People are social beings. They bond by social interactions, similarities in character, and touch. Even animals live in groups and mate, so it is no surprise that we need social interaction and touch for that matter – on a daily basis.
But when did this touch deficit start? How did we reach a point where touch is next to non-existent in our daily lives?
With digitalization, we have alienated ourselves from society, and more often than not, we opt for a life on social media, an isolated life with a heavy focus on independence. But the truth is, we need human connection; we need touch in order to survive emotionally, yet somehow, we seem to reject that growing need that is lingering at the walls of our modern world.
“I don’t want to claim this will solve all the world’s problems, but it could potentially help and it may be one of the root causes of some of our pressing public health issues,” –Julianne Holt-Lunstad says.
And maybe she is right. It is no secret that an increased frequency in social bonding and hugging regulates eating disorders and even fights depression.
“One of these social barriers is that we value our independence so highly. Needing others is viewed as a weakness rather than a conceptualization of interdependence — that we can rely on others and they can rely on us,”–Julianne continues.
People are acting aloof and avoiding touch on the surface of things, but what they are really doing is damaging their health.
Would it really hurt us if we hugged our parents, our friends, or our coworkers a little more often than on their birthdays and on holidays only? If Michelle Obama could give Queen Elizabeth a hug at The Buckingham Palace, so can you hug someone on a random day. Start with a pat on the shoulder if it is easier, then upgrade to an actual hug–you will see the benefits within seconds.
If you think that hugging is a sign of weakness, you can ask yourself why running a marathon makes you happier than binge-watching on Netflix by yourself or why meeting your friends for lunch makes you happier than eating a whole pizza by yourself.
It is the sense of togetherness. That pat on the back. Someone saying: You are almost there, you can do it, don’t give up! Or questions like: How are you? How is that job hunt going on? Let’s watch a play on Saturday.
People experience social interaction in a way while still being in the womb. Mothers talk to their unborn babies through their belly. So, touch and social interactions are somehow intrinsic, and they stretch throughout people’s childhood in the form of hugging, gentle strokes, and kisses.
As we grow older, that closeness seems to decline. We accentuate independence and we go along with the idea of this tough persona that does not need to share touch due to being strong and self-reliant. We go on with this madness to the extent that we forget how a lack of touch dehumanizes us; we fail to see the social barrier it creates and how it affects our health.
The Japanese, for instance, recognized this ongoing potentially alarming problem and created an anti-loneliness chair. The chair wraps itself around you and it can hug you for as long as you want; it is human-like, soft, and tranquilizing.
The anti-loneliness chair is just another supporting fact that humans love touch–they resist it for the sake of their tough, independent persona to remain safe and untouched, but they love touch, nonetheless. That is the reason why they have a pet (apart from loving animals, of course), and why they snuggle their pet.
We want to give and receive love; it is what gives meaning to our existence.
On the other hand, a sudden stroke can nowadays be interpreted as harassment, so people avoid touching, but that is not a reason we should not hug the people we love, our pets, our acquaintances even. Imagine someone tripping on the street; they fall on the ground and you help them get up by giving them a hand. Imagine an old lady with poor eyesight has to cross the street and you help her out by crossing the street together–holding her arm.
Us not being afraid to show emotions would make the world a much better place, wouldn’t it?
Socializing and bonding through touch and emotions are in our nature, and they make us human. So why fighting our nature?
Why detaching ourselves, when we can initiate human bonding and contribute to a world with less depression and more happiness and emotional stability.