The latest issue of Utne magazine arrived in my mailbox yesterday and I was immediately drawn to an excerpt from a recently published book, The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the 21 st Century by Jacqueline Olds and Richard S. Schwartz. The authors write:
Americans in the 21st century devote more technology to staying connected than any society in history, yet somehow the devices fail us: Studies show that we feel increasingly alone. Our lives are spent in a tug-of-war between conflicting desires – we want to stay connected, and we want to be free. We lurch back and forth, reaching for both….
The significance of this increased aloneness is amplified by a very different body of research. There is now a clear consensus among medical researchers that social connection has powerful effects on health. Socially connected people live longer, respond better to stress, have more robust immune systems, and do better at fighting a variety of specific illnesses.
The author’s insights reinforce the importance of story gathering. By sitting down with a parent or grandparent and recording their stories we begin, in our own way, to break down the isolation and loneliness that has become endemic in our society. Our electronic gadgets have their place, but they can never replace the meaningful connection that comes from sharing our tears and laughter with those we love. What’s more, being socially connected improves our health! So put down your telephone, shut off your computer and go talk to somebody.
Photo by Don Brubacher