Building Social Supports…Outside of Social Media

Back to Blog   Posted:   November 02, 2020 by

Building Social Supports…Outside of Social Media

“People Prefer the Certainty of Misery to the Misery of Uncertainty.” 

–Virginia Satir

There’s something about in-person human connection that we need as people. Yes, there’s even a lot of science behind this idea.

Though we often find that we would like to have deeper, more fulfilling connection with others, the fear and yes, sometimes MISERY, that accompanies uncertainty can keep us tied to the devil we know: certainty. We know what we’re getting when we avoid connection: we have felt loneliness and depression. But we fear what change may bring: rejection, loss, a confirmation that everything bad we think about ourselves will be seen by others. Yes, those fears are valid. But what else could change bring? Connection. A sense of belonging. Opportunities for self-growth, increased self-confidence, energy, and even an immune system boost. Unfortunately, there is no way to protect ourselves from the risks that come with relationships without cutting ourselves off from the good that can come as well. As the late, great Leonard Cohen sang: “When I turned my back on the devil, I turned my back on the angel, too.” Relationships mean risk. The good news? You can start small. 

Just how much in-person connection do we need?

Well, it depends on how much time alone we can tolerate. Sorry to be ambiguous, but as distinguished psychologist Carl Rogers once said, “the shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.” But what we do know is that we all need SOME social connection. And it makes sense if we think about it: yes, connecting through social media can help us stay in touch with those living far from us and can keep us connected when life gets busy, but…our brains fire differently when we see people in person. 

When we can look into another’s eyes, take in their non-verbal cues, share a laugh, etc., we connect on a deeper level than when we exchange a text or an online message. 

Being with other people also offers us the opportunity to check out assumptions we may have about ourselves. For example, imagine you’re finding yourself questioning your self-worth as you hunt for a new job (when no calls are coming in) and you start to tell yourself there’s something wrong with you or that you’ll never get a job…sharing this fear with a friend or other loved one allows for another perspective to enter into the discussion. And as Neuroscientist, Matthew Lieberman’s research discovered, the part of our brains that is activated when we are reflecting on ourselves is also activated when we connect with others—this part of our brain, the medial prefrontal cortex, helps us connect with ourselves and helps us be vulnerable enough to connect with others. 

Your health may very well depend on it.

When we have problems connecting with others, we are at a higher risk for experiencing depression and anxiety, we are slower to recover from illness and/or diseases, we might turn to antisocial behavior or violence, our risk of suicide increases, and strikingly, a lack of social connection has even been found to be worse for our health that smoking, obesity and high blood pressure.

If you haven’t been able to connect with others in a while, what can you do to increase your social supports?

 Maybe join a group on Meetup.com or Reddit.com that hosts regular in-person events, maybe ask a co-worker you have something in common with to take a walk on your lunch break, reconnect with old friends or family members with whom you’ve lost touch, or you could join an intermural sports team at your local rec center. You probably have some ideas of your own. Run with them!

*Side Note: If it’s social anxiety or depression that’s keeping you from being with others, Cognitive Behavior Therapy and other evidence-based therapeutic modalities can offer much-needed relief by way of increased coping skills and strategies for living with mood disorders.

Paulina Siegel


Specialties

Addiction, Anxiety, Depression, Eating Disorder, Historical/Intergenerational Trauma

Neighborhood:

Washington Park