"I admire machinery as much as any man, and am as thankful to it as any man can be for what it does for us. But it will never be a substitute for the face of a man, with his soul in it, encouraging another man to be brave and true." - Reference to the electric telegraph from The Wreck of the Golden Mary (1856) by Charles Dickens
This is how the section in the Paleo Magazine opens regarding Connecting with Others. We are working our way through a special edition of the magazine called Go Paleo: The Step by Step Guide. For those just joining us, you can review the other posts on our blog. In a nutshell, Paleo asks the question: Has modern life made us healthier people than our ancestors? Last week, we discussed how increases in our use of electronics (phones, computers, tablets, etc.) may be leaving us with deficits in our ability to learn and remember, as well as in our physical bodies and relationships. Today, we are going to discuss how face-to-face connection with others and the lack thereof can impact our health.
What Happens When You Don't Communicate Face to Face?
The author in the Paleo article lists the following social areas in which people are starting to lack:
- Communication skills
- Social graces
- Grammar and spelling skills
- Brain development
Just last week, I threw out a sign in our office that read: "Please Turn Off Your Cell Phone." Why did I throw it out? Mostly because people just ignored it. I've found that many don't talk on the phone anymore - they text and email instead! The norm in society is rapidly moving towards communicating less face-to-face with the person next to you and more digitally with people somewhere else. But, it's not just social areas that are being affected by lack of face-to-face communication = the physical being suffers as well. Reduced social ties have been linked to:
- Heart disease
- Slower wound healing
- Hardening of the arteries
- High blood pressure
- Impaired immune function
What Happens When We Do Meet Face to Face?
Five key elements occur when we meet face to face:
- We see and hear one another.
- We quickly exchange communicative stimuli (instant response).
- We convey and observe facial expressions.
- We convey and observe body language.
- We convey and listen to speech.
According to the author of the article, "compared to other forms of communication, face to face involves multimodial sensory information (nonverbal cues) and more turn-taking behavior between participants (with less interruptions), elements that may synchronize the brains of the participants." Other forms of communication (texting, emailing, driving while talking on the phone, etc.) may not be able to do this at the same level. Good communication means strong relationships, which are associated with the following health benefits:
- Reduced anxiety and depression
- Greater ability to manage stressful events
- Lower risk of death in young women with breast cancer
- Lower risk of death in young women after heart surgery
- Stronger immune function
- Reduced mortality rate
In teens, face-to-face communication during meals have been found to reduce the risk of smoking, drinking alcohol, depression, crime, and substance abuse! Finally, consider the youngest among us. Toddlers have become amazingly proficient at working Mom or Dad's phone. It can be really tempting to hand a little one a device for a few minutes just to get something done or catch your breath. But is the singing bear or video game really in their long-term best interest? Kids learn the fundamentals of social interaction from their family. The article reminds us that children have already learned a great deal from face-to-face play, which, in turn, prepares them for society with real world behaviors like sharing, cooperating, and respecting others' property. Many schools are moving back to "play-based learning" (presumably in lieu of electronic ones) for this very reason. All Dr. Sue and I had to contend with when our boys were little were old school Game Boys - and those were hard enough! Today's parents of little ones are to be commended, encouraged, and assisted anytime they choose to go face-to-face (and often times toe-to-toe) with their kids!
A Place Where It Meets in The Middle
I ended last week's post saying that Pandora was out of the box, regarding technology, and wasn't going back in. But maybe it's not all bad. Just this last Thanksgiving, my family was able to connect face-to-face with my father-in-law, even though he was in Colorado and we were in Indiana - all via an iPhone. Would it have been better to see and hear him in person? You bet! Would it have been nice to give him a hug? Sure! But the fact remained that he wasn't physically present, but technology did allow us to be one step closer. We could see him and he could see us. Likewise, there have been times when we've been sick or otherwise unable to make it to church. We could observe the service in real time online. None of these things replace the benefits to body and soul that real live contact can, but it sure beats the alternative. My encouragement to you and myself? Don't settle for second best unless you have to. Do all you can to get face-to-face interaction - it is important to you and the other people you engage with! God made us for Himself and for each other; we are supposed to share! Yours in Health, Care Chiropractic Lafayette, Indiana