People don’t just desire human interaction; they require it to maintain emotional, mental and physical well-being.
Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs,” a theory proposed by psychologist Abraham Maslow in 1943, states that people have an essential need to belong, to love and feel loved. When they don’t feel loved, they become lonely, suffer from social anxiety, and can even develop clinical depression.
Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States.
“When you’re depressed, where do you want to go? Nowhere,” declares a TV ad for a popular antidepressant. “Who do you feel like seeing? No one.” The image moves from happy couples smiling and running on the beach, to multiple scenes of people alone in various settings, with looks of despair on their faces. “Depression hurts, in so many ways, sadness, loss of interest, anxiety … [we] can help,” concludes the first 30 seconds of the commercial.
The next 60 seconds, in scene after scene, people delightedly interact with each other. Soft music plays in the background while the narrator describes in a velvety tone potential side effects. She says, “Not a complete list …” and proceeds to warn of fatal liver problems, increased blood pressure, headaches, weakness, confusion, problems with concentration and memory, unsteadiness, problems with urine flow, nausea, dry mouth, sleepiness, fatigue, constipation, dizziness, decreased appetite, increased sweating and suicidal thoughts.”
Why would someone willingly ingest a substance that has more serious side effects than the issue it claims to “help”?
Technology—TV, Internet, mobile phones—urban sprawl and the increasing pressures of time and money have contributed to increased levels of social isolation. People have become increasingly disconnected from family, friends, neighbors, and communities. They are spending less and less time in the company of actual people.
The steady and progressive movement away from real personal connection and toward shallow parasocial (emotional attachment to TV and movie characters) and virtual (social networks like Facebook, Twitter and texting) connection has lead to increased feelings of isolation and loneliness, causing folks to seek out a variety of unhealthy antidotes.
Antidepressants have become the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States.
As people move about the world, everywhere they go, everything they do, every opportunity to connect face-to-face with another human being is mediated by technology—giving them fewer and fewer chances to connect with someone in any meaningful way, leaving them isolated … alone, and lonely.
Americans have more TVs than people in their homes. They squander an average of 31.5 hours each week glued to their screens. Another seven hours per week is expended on the Internet. That’s a full-time job. It’s no wonder they feel isolated.
Scientists and health professionals now believe that the more socially active people are, the less likely it is that they will experience dementia or Alzheimer’s. In fact, maintaining many close friendships may even prevent these illnesses as well as positively affect overall heart and brain function.
Socialize For Well-Being
“Socializing is just as effective as more traditional kinds of mental exercise in boosting memory and intellectual performance,” says Oscar Ybarra, psychologist and lead researcher of a Social Psychological and Personality Science study conducted in 2010 at the University of Michigan. The higher the level of social interaction, from youngest to the oldest, the better their cognitive functioning. “We found that short-term social interaction lasting for just 10 minutes boosted participants’ intellectual performance as much as engaging in so-called ‘intellectual’ activities for the same amount of time,” Ybarra said.
A 1996 study for the Institute of Heartmath revealed the heart’s electromagnetic field extends out in all directions into the space around a person and can be measured several feet away from the body by sensitive devices. Researchers, Rollin McCraty and Mike Atkinson discovered “when people touch or are in proximity, one person’s heartbeat signal is registered in the other person’s brainwaves.” When two or more people are together in a coherent state (experienced as positive emotion such as love or appreciation), their hearts sync-up and operate at the same frequency.
“Intuitive listening,” is a technique employed by Heartmath, where a participant focuses on the heart and maintains a neutral or appreciative attitude while listening to another person. Because of a reduction in their own internal dialogue, individuals hear the speaker’s words with more clarity and focus and become aware of deeper and subtler aspects of the communication that are not contained in the words alone. This increased sensitivity and intuitive awareness offers access to the other person’s underlying feelings and the essence of their communication.
Spending just 10 minutes talking to another person can help improve your memory and your performance. Visiting with loved ones can elevate your overall essence.
People need people. Technology is best used to facilitate and reinforce face-to-face communication, not replace it. The less time spent interacting with technologies, the more time available to interact with real people and improve the health, happiness, and prosperity of one person, a community and a nation.