In the growing world of artificial intelligence, human connections are suffering. Social media has even changed our human connections. No longer face to face sharing of emotion, but we connect through words flashing on a screen punctuated with a yellow smiling face emoji. The digital age forcefully forged new modes of communication, pleasurable at first, necessary later, during those dark days of COVID isolation. In the glorious advance of technology, we are losing something special, perhaps, even necessary for wellness. We are losing human connection.
The Digital Age’s Assault on Human Connection
Nitin Seth wrote, “rapid advances in cutting-edge technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning (ML), and Deep Learning (DL), are bringing about radical changes in people’s habits, routines, behavior, and relationship” (2022). One of the early industries impacted by our advancements was the medical field. Doctors, nurses, and health care workers slowly disconnected from patients, providing medication and high tech solutions but failing to provide a basic need of human connection. A decade long project is in progress to reestablish a compassionate connection between doctor and patient.
Other industries are now entering the same phase of human disconnection. We can order food from an app and pick it up off our doorstep without even saying hello or sharing a smile with any of the parties involved. Perhaps, the expanding separation from others contributes to the meanness we see on social media forums. Healthy disagreements quickly turn to nasty name calling and threats. Public figures lives are marred by speculation and rumors. The more sickening the rumor, the greater the viral spread.
Childhood Connection and Healthy Development
Research is clear. Healthy childhood connections prepare children for healthier lives. We see this play out in addictions, crime, and happiness. Many studies have shown that “a cohesive support/social network and healthy attachments in childhood predict low risk of later addiction” (2022)
In an interesting article on a nursing program that has added compassionate care to the undergraduate curriculum wrote, “It is more than dignity, more than empathy. It is about the relationship that we have with someone else. It is something to which we respond, human to human” (2009). In their wonderful and ageless book Ghosts From the Nursery, Robin Karr-Morse and Meredith S, Wiley wrote that, “emotional attunement is the cradle of human connection. Tiny interactions between each infant and his mother create threads of empathy that together form the warp and woof of the tapestry we call community, a tapestry that is weakened by each thread that is frayed or broken” (2014). Early attachment theory experiments and theories provide some of this knowledge. Bowlby’s secure base, Ainsworth’s strange situation, and Edward Tronick’s still face experiments all provide greater insight into our need to belong.
Human Connection and Loneliness
Seems pretty obvious, right? A solution to loneliness is human connection. John T. Cacioppo and William Patrick explain that human connection is more than just contact or conversation. They wrote, “the solution to loneliness is not quantity but quality of relationships. Human connections have to be meaningful and satisfying for each of the people involved” (2008). Healthy, mutually satisfying human connection provides validation and security, a few of the essential ingredients for growth.
People flock to social media seeking human connection. However, as Cacioppo and Patrick explain their pursuit for connection may be misguided. They are “driven by a deeper craving for human connection that they simply don’t know how to pursue” (2008). Perhaps, this is why internet connections turn so mean. At least through shock, a poster may draw attention, with thousands jumping on the bandwagon. The viral post screams connection with countless likes and shares but the poster remains empty without any significant connection. Their emotional life still strangely unsupported or validated.
A Few Final Words from Psychology Fanatic
Businesses, medical facilities, and government policy can help but ultimately our wellness comes down to us as individuals. We must break out of our isolating routines, reach out to groups, friends, and organizations to boost the quality of our human connections.
Cacioppo, John T.; Patrick, William (2008). Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection Kindle Edition. W. W. Norton & Company.
Clements, A., Unterrainer, H., Cook, C., & , (2022). Editorial: Human Connection as a Treatment for Addiction. Frontiers in Psychology.
Karr-Morse, Robin; Wiley, Meredith S. (2014). Ghosts from the Nursery: Tracing the Roots of Violence. Atlantic Monthly Press; 1st edition
Seth, Nitin. (2022). THE ORGANIZATIONAL IMPORTANCE OF HUMAN CONNECTION IN THE AGE OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. Leader To Leader 2022.104 (2022): 53-58.
Trueland, J. (2009). Compassion through human connection. Nursing Standard, 23(48), 19-21.