During these crazy times of COVID-19 mandated social distancing, a few friends and I have kept in constant (digital) touch. Today my dear friend Brittany offered these words:
“There’s something so special about human interaction. I’ll never take it for granted again.”
I took those words deep into my heart. And they got my thoughts churning as well…
Human interaction is special. This is one of the reasons why I fell in love with anthropology. This is one of the reasons we are drawn to each other. This is one of our reasons for living.
They say you don’t know what you have until its gone, right?
For now, we are going to have a lot less of it. But it doesn’t hurt to remember some of the reasons that humanity and all the ways we connect are special and beautiful.
Oh, and for those of you who also live in the Denton or DFW area of Texas, here is a list of resources and information from United Way of Denton County!
Social interaction has constantly been part of our evolution as a species
Humans have evolved to favor social interaction—our brains are the proof (specifically our neocortex)! Our “social brains” help us with everything from group survival to communication of complex concepts.
Based on our tendency to lean on family structures, you might assume that our early primate ancestors leaned towards family groups for survival. Indeed, family groups and bonds between parents and children are important parts of our evolution, but at least one study has found that our last common ancestor with monkeys and apes may have congregated in “loose groups of both sexes.”
Cooperation is how we evolved into the species we are today and remains an essential part of how we function.
Human interaction is good for your health
As this article from the New York Times states, many studies have shown that people who are very social and connected with others are healthier and may live longer. There are many reasons for this, including:
- Human interaction and connection reduce stress, and can make us “more resilient” to future stress, through the release of oxytocin and dopamine
- Relationships with people who have healthy habits can help you form and stick to healthy habits
There are many ways to foster regular social interaction. Right now, face-to-face communication (the best kind of interaction) is limited for most of us, but a phone or Skype call can likely have some of the same social benefits. And while you have the time, you may want to start planning more ways to include social interaction in your life when this time of isolation passes. This article from Psychology Today may be a good place to start!
Human interaction is unique and always changing
Although this is sometimes a topic of debate, humans are thought to be the only species who use language to communicate. Even if this someday proves untrue, there’s no denying that the way humans use language is diverse and special. One of my favorite social science theories, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, states that language may even shape our worldviews.
In the past 50 years, technology has caused huge changes in the ways we communicate. Although there may be negative effects of the way digital communication can distance us from others, the acquisition of new communication technologies also has many positive impacts for our species. Online social communities now offer those with shared interests a way to connect, even if they are unlikely to ever meet in person. Sometimes it is devastating to feel that you are alone in whatever struggles you face. Online communities have allowed us more ways to see that we aren’t alone in our fears and conditions, even if we can’t physically see those who share our challenges.
That’s pretty cool, and very uniquely human.
If there is a silver lining…
If there is a silver lining to our current COVID-19 isolation status, it is that we will be less likely to ever take human interaction for granted.
We’ve seen the possibilities of widespread crisis, and we’ve felt the emptiness that can come from missing a life we used to think was ordinary, or even boring.
In this situation, congregation can hurt us, but cooperation could save us. Thankfully, modern technology and simple common sense can still offer us many ways to cooperate without breaking the rules of social distancing.
There’s a reason why we evolved to be highly social beings.
To hear someone laugh or to take someone’s hand may be all the more joyful when this is over.
P.S. If you’re in need of a laugh, I recommend news bloopers, one of my go-to video types for instant cheering up! Here’s a pretty good compilation: