Social Connectedness: Who Needs It? Why?

Trouble makes us one with every human being in the world - and unless we touch others, we're out of touch with life.

— Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.
Photo by Gideon from Paris, France
Photo by Gideon from Paris, France | Source

At the end of the workday, a woman retires to her bedroom, gets into her pajamas and satisfies her cravings for a bowlful of charcoal.

Another adult woman engages in the childish fantasy of traveling the world through her stuffed toy.

The third woman continues to kiss her dog in the mouth, despite the diagnosis of an infection contracted from the dog.

All three women seemed oblivious to the weirdness of their behavior. The psychiatrist on the talk show which featured them mentioned that they seemed to be compensating for their lack of social connectedness.


What Is Connectedness?

Some synonyms for connectedness are relatedness, association, and integration. It is more than the surface connection we make with the fellow worker in the office. It is a deep sense of kinship we experience with someone who cares how we feel, who asks to make sure, who keeps our concerns on his or her personal agenda.

Volunteers.  Photo by Peter Swain
Volunteers. Photo by Peter Swain | Source

The opposite of connectedness is detachment, which someone in the Experience Project1 describes this way. “I can’t seem to connect with people. I've never had a best friend in my daily life, never had someone I could tell my deepest, darkest secrets to, someone who I felt safe letting them hold me... Always feeling lost…No matter what I say no one hears, no one gets it.”

The concept of connectedness in the world of self-psychology promotes two principles:2

  • Self-development and sense of self depends on “attention, praise and empathy in our personal relationships.”
  • We have a basic need for a relationship with someone we admire for being “competent, protecting and consistent."

Being in a relationship with someone we consider significant to us, receiving from that someone the attention we need, empowers self-connectedness and social connectedness with other people.


Establishing Connectedness in Children

(a) At Home

The child first experiences connectedness with parents. The natural bond automatically strengthens as the parents provide for the child’s emotional and physiological needs. Planned Parenthood counsels3 that in order to maintain, and not lose, this connectedness, parents have these continuing responsibilities toward the children:

  • Build and maintain trust.
  • Demonstrate love, care and affection.
  • Share activities with their children.
  • Prevent, negotiate and resolve family conflicts.
  • Establish and maintain structure.
  • Communicate effectively.

This type of parent-child connectedness should grow stronger with the years. Both parents and children benefit from not losing it.

(b) At School

Alanya students in a class garden.  Photo by Patrick Neil
Alanya students in a class garden. Photo by Patrick Neil | Source

Jackie Gerstein4, Ed.D encourages school teachers to pay as much attention to connections as they do to content. She points out that as early as middle school, students focus at the beginning of the year on who is in the class, not what they are going to learn. They want to know the teacher and the classmates. It is socially healthy for them not to lose interest in the people around them.

Social connection between teacher and children, and also among the children themselves creates an atmosphere of safety and a feeling of confidence. The students develop team-member skills which they can apply in adolescent and adult life.


Measuring Connectedness in the Youth

The Hemmingway Measure of Adolescent Connectedness5 was developed by Dr. Michael Karcher of the University of Texas-San Antonio. It is a youth survey which, in addition to emphasizing relationships, encourages students to seek help. It makes connectedness active, insisting that it is not only about receiving love and attention, but also about reaching out for support.

Karcher reported in 2009 that a high level of connectedness correlates with self-esteem, academic achievement, resiliency and social interest (provided that the connection is with positive influences). A low level of connectedness can result in depression and negative attitudes.

The Hemingway measures four areas:

  • Becoming (connectedness with self)
  • Being related (with family)
  • Being academic (with school)
  • Being social (with friends)

The tool which is available at adolescentconnectedness.com helps youth mentors guide the social behavior of their students.


Maintaining Connectedness as an Adult

With that brief observation of how connectedness develops from childhood through youth, and how it influences adult behavior, we can look again at the three women mentioned in the beginning.

  • Instead of their strange actions, would it be better for them to enjoy connectedness with a person?
  • Could it be that they intentionally refuse human connectedness because of negative outcomes from previous relationships?
  • Would it make a difference if the negative experience happened in childhood, youth or early adulthood?

Many adults deliberately withdraw from social connectedness in an attempt to protect themselves from people- problems. They seem to believe that closing out everyone and closing in themselves is a way to conserve their joy and peace of mind; but joy multiplies when it is shared, and peace is more satisfying when it survives conflict. We are designed to grow in relationships.

 Laughter Yoga Teacher Training Finland 2009. Photo by Nauravainenanu
Laughter Yoga Teacher Training Finland 2009. Photo by Nauravainenanu | Source

Some children and adults have difficulty connecting because of mental disorders. They need social connectedness no less, and should be offered professional help.

All things considered, we can maintain connectedness if we pay attention to the following findings6:

  • Feeling isolated from others can: disrupt sleep, elevate blood pressure, increase morning rises in the stress hormone cortisol, alter gene expression in immune cells, increase depression, and lower overall subjective well-being.
  • The impact of loneliness on premature death is nearly as strong as the impact of disadvantaged socioeconomic status.
  • Anyone can reduce feelings of loneliness by . . . making a daily effort to nurture healthy relationships.

