We all need someone to lean on; and no, I am not (just) talking about the billboard hit from the 00’s with those catchy beats and killer moves. It's also a basic human need that we all share - how about we all share a high-five for relatability?
According to our very own Malsow, our need to be loved and feel a sense of belonging is primarily our need to have intimacy, friendship, family and a deep sense of connection in our lives. I am always fascinated with human connection because even though we all have this one common need, the way in which we experience it is extremely personal for each and every one of us.
The social world can be broken down in two ways - the sociological construct - this involves social groups and norms that you can fit/feel included in, and then there is the psychological way - social support - which involves companionship and the emotional support we get from people. Both are extremely important, however social support seems to have more emotional and psychological benefits.
Where I find the distinction is this: with social support, we can feel connected and a sense of belonging with people despite them not being part of a social group. This helps us feel more emotionally supported. Through social integration, it helps bring a sense of being part of a community or social group. This will help us feel more secure even if our emotional needs are not fully met.
These two social worlds need to be balanced for healthy mental well-being. However, we cannot always choose the environment that we are in. For example, living in a highly conservative society and identifying with a non-normative sexuality. This is where social support trumps social integration. For example, if you have peers who are not as conservative as society or who are even like minded. The benefits of having social support has proven (through research, obviously) to be extremely beneficial. For example: deep friendships, pets, support groups, etc.
Why am I bringing this all up?
In the past couple of years, the idea of loneliness has been very intense. When the pandemic started, work from home gave us all a sense of relief since travel was eliminated and we had more time to do other activities. There were group systems to watch Netflix together or even play games and *cue dramatic entrance* Zoom meetings became a thing. We found new ways to connect to people. But even with that online connection, there was still a gap in socialisation because actual face time became redundant.
The more we connected online - the less we needed to physically connect with each other. Our way of connection and communication changed - it wasn't all that bad, but when things opened up, I almost forgot how to connect with others in a physical space. Things became more stimulating, interactions seemed to have pressure to make up for lost time, and overall, I had to relearn how to make new connections with the same people.
It was a lot of take in.
Loneliness is a silent debilitator. It leaves us feeling isolated and empty and almost in a bubble. I work in a hybrid system for work (as well as my work entails less team and more solo work). For two weeks, there were gaps in the socialising or interaction with people beyond clients. And I started to realise how isolated I started to feel. The nostalgic feeling of mid-pandemic crept in. An all too familiar feeling of not seeing people - and if I do - no interaction per se. It was quite unsettling.
The importance of social support and connection is extremely important. I find it grounding. It is easy to get swept up in the day to day where our focus is on bigger needs and forget that we also have basic needs that are just or even more important.
Sometimes, calling a friend can make more of a difference than you think or even being part of a support group.