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The Importance of Connection

The Importance of Connection

In this world where social media makes it so easy to connect across the barriers of distance and time, instantly and easily, why is it that we are typically feel less connected than ever? It’s not that social media, or the internet in general, is an evil entity that we should avoid. It brings the world in all its beautiful diversity to our fingertips :shopping, research, marketing and social connection. It allows us to chat easily with friends and family across the globe like never before – people we may otherwise lose touch with. Like most things though, the problem is not the thing itself, it’s how we use it. When we start to rely on social media instead of actual human interaction, we are doomed for disaster. As humans we need real human connection. Studies have shown that lack of true, tangible social connection can be more damaging to our health than smoking.

We need a strong network of friends to feel connected and happy. In Sebastian Jungers book, ‘Tribe’ he explores the idea that humans are happier when living in a tribal style community where we lean on each other, help each other and have a sense of belonging : we are, in fact, wired for it. Historical statistics tell us that when an adverse event hits, such as 9/11 in New York, or the London Blitz during WW2, rates of depression and suicide actually drop. Junger puts this down to an increase in community spirit and belonging. In modern society, where for most our basic needs are met, we lose our sense of belonging and being needed, and our ability to ask for help simply because we have no sense of connection. In some instances, we do not even know our closest neighbours. The challenge is to increase our sense of community, without having a catastrophic event.

Author Jane Howard says “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” We need friends, and good ones. How do we choose good friends? We would most probably answer that we choose our friends based on common ground., which is certainly true. We want friends that reflect our values and ideals. Research suggests we also choose them based on our Social Identity : we pick our friends based on how we see our place in the world, and how our friends support that. We look for those who raise us up. We create our own ‘tribe’ of friends who share our basic moral compass., who inspire us and support our goals.

Aristotle broke friendship into three categories : ‘Utility’ (friendship that springs from need and necessity e.g. business partners, work mates), ‘Pleasure’ (friendship that springs from like-minded hobbies such as sport) and ‘Good’ (the holy grail of connection: long term friendships where a mutual desire for the others happiness is paramount, and the virtues between friends are both honourable and mirrored in each other). According to Aristotle, ‘Utility’ and ‘Pleasure’ friendships are often temporary. We can outgrow these friends often over time, since these relationships are based on a more rickety foundation. To have friends in the ‘Good’ Category, effort is required. Social Media interaction will never be enough. True friendships require reciprocated time and openness. To have friends in this category, who often know you better than you know yourself, who know all of your hopes and fears, who forgive your faults and champion your successes, is very rare indeed. Treasure them. They are your tribe.

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