Ever notice how many people are addicted to their cell phones or IPads? Perhaps you’re one of them. In our technocracy here in America, our addiction to social networking has almost become an epidemic.
Sure, things like Facebook and Twitter keep us in touch with our loved ones and friends. I like seeing pictures of newborn babies and catching up with my sisters, separated from me by 800 miles of road and country.
But we must ask whether we are really connected, or just becoming docile automatons who are so distracted by games and gizmos we forget what’s really important.
In a recent New York Times article, psychologist Barbara Fredrickson wrote about her research on the costs of social networking. In it she argues that human connections–real human connections that include touch, sight and body language, and sound and emotions rather than emoticons–fosters a greater ability to be warm and to empathize with others.
Social networking, while giving us the illusion that it connects us, actually decreases our ability to connect with others. She uses an anecdote about mothers who use their IPhones to search the web while breastfeeding. This, she states, can have long-lasting affects on a child’s emotional intelligence and sense of connectedness with his or her fellow humans.
She and a team of scientists conducted research that proved that technology can hinder empathy and kindness. She gathered random participants, as most scientific studies do, and put them through a six-week workshop code named metta, or “loving-kindness,” in which they were to do things that connected them with other people in social settings that excluded technology.
The study found that the social interactions not only fostered healthier skills for communication, empathy, and overall kindness, it also increased the physiological health of the cardiovascular system of the participants.
The brain, heart rate, and even the immune system increased in stability and health at the end of the research. More significantly, the researchers found that when people were multi-tasking with technology or isolated in their homes apart from real connections, there was a devolving spiral of health in the body. Like muscles that require constant exercise, social relationships foster and maintain a healthy sense of empathy, or sensitivity and love for others.
Kindness: Use is or lose it.
Love is Kind.