Regaining and Maintaining Connectedness

Are you satisfied with your level of social connectedness?

See results without voting

Many of us lose connectedness temporarily after a traumatic event like a severe loss, or disappointment. We may even feel disconnected from God. At such times, we need supportive relationships. The following actions will also help us.

  • Embrace the problem rather than disconnect from ourselves. Learn to feel—pain, sorrow or whatever emotion comes. Ignoring the feeling delays the healing.
  • Know that we are not alone. Some other people we know have just come through a similar experience, or are about to begin theirs. Sharing lifts everyone’s burden.
  • Cherish the connections we have. Turn off the television and put away all the media gadgets when we have company; put the effort into strengthening the connectedness in the room.
  • Express appreciation for the caring people in our circle; do our share of caring when it's our turn.


References

1. Tulick: The Experience Project, I Feel Disconnected, (05/27/2008)

2. US Department of Education: Mentoring Resource Center Fact Sheet, No. 28 May/June 2009

3. Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota: Parent-Child Connectedness in Our Communities, © 2011

4. Gerstein, Jackie Ed.D: Beginning the School Year: It's About Connections Not Content, (08/21,2011)

5. Karcher, Michael: Hemmingway: Measure of Adolescent Connectedness, © 2014

6. Bergland, Christoher: Psychology Today, Maintaining Healthy Social Connections Improves Well-Being, (02/18/2014)


© 2014 Dora Isaac Weithers

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Comments 53 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

Great topic and great suggestions. I had problems with this as a child and teen. Happily, with time, it lessened. I still have a ways to go, but I'm motivated and learning.

blessings my friend...well done!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Bill! Who would have guessed? You're proof that learning can take place anytime.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

I float on the edge here. But I really have no choice as I have a wife and small child and several older ones that kind of keep me connected -- not to mention caring friends that stick their nose in all my bizness ;-)

This is a great hub for us to bring to them who still suffer, thank you.


word55 profile image

word55 2 years ago from Chicago

Another Triple A hub MsDora, Being connected is uttermost important. However, people(adults or children) isolate themselves for various reasons. Sometimes, they isolate themselves from certain people to avoid hurt, embarrassment/shame/insult or feeling insecure. In general, it is good to be connected but due to certain circumstances, a person may prefer not to be as connected. It all depends... As for a person kissing their contagious pet? I don't understand them doing that under any circumstances. To do that is a sickness associated within… Thanks for such a great article, however.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Eric, you lucky guy. Enjoy your family and nosy friends. They're good for your health.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Word, thank you for your input. We all crave connectedness, and if we don't have it with other humans, we find substitutes. Our mental health is at stake here.


Purpose Embraced profile image

Purpose Embraced 2 years ago from Jamaica

We all need a sense of belonging, and this relatedness enhances our mental well-being. But we have to take steps build connections and don't lose the ones we have.

Thanks MsDora for for the timely challenge, I have some catching up to do!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Doc, always great to get your support. Thank for you great summary.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

Great hub MsDora, very well researched and an important subject on something very prevalent in today's society. Well done. Voted up.


CyberShelley profile image

CyberShelley 2 years ago

Connectedness is so important, I remember how safe my grandparents always made me feel, and tried to impart that connectedness to love and family to my son. Think he's okay, he talks to anyone and is a good, loving person. Fabulous write, thank you! Up, interesting, beautiful and useful.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

Great hub, MsDora, as always! I was very shy growing up and in high school, but then I outgrew it LOL ... When I tell people that nowadays, they do not believe it. When I developed that wonderful and intimate relationship with the Lord, He revealed to me just who I am in Him.

Up and more and away

Have a blessed weekend!


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

I sometimes feel disconnected and connected. I am fine with the way things are and the helpful points mentioned here are so true about life.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Jodah, always good to hear from you. Thank you for your kind comment.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

CyberShelley, grandparents are among the best at making us feel connected. Glad that both you and your son are benefiting. Thanks for your input.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Faith, you have the best source of connectedness. Thank you for sharing.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Devika, we all feel disconnected at times, but life is better when we reconnect. The best to you, going forward.


epbooks profile image

epbooks 2 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

Interesting hub! It's so easy these days to become disconnected, social networking and connected-ness is not what it used to be!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

In my work as a School Psychologist in the public school, one of the symptoms of learning disabilities and emotional disorders in a student was the inability to make connections socially with others. You are right in that it is a two way street. When we have difficult social experiences, we turn inward. When we lack the skills cognitively to understand reason and relationships, this, in turn, affects our ability to socialize with others. These skills must be taught and nurtured both in the family, and in the community.


sheilamyers 2 years ago

There is some great advice here. Thanks for pointing out some of the problems with disconnecting from people and how to overcome them.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

EP, losing disconnectedness has serious consequences. We need to try harder to keep it. Thank you very much.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Denise, I appreciate your valuable input. Thank you for your qualified affirmation.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Sheila, so glad I wrote this article as it helps me too. I appreciate your comment.


grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 2 years ago from Philippines

This is a beautiful and informative article, Ms. Dora. It's often said that a writer's life is a lonely life, especially if the writer works from home. I have a few good friends whom I truly value, and a group of friends that I see now and then. But Ms. Congeniality I'm not. I have a loving husband and an ever present daughter and three dogs. But it's really time to focus on truly connecting, and not just engaging in the usual small talk, the hi's and hellos.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Well Mona, it's wonderful that you have connectedness opportunities in your home, and a few outside the home be good too. All the best and thanks for your input.


