People are social beings. We like to be surrounded by friends and we also have a powerful need to share personal experiences with the people around us. The explosive use of social media provides ample evidence of our need for social connection. It also seems our brains are wired to experience rewards during social interactions as well as feeling pain, often as distressing as physical pain, when socially rejected.
In short we are biologically hard-wired for interacting with others. While having a complex brain is obviously beneficial it does have a few down sides - one of them is it takes a long time to develop. While parents provide stimulation for young brains, nurturing the brain goes on well into adolescence and beyond. In adolescence some social skills can only be learnt via peer activity with parents playing a protective role, so it’s important that adolescents are given environments to develop. But is this environment being interrupted and are adolescents feeling disconnected and lonely?
Statistics suggest loneliness is a common problem around the world with researchers and popular literature pointing the finger at social media. However, the findings are not always consistent. Some findings suggest we feel more lonely because we are replacing face-to-face interactions with online ones, leaving us feeling disconnected and at times rejected, while others say social media provides new ways to build and maintain existing relationships.
Perhaps these two ideas are not mutually exclusive, it just depends on how you use social media. Fortunately one thing the research does agree on is that being in the presence of friends who bring us happiness is our most important social interaction.
The message is we all need friends to share our experiences with because our big social brains need it. Social media can be good and bad, so look at how you are using it and if it’s replacing time with your friends make sure you see them. If social media is helping you make new connections that's great but make sure you actually see your new friends. One excellent way of connecting to existing friends or making new ones is by going to Headspace’s Hangout Space. It’s great fun with a game of pool, snacks and music on offer and who knows you could find new friends there!
Hangout Space, 12-25 years, Tuesday 4-6pm, The Station, Murray Bridge.
Headspace Murray Bridge