We all have that drive to feel connected, to love and be loved, and we shudder at the thought of loneliness. No one wants to be alone, right? In this article, which is mostly based on the work in my doctoral thesis, I will explain the concept of social connectedness, discuss the benefits of strong social connectivity, and discuss the negative implications of having little or no social connectedness.
What is Social Connectedness?
Social connectedness is conceptualized as a sense of “belongingness and relatedness between people (Van Bel et al., 2009, p. 1)." Van Bel, IJsselsteijn and de Kort (2008) discuss the importance of understanding the temporal aspects of belongingness, which can be experienced on two levels, i.e., the (i) ‘momentary’ or (ii) ‘continuous’ feeling of connectedness. However, Van Bel et al. (2008) gave precedence to the long-term experience, which is more distinctive in relatively stable interpersonal relationships. Whereas, the short-term experience of connectedness can be influenced by a person’s current emotion, their present assessment of their sense of belongingness, or their interactions with another individual. Other factors such as age, context, gender, personality traits, culture, individual preferences, and previous relationship experience can also affect how people experience social connectedness (Global Council on Brain Health, 2017).
Altogether, a sense of belonging appears to be embodied in the concept of social connectedness, such that an increase in social connectedness can lead to the positive feeling of having enough social contacts and support the personal assessment of being a valued member of a group.
What does Social Connectedness include?
To determine a person’s social connectedness with others, Van Bel et al. (2009) suggest the following five dimensions:
Why is Social Connectedness Important?
According to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, love and a sense of belonging are vital for human functioning, which transcends to the primal need for intimacy, family, and friendship (Maslow, 1954). In Maslow’s hierarchy, once physiological and safety needs are met then a person can strive to satisfy the need for love and belonging, which is essential to fulfilling esteem needs and if possible attain a state of self-actualization.
Therefore, sociality is crucial for well-being, as human beings are naturally driven by an inherent desire to belong and maintain strong and lasting bonds (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). Accordingly, this need is satisfied through regular and positive interactions with long-term social contacts (Baumeister & Leary, 1995).
With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, forced lockdowns and geographical distance between family members have become significant barriers to face-to-face communication. Essentially, while living apart, it is crucial to stay connected and keep abreast of each others’ lives. The proliferation of computer-mediated technologies such as instant messaging (e.g., WhatsApp), free or relatively cheap Voice over IP calls (e.g., Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime), and email can augment communication.
What are the Benefits of Social Connectedness?
Dr. Emma Seppala, from The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, at Standford Medicine, identified the following benefits of strong social connectedness.
What Happens when you have No Social Interaction?
– living alone,
– having little or no social participation,
– perceived lack of social support,
– and feelings of loneliness.
2. You become lonely i.e., the subjective state of repugnant emotions affiliated with social isolation, limited contact than desired, and the deprivation of companionship (Shahtahmasebi and Scott, 1996).
Being lonely or socially isolated could pose negative effects on one’s health and mental well-being. Here are a few negative effects discussed by Dr. Seppala.
Sometimes you may be in contact with a myriad of people but unfortunately, you still feel lonely. Or you might be feeling alienated simply because you are alone. Friend, there is hope and you don’t have to struggle alone. I urged you to seek help by talking to someone you trust or going to your nearest health provider. You will get better, just take the necessary steps to recovery one day at a time.