" … I survived all those long, lonely days when it seemed I did not have a friend." — from "You're Only Human (Second Wind)" as performed by Billy Joel

Los Angeles resident Chuck McCarthy has created a people walking service. Lots of folks are calling him to say that they'd like a walking companion. And part-time workers are contacting him to serve as walkers. He's employing them, taking a cut of their earnings. McCarthy, who started his business from home, now works out of a Burbank office where he can oversee his operation.

People walking is just what it sounds like. If for any reason you'd like company on a walk, you contact McCarthy's service and schedule a companion and time. Some people want to walk at night, but are nervous about crime. Others want to walk and talk and have no relative or friend to keep them company. Some don't want to be seen walking alone, for fear that people will think they have no friends. And some people just don't like to walk alone.

A cursory glance at a people walking service might indicate that this is a short-lived, West Coast fad. But on deeper reflection, I think it's much more than that. We're going to see all kinds of new enterprises that essentially serve as people connectors. Brick and mortar businesses which provide the personal touch, and which make you feel known and valued, will flourish. Those that do not will find the going much more difficult.

Consider the last time you walked into a store or business and were greeted warmly, even perhaps by name. It's such a pleasant feeling. Compare that to entering a brick and mortar and being ignored as you pass through the portal. To which business are you more likely to return?

The ironic and sad theme of the social media age is isolation. So many people work from home. So many work jobs that don't involve interaction with others. So many have bought into the myth that by posting online we are actually connecting with others. So many get the news from their phone screen, rather than from talking with others about events at day's end. Truth? We need face to face, human connections. Nothing will ever change that.

Several years ago I wrote about the potential of "Golden Girl" accommodations, housing units for more than one person which share a common living room and kitchen area. The layout provided rooms for interaction as well as areas for privacy. It was a stretch, right? But shortly thereafter a senior living project mirroring this construction plan was built. Businesses that offer group travel, for women and others who don't want to sojourn alone, will also become more popular. Social media isolates us; business may help bring us back together.

Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, author of the syndicated economic column "Arbor Outlook," is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850-608-6121 — www.arborwealth.net), a “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin. This column should not be considered personalized investment advice and provides no assurance that any specific strategy or investment will be suitable or profitable for an investor.