They’re not equals. One is desperately needed, the other is overwhelming people’s lives.
The questions I answer in this article:
Can we apply the philosophy of essentialism to human connection?
Which forms of human connection are essential? Which are trivial?
Essentialism is the approach of focussing on the vital few instead of the trivial many. It’s about saying yes to things that are a **** yes, and saying no to the rest. It’s about identifying the factors that lead to 99% of the outcome you want — by nature of the repeated Pareto principle (the 80:20 rule).
The answer to the first question is yes. We can. And in this article, I argue that we should. We should prioritize certain forms of human interaction more than others. For our health, life satisfaction, and sense of belonging.
Look for a second at how most humans connect with one another.
1. They’re quite distracted, aren’t they? It’s absent-minded. People check their phones. People get distracted by the physical environment or their thoughts. Very little attention is put on the interaction.
2. That’s not all. There’s also a fast pace to it all; people are scheduling their connection time and have ‘agendas.’ Because of the obsession with career and work in western culture, people have put end times to their connection. They’re checking the time constantly. They’re worried they’re going to be late for the next appointment. Our obsession with doing takes us out of the moment with the people we love.
3. Finally, there’s the superficiality. This is a natural outcome of the two previous features of most human social interactions. Due to the lack of attention and time-stress, it’s difficult to fully understand, feel, and relate to what our conversation partner discloses. In other words, people are not embodying their interactions with others. They’re just in their heads.
Human connection may be rushed, absent-minded, and superficial. This decreases its impact on our well-being.
What perfectly demonstrates where socialization norms are going is an observation I’ve made repeatedly: teenagers have conversations with one another without taking out their AirPods. They’re connected to some form of stimulation 24/7.
This freaks me out.
So I have trained myself to engage in human contact instead.
Human contact is emotional, physical, and spiritual.
Emotional: both humans in the interaction notice and echo each other’s emotions, through eye contact and paraphrasing.
Physical: it involves supportive touch or affection. Hopefully, there’s a hug at the end.
Spiritual: the context of the interaction is about what matters in life and what matters to the individuals.
Human contact is deep and nourishing. Human connection is not guaranteed to be.
How do we create more moments of human contact in our lives? I have contemplated on this, and have made these adjustments to my life.
I use two phones. One has no data or apps.
I consciously look people in the eyes and feel what their feeling. I am intensely present.
I have a ten-second hug policy.
I ask questions about how people are feeling, not how they are thinking. About their well-being. About their life lessons. About what enriches them.
I surrender to the surge of physical resistance that comes up when I am frustrated, triggered, or criticized. This means I relax into the discomfort in my body.
Please. Tell me yours.
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Cheers to human contact,
— Jacques, Chief Scientist and Writer, The Party Scientist’s Lab 🧪