelong yearning for connection, and then figuring it out, that the key to connection is kindness.

When was the first time that you felt how important connection was, was there a particular time in your life?

I think that, I was always someone, and still to some extent, have based a lot of my confidence based off of how I perceive others think of me in my role in the world. So when I felt connected and close to people, I felt very valued, and when I felt disconnected from others, I felt insecure. So, that was a big baseline of life. I think my psyche, and I have a much greater awareness of it now than I did when I was a kid, but I always had a lot of friends as a kid, through all my life, I’ve had a lot of friends, but for whatever reason, still a lot of insecurity as to what my role is in the world.

Now, we’re obviously in the middle of this virus, and you’ve created this incredible app called, LoveBomb, which I think is just going to be more important than ever. Let’s start with where the idea for LoveBomb came about:

The idea for LoveBomb came from my daily ritual of sending personalised appreciation videos to all my Facebook friends on their birthdays.

So it started back in 2017 when my dad passed away, and a similar type of story with dementia to yours. I know your Mum has dementia, the worst, terrible disease watching a loved one slowly drift away, but my dad was sick for a number of years, and I documented a lot of his story online, on social media, and when he finally passed away, I made a post about it, and I got like over 500 messages, and there weren’t just like, you know, “Sorry for your loss,” people actually were writing thoughtful messages about how touched they were, and how much I’d shared, and people were hitting me up, and telling me about when they lost their parents, and I didn’t want to just click and write, where I just say, “Hey, thanks,” I really wanted to connect with these people, but I didn’t want to write paragraphs in response.

So, what I did is I started sending voice memos to people, and I found that not only did it take a lot less time to send a voice note than it took to write out a message, but I thought it was therapeutic for me to actually express myself, and just kind of let myself go for 20 to 40 seconds to some of these people, and then, they got to hear my voice, they got to kind of be with me there in the moment, and I felt a great sense of connection as a result of that. I wondered to myself, “How could I turn this into some sort of daily ritual in my life?” and that’s when I came up with this wild idea to start sending these personalised videos to every one of my Facebook friends, on their birthdays, and cut to today, I’ve sent over 10,000 videos now to over 3,000 people, it’s a cherished daily ritual of mine, and something that’s interesting, and food for thought.

The first video that I ever received, I went to a networking event, and this guy from Australia, and to be honest with you, he kind of rubbed me the wrong way, he was clearly just like out there to get names and network, and do business with, he was very aggressive. The next day he sends me a personalised video message on Facebook telling me it was nice to meet me, and it literally blew me away so much.

Mark’s Love Bomb App launches in the coming months

I don’t think I sent him a video message back, I don’t remember, but I didn’t start sending video messages right away after that, but I did remember how impactful it was, and so now that I talk and speak about kindness and connection, I go back to the fact that this one video I received from this guy, who I didn’t even care for, that inspired me to send 10,000 videos,  the power of influence and what’s possible, I learned a really valuable lesson that day.

So, it’s a long way to answer your question as to what inspired LoveBomb, I sent out these videos, it’s transformed my life, my relationships, when I see people out in public that I’ve sent these LoveBombs to, we are instantly connected with the types of people who saw them out in public, maybe you’d avoid each other, you’re like, “Oh, do I know that person? I don’t really know,” and maybe walk away, no, we go right up to each other, and we’re like instantly in a real conversation, not like a bullshit surface level conversation.

So that is a really cool thing, because I feel less alone, I go to social events, and I’m sure these other people do as well. I get nothing but positive responses from people, like on our birthdays, we take our birthdays seriously, sometimes some of us, and how many people take the time and energy to send personalised video messages, and give us a compliment or recall a cherished memory that we shared.

So here’s the problem. It’s a great ritual, but it’s a little extreme to send a personalised video message to every single person you know, right? Most people are not going to do that. I have people who tell me that they’ve taken the birthday experiment challenge, and usually it doesn’t last that long, you’re not as committed to it as I have been, for whatever reason.

