We Need Each Other – The Benefits of Social Activity and Forming Communities

March 11, 2021

From an anthropological viewpoint, the formation of communities has benefited survival undeniably. As far back as recorded history goes, we see evidence of tribal groups that are based on mutual benefit. For example, archaeologists have found evidence of fire-making at Gesher Benot Ya’aqov 790,000 years ago, where early humans would gather. There’s evidence of sharing resources as far back as 1.8 million years ago. It is a long established fact, therefore, that social activity is key to survival.

The main way in which this has translated to modern life is working, having a job. To have a job is to contribute to society, and the compulsion to make this contribution comes from the recognised function of a community to protect the collective. Moreover, working as a team improves productivity in any endeavour. Working in an office surrounded by a team reduces the pressure that all workers are under, whereas isolated workers do not feel supported. Having face-to-face meetings and working with a team in person improves communication and morale, plus working in an office provides opportunities for spontaneous ideas and inspiration – moments when people from different teams strike up a conversation about a project at the coffee machine or in the elevator, for example, and those unplanned interactions yield a new idea or innovation. A research activity posted in the Harvard Business Review found that requests made in person are 34 times more likely to gain a positive response than those made over email.

There are also clear cut benefits to the individual for social activity. Keeping varied company will break any monotony and keeps us engaged in life, relieving stress through enjoyable activity and providing contrast and balance to any struggles. The emotional support that others can provide is essential to mental health, and simply knowing that the potential source of support exists can give a sense of stability and strength when one anticipates a difficulty. Sharing experiences, such as attending an event as a group or pair, strengthens social bonds which increases the feeling of security and improves the quality of the relationship. Potentially the most important outcome of social activity is that spending time with a variety of people boosts our ability to understand others. The more time we spend listening and relating to friends, the better we understand them – despite differences in personality, opinion, or culture. Developing the habit of relating to others with an open mind allows for increased social acceptance and decreased prejudicial attitudes; those with well-practised empathetic skills are also more likely to support social justice causes.

Social interaction can be difficult or tiring for some. The negative impact is known as cognitive cost, the mental fatigue that people experience after prolonged social contact with others, can be affected by the time frame, the number of participants, or both. It varies from person to person, with some able to tolerate a lot more than others. Regardless, this cost will be offset by the need for social interaction and the benefits it brings, once the person has “recharged”. Again, some need less social activity than others, but everyone reaps the benefits. On a wider scale, the entire basis for acting with compassion and consideration for others is the existence of social relationships. Every fundamental value that a decent person holds is founded in empathy, which would not be possible if people did not interact with one another and form relationships.

Written by Eloise, you can find more of her work here.

References:
https://humanorigins.si.edu/human-characteristics/social-life
https://hbr.org/2017/04/a-face-to-face-request-is-34-times-more-successful-than-an-email
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7249960/

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