We are social creatures by nature. Homo sapiens, like us, had no defensive or offensive weapons to protect themselves. No hard shell or poisonous fangs to ward off an attacker or kill any unsuspecting prey, but rather they relied on their ability to collaborate. Not only are we not equipped with such weapons, but our feel-good hormone, Oxytocin, is triggered by physical contact (known as the cuddle drug). So, not only is being part of a tribe critical for survival but being close to others makes us feel fantastic. Our ability to connect, if you will, is our Superpower and can allow us to achieve greatness and an incredible life, regardless of the challenges. Certainly, the ultimate goal that we all have above and beyond sheer survival is happiness, something our prehistoric ancestors were not concerned with.
Today, the tribe has expanded to include family, mates, community, and organisations. We are just as reliant on connections now as we were back in the stone age. While we are connected via social media, with thousands of online connections, we have never been more alone. While Homo Sapiens, as cavemen and women, battled saber-tooth tigers, we have our challenges, just as daunting as our predecessors, but we are often required to face them alone. Surrounded by people, with the ability to reach out to anyone with the click of a mouse or a tap of a keyboard, yet we find ourselves lacking in true friendships and ultimately, happiness.
We look with horror at current suicide statistics and question why we as a modern society aren’t more resilient. How can so many feel so alone despite being “socially” connected? Where is the distinction between friendships and connections, and how do we reconcile the two? People like Madalyn Davis, who died from suicide in January 2020, seem to have a life many people would dream of. Madalyn was a social media celebrity, enjoying both fame and financial prosperity but chose to take her life, seemingly unhappy with her quality of life. We can appreciate the suffering she must have been in to take such a drastic course of action despite her supposed connections and friendships.
Yet, suicide statistics are not reflected in the degree of challenges that societies face. In an article published by World Psychiatry (Vijayakumar:2004), the author stated that 73% of suicides were recorded in developing countries. While it could be argued that these statistics were as a result of access to resources to commit suicide, there is also the influence of the media and the lack of a supporting tribe or, in other words, close friends. The question is, how can people still feel so desperately alone even though they have a supposed supporting cast of followers? True friendships are born not out of the number of connections one has but in the quality and reciprocity of those relationships.
Thanks to Covid and lockdown requirements, our ability to connect is even further diminished. Covid has forced many people to work from home, not allowing them to physically socialise. By doing so, Covid has been like the kryptonite to our superpower to connect and thrive. While the current situation may not be in our favour, we need to make every effort to reconnect with old friends, and look for opportunities to find new ones.
In contrast to the loneliness and seclusion that has driven many desperate souls to take their own lives, friendships and connections have proven to be a source of happiness and resiliency. Friendships in which each individual feels understood and appreciated help to support us emotionally and psychologically. When we feel stressed and under pressure, the gentle guidance from a trusted friend can be the life-changing or in fact, life-saving factor we need to get us through, changing the stress to relief and even joy. A simple smile from a friend can make all the difference, especially when you are feeling low, lacking self-worth or feeling alone, even making the ability to bounce back faster and easier.
Remember, true happiness is not spawned from the number of likes or clicks on a social media post. Happiness is derived from the genuine feelings and connections from those with whom we commune, share, and laugh. We no longer have to worry about the saber-tooth tiger attacking our home; the lack of friendships can be harmful enough.
While connection has always been our superpower, we can no longer take it for granted. As individuals, families, mates and organisations, we need to place more focus and energy into keeping and fostering connections. As an entrepreneur, I wanted to create something that would help solve this challenge. With an outstanding team, we have built an App called “Overhere” that will allow people to build their tribe and mates in their geographical area, encouraging meaningful connections, building resilience and happiness.
We are looking to launch our app at festivals and hospitality venues. If you manage such a venue or organisation and would like to make a massive difference in supporting a connected, resilient and happy community, we look forward to speaking with you.