As technology continues to advance, we are becoming more digitally connected than ever. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We can stay in touch in friends and family, find like-minded communities that give us purpose, and share our thoughts and experience that others can learn from. Whilst we’re not saying digital connection and social media is a bad thing, it is having a large impact on how we connect with people in real life. And this is mainly down to how addictive it is, and how the very nature of it pulls in on the instinctive craving we have for connection.
Why Social Connection Is Important for Humans
👍 The Good
Humans are social creatures by nature. We have an innate need for connection which is supported by how our genes, hormones and brains have evolved. Studies have shown that social connection is crucial for our mental and physical health - we strive to feel love and happiness to ensure we continue to reproduce and care for our children.
Connections with others at the individual and collective levels improve our chances of survival…These behaviours co-evolved with supporting genetic, neural, and hormonal mechanisms to ensure that humans survived, reproduced, and cared for offspring sufficiently long that they, too, could reproduce. Hawkley & Cacioppo
Strong social connection has therapeutic powers. It has been linked to lower rates of anxiety and depression, improved immune function, and even a longer life. Social connection is also important for our sense of purpose and belonging, which helps drive us and make us feel happy. Plus, we’re 30x more likely to laugh with someone IRL than we are on our own - and laughing is so good for us.
👎 The Not-So-Good
On the flip side, the absence of social connection for a prolonged period of time can be pretty harmful to our health. Loneliness isn’t just being alone, it can be feeling the lack of emotional and real human connection. Stack of studies have found that loneliness impacts mental health and cognitive function - such as an increase in depression, personality disorders and anger.
Perceived sense of social connectedness serves as a scaffold for the self—damage the scaffold and the rest of the self begins to crumble. Hawkley & Cacioppo
Social media is great for finding new connections and staying in contact with existing friends and family. People can find communities to inspire and learn from. But relying solely on social connections can have a negative impact our relationships in the real world.
Social media can create a false sense of connection that doesn't actually meet our need for real human interaction. We feel less empathy when we’re behind a screen (hence why it’s easier for people to be mean) which doesn’t allow us to connect as deeply.
Studies have also shown that social media use can lead to feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. The most common feeling from social media is FOMO and comparison. Displaying an ideal perception of who we should look, sound and spend out time creates a sense of competition and comparison, which can further erode our sense of connection and belonging.
How To Nurture In Real Life Connection
Balancing digital connection and human connection can be hard when our devices have been designed to increase our usage of them. ‘Likes’ have been built to imitate social validation and “add as friend” has been designed to create a community of friends. Here’s a few tips on how to make sure you get enough real FaceTime with friends and family.
Create phone free zones in the home
This will mean you’re forced to put your phone down and have real conversations
Switch off notifications
To prevent yourself from ‘phubbing’ who’s around you and spending too much time on your phone
Schedule in face-to-face get togethers
To ensure you have proper conversations and connections with friends
Have a social media free Saturday
Remove the apps from your phone one day a week so you’re entirely present
Go on a digital detox
A digital detox is designated time and space for you to be without your phone - you’ll cultivate stronger social connections.
Want to tap into the power of real human connection? Book in a digital detox to spend some quality time with your partner, friends or family.
Fancy time away from the screen?
Recharge your batteries by going off-grid for 3 days. Backed by science - you will feel more calm, relaxed and creative after your digital detox.