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True Connections – Taking Another Look At Social Media

True Connections – Taking Another Look At Social Media

When we think about what our basic needs are we think food, water, and shelter. However, there is one other very important component to the list of things we need in order to survive.  We need each other. The tangible relationship that occurs face-to-face between two actual living human beings is something that has begun to elude modern America. We are now more “connected” than ever before in recorded human history, but in a lot of cases our daily experience with other people is limited to staring at a screen that displays a filtered version of other people’s lives. It was Aristotle that claimed, “Man is by nature a social animal … Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.”  There are in fact, numerous studies that show that humans actually need to have deep meaningful connections with other humans. The absence of these connections can lead to more negative impacts than you would guess.

Humans are innately social. It fact, our brains are disproportionately larger than our bodies when compared to brain/ body ratios in all other known mammals.  Research shows that there is a relationship between the size of the brain and the size of the social group. The implication is that we needed larger brains because it was important to the survival of our species to live in social groupings. However, living with others requires a lot of effort, will, and ability to decode situations. Our brains are bigger because we need to know how to navigate relationships with others and we are hard wired to need those relationships.  Our brain has what is commonly referred to in the neuroscience community as the “default mode network”. This default setting in the brain is where your brain activity reverts to when you are not working to accomplish a task or solve a problem. The areas of the brain that are involved are actually highly active when we enter the DMN. It appears that our brains spend a lot of energy on episodic memories about ourselves and others. I would venture to point out that the two do not exist independent of each other. That is the nature of a social interaction.

Given the fact that we are hard wired to be connected and that we are now more able to be connected to others, it is surprising that about 42.6 million Americans are suffering from chronic loneliness. In addition, these numbers suggest that Americans are becoming less socially connected. Since loneliness is associated with premature death, depression, alcoholism, cancer, cardiovascular disease, affective disorders, drug or alcohol abuse, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, sleep disorders, diabetes, and dementia these statistics have spurred some to declare this a public health emergency. It is somewhat perplexing that we can communicate across the globe and share detailed information about our day with people we associate with via social media and simultaneously be experiencing historically low levels of connectiveness.

There is limited research on the topic of neuroscience and how it relates to the human social cognitive process but, the studies available do help to shed some light on why there is a disconnect between modern social connections and the hard wired human brain. People express pain in their facial expressions and body language when you state something bluntly without regard for their emotions. In contrast, a quip at someone else’s expense online often bares no responsibility for how we impact each other.  These impacts in our lives are often the moments that cause us to look at our thoughts, motives, and methods of interacting. This opportunity for reflection is part of how we preserve our social network for survival.  There is also some correlation between how much time a person spends using social media platforms and their feeling of loneliness. The more time spent on social media, the lonelier people felt.

If you find that you are feeling isolated or disconnected, there is hope and it may be closer than you think. Connecting with others who share your viewpoints and values does wonders for quality of life. While social media in general can lead to feeling isolated, shrinking your group size may lead to more personal connections. If you have not already, look for groups on Facebook that are focused around topics that you care about or books you have read. This is a fantastic way to connect with like-minded people and give you the benefit of connectiveness that technology can provide. However, keep in mind that no two people will agree 100% of the time. In our current state, most people lack honest and enduring relationships with others. Initiating a connection is sometimes hard to do. It is not common to show other people uncensored versions of our lives. The average American is no stranger to editing pictures taken to appear like life is blissful and flawless. Take a step back and look at social media platforms as you would an online paparazzi publication. We all tell a story in which we are the star and our family, friends, or pets are in supporting roles. Look at how you choose your profile picture. What things are you trying to show people about yourself that are not necessarily the subject of the image? Now, look at everyone else’s.

Social media has robbed us of the authenticity that comes with real tangible human interaction. But we can refuse to be part of the over-editing that is rampant today. When showing your life be cautious of your own inner need to be praised and be generous with kindness. You may end up being more able to connect with a virtual friend in real life. Having face to face friends opens up an entire world of opportunity for refinement that cannot be Googled or even found in a self-help book. It’s important to the evolution of one’s self to allow others to see us in the full light of our flawed humanity. Take a chance. Be vulnerable. If nothing else, you will become more comfortable with and accepting of who you are which will not only benefit you, but those around you as well.

Rachel Couch

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Rachel Couch has a passion for helping others attain freedom in health. She is a graduate of Friends University and continued her education to include a license in esthetics and a certification as a breastfeeding educator. She is Level 1 Certified with Precision Nutrition, one of the most comprehensive and dynamic exercise nutrition coaching programs available today.

Rachel’s health philosophy is to focus on function and longevity. If our bodies are functioning properly they will support sustained life and provide us with many years of valuable experiences that we will be able to enjoy. Because of this approach she avoids implementing fads and focuses on science. In addition, she is a committed lifelong learner and is always looking at the bigger picture of how the body works in relation to many other factors.

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