Michael-Milec profile image

Michael-Milec 2 years ago

Hi MsDora.

Thanks for this instructive and informative article. We 'the people' are created to be and to stay connected. As you said "joy multiplies when it is shared " as well as when we face sorrow and loss, connectedness is handy to lessen the discomfort and pain. In my experience the best support comes from the family of God. We talk, we pray, we cry together, and support each other ; counting the blessings and glorifying the Name of the Lord.

Voted up and useful.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

what an interesting hub.. leaves me kind of connected.. Msdora.. keep these types of hub coming bless you :)


Johna170 2 years ago

I really enjoy the blog post. Great. edabkacbcedd


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Michael, I agree. Connectedness in the family of God is the best kind. Glad you enjoy that kind of fellowship.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Frank, I also think that my involvement in HP contributes to my connectedness. Thanks for your input.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Johna, hope you keep visiting. Glad you enjoy the post. Thanks for the comment.


mathira profile image

mathira 2 years ago from chennai

MsDora, you are absolutely right! Today many of us do not know the essence of connectedness as our total focus is on money. You have made a very valuable point to the present mercenary world.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Mathi, so good to hear from you. Thank you for affirming the value of connectedness over money.


lisavanvorst profile image

lisavanvorst 2 years ago from New Jersey

Very informative and educational article. I believe we need some social connections to balance out our busy lives.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thank you Lisa. I read your poem which has a similar message. Thank you for your comment.


manatita44 profile image

manatita44 2 years ago from london

Great article on social connectedness, and many fine points.

You may have read my poem on 'Interconnectedness', a bit deeper, but yes, social connectedness is paramount especially for the young. Excellent effort!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Manatita, good to hear from you. Thanks for your comment.


ologsinquito profile image

ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

This is a really nice message and I really like the part about cherishing the connections that we have.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Ologsinquito, thank you. Appreciating what we have proves that we are deserving.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM

Really great article. It is hard when disconnect happens and a person feels lost and lonely. I always had activities for my students on the first days of class so that they would interact and meet everyone in the class, me included. It helped to set the tone and atmosphere for the class for the whole year and were great ice-breakers. I really enjoyed reading this.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 2 years ago from North Carolina

Hello MsDora-this is an important subject and I wish that more people would be aware of it's gravity. People travel throughout the external world disconnected with others each and every day. This reminds me of my nephew who is socially shy and has difficulty connecting with others outside of his apartment. It is sad and it helps if we all treat each other a bit more kindly out in the world. UP/U/I


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Suzette, you obviously did a good job with your students. In every situation, connectedness is a plus.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Denise, I also have family members who are challenged in the art of connecting. Thank you for sharing and affirming the value of connectedness.


ARUN KANTI profile image

ARUN KANTI 2 years ago from KOLKATA

Social connectedness is one great way of coming together and interact with other people. From childhood I am not very connected and thus have missed its advantages. In contrast my daughter is highly connected and she is reaping benefits. The social net working sites have come to be of much help in the matter. Excellent topic wonderfully presented. Thank you.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Arun, glad you can see the joy of connectedness in your daughter. It's not late for you to make some connections. Compensate for the lack of it earlier. Thanks for your input.

thnk


Tolovaj profile image

Tolovaj 2 years ago

Like it or not, we are social beings and our society is, I am afraid, pushing too many people in the wrong way. With our lifestyles we are losing connectedness fastest than ever. Paradoxically all the modern gadgets are not very helpful ... Thanks for addressing this problem. It's important for everybody - connected and unconnected members of society.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Tolovaj, I appreciate your participation. You encourage me. Thanks!


Pharmd94 2 years ago

Very nice site!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thank you, Phrmd94, for reading and commenting.


Janellegems profile image

Janellegems 2 years ago from Virginia

Excellent Hub. Definitely one I needed. I had a problem with connecting with others because of disappointments in relationships last year, but recently, I am getting out of isolation and back in developing support and strength from others.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Janelle, happy for you that you're healing with support from others; happy also that my article helps. Thank you for sharing.


lovedoctor926 2 years ago

A very well presented hub. You raise good points. I agree with the quote in the beginning. Social connectedness is a basic human need and we could all benefit from it. Great hub!


lovedoctor926 2 years ago

Hello MsDora I just left you a comment, but I'm not sure that it posted so will re-send. This was a well-presented & useful hub. I agree w/ the quote in the beginning. The more connected we are to one another, the better we are likely to feel and less isolated. Social connectedness is a basic need. Great hub!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thank you, LoveDoc, for your kind comment. So many people lose purpose when they are disconnected. Yes, it is basic.

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