By Peoplehood Co-Founder, Julie Rice

I zip up my 12-year-old daughter’s backpack, hand it to her with her water bottle and watch the door close behind her as she heads out to school. I feel the cortisol begin to flow as I realize she will spend the day left to her own devices. Namely, one device. In fact, the same device that created enough drama last night, to leave us both sleepless.

Last month, Sesame Street’s Elmo posted on X asking, “how is everyone doing?” The response? A colossal cultural temperature check. Tens of thousands of feelings, heartaches and hard times. Even the President had to intervene. At this, I sit back and wonder— is our society so lonely and so starved of honest conversation that Elmo’s X profile has become our common meeting ground?

I recently started a “relational fitness” company called Peoplehood. At Peoplehood, we gather people together to talk and to listen. We practice people skills. We share stories, we make eye contact, and we empathize – all in the absence of our devices. It’s something our species is designed for and yet in 2024 it’s become entirely radical to sit face-to-face and communicate with a stranger.

The U.S Surgeon General reports that we are currently living through a loneliness epidemic. And to that I say, yes AND how will we ever combat this crisis while our current social climate is predicated on the development of anti-social habits and behaviors? We have somehow managed to become more connected than ever and simultaneously reached our loneliest state to date. So how did we get here?

Both of my daughters are growing alongside these frictionless devices that teach them things like access is limitless, entertainment is endless and people are two dimensional profiles to touch, tap and thumb through. I long for the days when trolls were simply dolls with messy hair. They have boundless connection to the world’s rolodex while also being entirely isolated from it all. Eyes down. Phone’s up. You don’t care for someone’s opinion? Keep scrolling. Sitting in discomfort has become obsolete. Life is smooth now. Optimized. But for who? Certainly not teenage girls with scaffolding on their self-esteem and rising anxiety, depression and ADHD diagnoses.

My co-founder, Elizabeth and I created Peoplehood because we love community. We know it to be true that life is not only easier but more joyful when you have a village of supporting hands and hearts to hold your keys and ask you about your day. We didn’t need a Harvard study to concur that for us because we’ve lived it. Sitting at the helm of SoulCycle was living inside of the comment section on Elmo’s X channel. We suffered losses and celebrated strangers’ birthdays all while having different political beliefs; and we still showed up shoulder-to-shoulder to ride through the thick and thin of it all.

There’s a great quote that says create the world you want to live in. I want to live in a world where we commune, communicate and connect despite differences. A world where we listen to learn; not to win. A world that stops to help a stranger on the street and offers to carry a neighbor’s groceries. If not for me, at least for my daughters. At Peoplehood we teach skills that seem simple. Listen without interrupting. Share your story to broaden someone else’s capacity for understanding. Gathering for the sake of togetherness. Putting your phone down and keeping your eyes up. The odds are stacked against us. But I believe we will create a community that finds the purpose in people. A community that understands that understanding all of a person’s dimensions isn’t necessary in order to show up and lend an ear or a helping hand.

Thanks for listening,

XX Julie

Peoplehood (launched in 2023) facilitates in-person and digital 60-minute guided group conversations for individuals, couples and corporate work teams. Learn more at