People are wired for connection to other people.
Historically, connection was for security and safety. Ancient peoples relied on each other for food, shelter, safety and trade. Whether we lived on vast plains, throughout majestic mountains, or in sheltering caves, they stayed connected.
Today we tend to take care of our own needs of safety and security. We do rely on others for our food, shelter, safety, and trade, but it’s not generally through personal connections. We still live on vast plains and throughout majestic mountains, and we’ve traded our caves for various styles of home, but we are slowly losing our connections with each other.
Even humans twenty years ago were more personally connected than we are today. Yes, we have massive social connections — electronically — but that’s not the same thing. In our rushed and chaotic lives those electronic connections are what we rely on more and more. We aren’t robots, we need human touch.
An aging aunt of mine had agreements with neighbors about when to come over and help, or at least call for help: if the kitchen curtains weren’t opened by 10 AM help was needed. When they could, though, they would meet in the courtyard for cocktails or barbeques, go to the grocery store together, and collect the mail for each other. They talked, laughed, and wept together frequently. They had a strong community in their little neighborhood. They were connected.
When I moved to my present location I was struck by how everybody on our mesa referred to each other as a neighbor, even if they lived 10 miles apart. In the early days of living on this mesa people shared tools, helped each other with chores, and communed over meals. If you hadn’t seen your neighbor for awhile, you went to check on them. That’s what I call being connected!
But, I’m not seeing those kinds of connections up here nearly as often anymore. The ambulance call I just ran on was to a “neighbor’s” house — senior citizens who have lived here a long time. They seem to be the last of what I call “the original mesa residents”. When I asked if there was anyone I could call to help the wife get a ride, she said there was nobody other than her daughter who lives six hours away. All the neighbors they had been community with have moved away or died. And the new neighbors haven’t made those kinds of connections. Sad.
As easy as electronic connections are to make and maintain, it’s worth your effort to get out and make personal connections. In fact, it’s more than worthwhile, it’s vital to your mental and physical health to have friends and acquaintances. It’s vital to interact with people in various social and business situations.
I love keeping track of childhood friends and distant family with electronic connections, and I have to work at not letting those replace personal connections of the friends and family near me. I have to work on making personal — live — business connections as well, not letting electronic relationships suffice. It’s the people that keep me going, not the technology.
Social neuroscientists have come to believe that our need to belong surpasses our need for safety. We are social beings, and being part of a group is so hardwired into us that it drives everything that has to do with culture and organization. Maybe that’s why groups are a popular aspect of all connections –- electronic and personal.
Making connections is easy, if you make the effort. Here’s a start on my list of ways to make more connections.
• Get to know your neighbors, and more than just by sight.
• Get to know your grocery clerk.
• Arrange neighbor social gatherings.
• Go to lunch and sit at the community table and talk to whoever sits down.
• When you go to a movie, talk to the people around you before the movie starts.
• Join a group who shares your interests in a hobby, religious context, political bent, etc.
• Strike up conversation with the people in line around you when you shop.
• Take a class in a topic you don’t know much about.
• Tudor a child in a topic you are good at.
• Read to the blind or infirm.
• Ban electronics from your meal tables so that you can talk to those sharing the meal with you.
• Take a walk around the neighborhood and speak to those you see.
• Mail a card with note to friends and family to let them know you are thinking of them.
• Do service in your community by visiting hospital-bound patients, deliver meals on wheels, check on house-bound seniors, and participate in gift drives for the needy.
• Buy lunch for a homeless person, and sit and talk with them while you both each your lunch.
• Take a meal to a friend or neighbor who’s sick, is nursing a sick person in their household, or who has recently lost a loved one.
Note that none of my suggestions involve using electronic means to connect. Balance your electronic connections with personal connections. Tip the balance to personal contact.
What are your ideas on how to get more connections?