So what I thought to myself is, there’s so much power in sending a LoveBomb, and in this form of randomly reaching out to someone expressing gratitude, or praise, or well wishes,  how can I make it easier for people? So, I thought to myself, “Well, instead of sending a personalised message to everyone you know, and sending seven a day, how about just sending one message? One message, more a day than maybe you’d normally send?” And not only send one message, it doesn’t even have to be a video, you could send a voice note, you could send a picture, you could send a text, anything.

So that to me is where LoveBomb came together, where I was like, “Okay, I want to meet people where they’re at, and just give them this social wellness tool” because there are tools out there with our phones for our mental health, like Call Home, or Headspace for meditation, there’s physical wellness tools like a Fitbit, but there’s no social wellness tool, you know, we look to social media as like, “Oh, that’s our connected thing,” or, “We’ve got our people that we text with,” or, “We have our group threads on WhatsApp.”

But I really wanted to create a system that helped people nurture their bonds, and not only their closest bonds, but their whole periphery of bonds, with people that you think,  that maybe you don’t see as you’d like, or someone you know who’s going through a tough time, and to make it fun and easy and not like another reminder, that’s where we gamify it, and that’s why it’s called LoveBomb.

So tell me how the interface will actually work? So, it won’t be sending videos obviously to our existing social media, it’s all within the app?

It’s actually not, so LoveBomb is a social utility, and the first step is to choose the people you care about, you want to keep in better touch with, so you essentially go to your list, and then you create your own algorithm as to how often you want to communicate with all these people.

You might want to hit up and be in touch with multiple times a week, sometimes like some person might be more like a monthly type of contact, some people you might only want to hit up on their birthdays, so it’s a cool social CRM, so that’s the first step, is who are the frequency? The second step is to sense the love, so it’s essentially kind of like a Netflix recommendation every day. When you go into the app, instead of movies and TV shoes, it’s people in your life, and invite you to reach out to this person, based off of the algorithm that you created, and then you click on them, and it makes it really to know what to say. Because oftentimes you’re like:  “I want to have a better relationship with Jim,” but it’s like, “I don’t even know what to say to them right now.”

So, does it prompt, like, “I’m sorry,” or “How are you?”

So, there’s two layers of prompts, and if you don’t need a prompt, you already know what you’re going to say to this person, you can just skip right through the prompts, but if you don’t know what you’re going to say, you don’t really know, then the first thing that you would say, or the first thing that you’d see, is that you can say, hi, you can say thank you, you can give them a compliment, you can wish them well, you can ask a question, and we have a number of prompts, and then there is a layer beneath that for more specific prompts in each of those categories if you still want more help of knowing what to say. And then, you send a LoveBomb, you pick how you’re going to send it, and then once you’ve sent it, you can send it through whatever method that you’d normally communicate with these people (text, Facebook message etc). So it really takes a look at connection, but it has an impact, it has a ripple effect, and so by tracking your connections, and being able to reach out as a LoveBomb, it’s an opportunity to make yourself feel like being in connection with others is a gift.

Where can people go to preregister for the app right now? I love your hashtag #DigitalHumanity.

Sure, so we’re accepting Beta users, we want to get people to test it out, and you can go to www.Lovebomb.app, and then in the interim, we’ve got the LoveBomb challenge, so lovebombchallenge.com, during the times of the Coronavirus, we’d love to have you participate and spread more love and joy in the people and your lives, who knows what people are going through. I know for me, I’ve been riding a wave of roller coaster ups and downs, and it feels amazing to hear from people, and I know that I’ve have been sending out between 10 and 20 LoveBombs a day since I’ve been quarantined, but whenever I receive a LoveBomb from somebody, it makes me feel amazing. It’s that gift to yourself, give that gift to others,  go to lovebombchallenge.com to get the instructions and to participate.

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