In a world filled with the internet, computers, smartphones, Alexa, and other smart technology, it would seem that we are more socially connected than ever before. After all, we are connected to people on all corners of the Earth through platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, right? Theoretically, yes, but is this a social connection? Is it healthy social wellness?
What is social wellness?
Social wellness is our interactions and relationships with others. A healthy relationship is one that is supportive unconditionally, under all types of circumstances. Healthy social wellness requires a genuine, nurturing connection with another human being.
Why is social wellness important?
Healthy social wellness allows one to build healthy relationships with other individuals, which helps individuals develop positive self-esteem, and become self-assured individuals. Not all relationships are healthy. Social wellness helps people develop skills to enable boundaries, establish healthy communication, as well as conflict management. A healthy relationship, and social wellness directly affects our emotional and spiritual wellness, but most importantly our physical wellness.
Loneliness and physical health
How in the world does loneliness affect physical health? A 2013 study revealed that loneliness raises levels of stress hormones and inflammation. This, in turn, increases the risk for chronic disease, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and dementia. Increased stress hormones are also seen to increase risk of suicide and suicidal tendencies. (Source)
Loneliness can lead to many disorders including, but not limited to the following (source):
The social media connection to loneliness
Social media’s impact on loneliness lies in the perception of a successful “friendship network”. Feelings of loneliness increase if an individual feels the friendship network is not successful. We live in a technological society, with platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram the center of a young person’s universe. If friendship networks on social media platforms are not perceived as successful, the feelings of isolation and loneliness increase. (source)
The importance of physical connections with others
Nothing can replace the physical connections we have with others. While technology and social media can make our beautiful planet seem like a smaller world, it doesn’t give you the one-on-one human contact needed for healthy social wellness.
There is nothing quite like physical contact with another person. It can do wonders for you! (Source)
The power behind social connection with Emma Seppälä
Below, you’ll find a wonderful TedX talk, by Emma Seppälä. Emma is a science journalist and Associate Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University.
Social media and our current technology is a wonderful thing. It brings us a broader understanding of the world and each other. It’s a marvel and I often wonder how I survived without the ability to quickly look up facts at the touch of my fingertips. If my family and I don’t know the answer to something, one of us quickly reaches for our smartphone and “Googles it”, and has an answer to our question in a matter of seconds.
That said, there is a dark side to technology and social media. An entire generation has begun to socialize online, instead of through direct human interaction. Children often connect with each other through computers, sitting alone at home, instead of playing outside with others kids. They don’t know the joy of playing outside all day until dinner time, or when the street lights illuminate the darkness.
With the rise of obesity, chronic disease and violence in our society, you have to wonder if technology, social media, along with the isolation and loneliness it brings, is partially to blame.