Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Friends, friendship and social media

3 December 2015


I have been struggling to “translate” a rather good recent Greater Good article – how friends help us grow old. I just found the angle I was looking for: this “recently published research focused on face-to-face interactions, and was largely conducted before the explosion of social interactions we conduct every day using the electronic devices we carry around in our pockets” (Quartz).

It’s well known that being socially connected promotes a person’s overall and psychological health. A new study from the University of Rochester now shows that the quantity of social interactions a person has at 20—and the quality of social relationships that person has at age 30—can benefit her well-being later in life. (University of Rochester)

People with poor social connections have been shown to be at an increased risk for early mortality. “In fact,” said lead author Cheryl Carmichael, who conducted the research as a PhD candidate in psychology at the University of Rochester, “having few social connections is equivalent to tobacco use, and it’s higher than for those who drink excessive amounts of alcohol, or who suffer from obesity.” (University of Rochester)

The new 30-year longitudinal study, which appears in Psychology and Aging, shows that the frequent social interactions that take place at age 20 were beneficial later in life because they help us build a tool set to be drawn on later; they help us to figure out who we are, the researchers said. “It’s often around this age that we meet people from diverse backgrounds, with opinions and values that are different from our own, and we learn how to best manage those differences,” said lead author Cheryl Carmichael. (University of Rochester)

Surprisingly, Carmichael said, the study shows that having a high number of social interactions at age 30 has no psychosocial benefits later on. However, 30 year olds who reported having quality relationships—defined as intimate and satisfying—also reported high levels of well-being at midlife. In fact, meaningful social engagement was beneficial at any age, but more so at age 30 than at age 20. The researchers were also surprised to find that socially active 20 year olds did not necessarily become successful at having quality relationships at age 30, when quality social engagement appears to start having the greatest impact later in life. (University of Rochester)

The study followed about 100 University of Rochester students from the 1970s. As the researchers admit, the sample size in this study was limited—the data was collected from educated, mostly white people who were privileged enough to attend an American university in the 1970s. But co-author Paul Duberstein predicts a wider and more diverse study would produce similar results. (Quartz)

This “explosion of social interactions on electronic devices” (Quartz) might prevent developing quality in social relationships at age 30. People in their late teens and 20s seem to be no different from the people in this Getty image

To some extent, I am also a “slave” of my iPhone. Sometimes, it’s even like compulsive behaviour which – perhaps – could develop into a new future obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

I think and feel that face-to-face contact is essential in relationships. Artificial emoticons can never replace genuine facial expressions.

And nothing can replace physical contact – like a kissing and a hugging – with a friend and/or a lover.

Took my baby walking. We went down to the sea. You know we talked of loving. And you talked of love to me. Joan Armatrading

Joan Armatrading – Kissin’ and a Huggin’ (1977) – artist, lyrics, Wiki


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