Social Connection

This is a follow up to my recent post on the Social Contract.

Humans have a basic need for social connection.  The experiments done by Harlow and others in the 50’s show that primates need touch and nurturing to do well.  In fact, many of the cases of failure to thrive in infants may be due to a lack of love and stimulation in a caring, loving environment.

This does not go away as we get older.   People most prone to suicide are those with little or no social connections; and elderly people become more and more likely to pass away after a spouse passes away as well.    There’s a great book where you can read more on all these phenomena called Connect: 12 Vital Ties that Open Your Heart, Lengthen Your Life and Deepen Your Soul by Edward M Hallowell, MD (well-known for his work on ADHD.)

As this applies to my previous post on social connections, I don’t think the basic need for humans to connect has changed over time.  Even online in social media, we are essentially looking for connections to others for business and personal reasons- other people who “get us” especially when we are not particularly connected to our real world communities.

People still have to deal with the paradox of wanting to be simultaneously recognized for our individuality and value, while contributing to something larger and more important than ourselves.  Essentially, we want to answer those big questions- What Will I Be Remembered For?  What Will I Accomplish?  Why Am I Here?  Where Do I Want To Be?

I think it has become so easy to chase the job, the money, the dream, or whatever, that we sometimes lose patience with working it out where we are.  People leave jobs, relationships and marriages because they are frustrated and have lost patience in trying to get it right with the job/person they’re with.  Sometimes, the situation is unfixable.  Other times, we leave situations because we are bored, and blame other people for not filling all of our needs.  (Often I think some of those needs are things you should expect to fill for yourself, but that’s another blog post entirely).

I hope we are all on a quest to become better people.  I hope we all understand that no one else or no specific job can make you happy – that’s your responsibility.  It’s nobody’s job to make your life easier unless you are specifically paying them to do so.

That being said, I think we have to take a larger view through the lens.  We can’t always look at what’s best for us without considering the impact we have on others, or the downstream consequences of our actions.  I don’t mean this to imply we all need to become Hamlet and have “paralysis by analysis”.  We need to act, we need to protect ourselves and our families, but we also have to understand that there are real benefits that come from being connected to others, nurturing relationships, sharing, and not giving up just when it gets a little hard.

I hope the transiency that exists in our society today is not breeding a culture based on filling only temporary needs and no longer looking past the next quarter’s profit and loss statement to figure out value.  If we remain myopic about the big picture, all the short term churning is for naught.  Just look at everyone who took out big home loans, thinking interest rates would never go up, and are now losing their homes in the mortgage crisis.  This is looking at the short term- What Seems Great For Me without considering downstream issues at all.  And the cost is gonna be pretty high for them, and now for the rest of us with the bail out currently in the works in DC.

So I guess what I am trying to say here, whether we like it or not, we are all interconnected.  What’s good for you may not always be what’s good for me, but maybe if we work together we can both win, as well.

What do you think?  Do you have online proxys for connectedness that take you out of your real life communities?  Is connectedness to your neighbors, social institutions, things outside of your immediate family important?

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