Life as we know it has been turned upside down since the onset of the global pandemic. What has not changed, however, is our need to connect with others. As humans, we are social creatures, and we need to have connections to others to maintain our health and wellbeing. Many people feel isolated and disconnected as they struggle to come to terms with the challenges of this period. This increase in loneliness can be especially dangerous for those who are most vulnerable: the elderly and people with pre-existing health conditions or disabilities.
Many people have lost their jobs or suffered the loss of loved ones. Many more are unsure what the future will look like. All of these things happen naturally in life, but COVID-19 has prevented us from coming together to process these changes. We need other people to support us through such major life changes.
One positive aspect of this trying time has been the use of technology to keep us entertained and connected to each other. However, one can only watch so many Netflix shows and scroll through Facebook and Instagram before starting to feel a little crazy. Social media platforms can give one a sense of connection, but this is often superficial, since there is limited interaction with the people you follow and “like”. Becoming consumed with certain social media platforms like Instagram can actually be detrimental to your health as you start to compare your life with influencers who appear to have everything together. Remember that many people are only showing part of their life, and it is often through a flattering filter.
Often, we continue to scroll because we deeply desire connection, but due to COVID-19, we have been very limited in our ability to connect with people in real life. We may be tired of our own family or close friends and wish to meet new people and try new things.
It is normal to crave diverse interactions and to find people who like similar things to you. For many people, reaching out may have always been a challenge. If this is true, it is more important than ever to establish a connection with others, since we no longer experience the minor interactions that took place on a daily basis before the pandemic. Many people felt that life would return to normal a lot sooner than has proven to be the case. It is therefore time to find ways in which we can continue to fulfil our essential need for connection.
Luckily technology has stepped in to offer people a safe and easy way to stay connected. Since people have moved their work online, it makes sense that their social lives should also make this shift.
We have seen the funny videos of kids crashing their parents broadcasting the news, or family members interrupting presentations. Many have become more adept at using FaceTime to call friends and family. So, why not take the use of technology a step further and include meeting new people with similar interests?
We Are Wired to Connect with Others
We are social creatures. Research shows that we have become wired to depend upon, and be connected to, other people. As a culture, we have lost this inclination – not just during the pandemic but even before it. Many people feel lonely and isolated, and may fear reaching out to others in case they are rejected. Social connection can feel like a double-edged sword at times, representing both the joy of love and friendship, and the fear and pain of rejection. Since we are so deeply wired to connect to others, and need others to survive, the prospect of being rejected can further isolate people and cause even more pain. When we take a risk and connect to others, however, we are rewarded by a number of positive reactions in both the brain and the body.
Research has found that oxytocin (“the love hormone”) is triggered not just in intimate relationships but also by a broad range of social connections. It has been found that when we connect socially, we release the oxytocin and serotonin that activate the “reward circuitry” of the brain, making us feel happy. When this system is activated, we feel more altruistic, creating the desire to make new friends.
In our ancestral past we needed to connect to others for survival, which is why these systems have such a powerful effect on us. In the past, to be rejected from one’s tribe could mean death – which is why rejection or bullying hurts so much. We feel physical pain when we are rejected. We are biologically geared to connect with people, and when this is not happening it can cause us a lot of damage.
We have seen a rise in online bullying or putting down others due to their beliefs and views. This can be very disturbing and painful for those people who are being victimised. It may also make it harder for them to reach out and connect with others. Although this does take place online, it is important to know these bullies are not the norm. Many people want to find others they can connect with in a positive and inspiring way.
Negative Consequences of Social Isolation
There are a number of negative consequences to being socially isolated for too long. As mentioned above, we are social creatures, and when we do not have healthy connections, we are affected mentally, emotionally and physically.
When we feel disconnected from others and experience a sense of loneliness, there can be serious consequences. Our mental and physical health will start to decline over extended periods of isolation. Many people suffer from depression and anxiety, which can stem from feeling alone. During this period, it is important to make time to reach out to others while maintaining social distancing.
Everyone is experiencing increasing levels of stress and anxiety, which is further exacerbated when we also feel alone and isolated. Feeling connected to others decreases the stress response in the body. When we experience a rise in oxytocin – the bonding hormone – we also release serotonin, activating the reward areas of the brain. This helps us to feel good while simultaneously reducing the stress response in the body.
Establishing healthy connections with others is not just good for us mentally but also physically. How we feel is very much linked to our physical health and what is occurring biologically. Friends are natural antidepressants: socializing stimulates areas of the brain that help us to feel good. Research shows that friends can increase our life span and combat a number of negative health issues linked to loneliness.
Having positive social connections helps us in a number of ways that boost our wellbeing and happiness. They are there to help us through the bad and celebrate the good. They help us cope with trauma, divorce, ill-health, job loss or the death of a loved one. Friends help us change unhealthy habits by encouraging us to live a healthier lifestyle, and improve our self-confidence and feelings of self-worth. Other people play a key role in our mental health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, we cannot maintain this alone.
What Is Video Socialization?
Video socialization is exactly how it sounds – it is connecting and socializing with people through online video chat platforms like Zoom. While it’s hard to compare online socialization with in-person socialization, these platforms can be a lifeline during this time. In fact, over 300 million people daily have been using Zoom during the crisis.
VideoSocialize is one company offering a way to socialize online to overcome these challenges. It offers various themed Zoom “mixer meetings” where one can join online to connect and socialize with others who share similar ground in areas such as career, lifestyle, and passions. These mixer meetings use breakout rooms of 3 or 4 people each and switch every 5 to 10 minutes, allowing you to socialize with different people. This is a new and unique way to socialize online, both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
How Video Socialization Can Help One Overcome Social Isolation
Connect with Like-minded People
Social platforms allow you to expand your social circle and find people who have similar interests to you. It can be difficult to find people with whom we share common ground, but it is so rewarding when we do. Allowing yourself to find people who are also passionate about what you enjoy can help you build new friendships and give you that sense of belonging that so many of us long for and need for our own health and wellbeing.
Make New Friends
Through such video chats, you may also have the opportunity to make new friends. The ability to make new friends has a number of positive benefits for your health and wellbeing. It helps reduce loneliness and the detrimental consequences connected to it by increasing one’s sense of belonging, self-esteem and confidence.
Connecting with like-minded people online can help improve one’s creativity, because we gain the confidence to introduce more things into our lives that inspire us. Being creative is linked to a number of health benefits. It has been shown to boost your immune system, reduce dementia, and make you smarter. Creativity can also produce flow states that are linked to greater happiness and well-being. It is important to stay creative during this time, continue to find new ways of staying connected and doing the things that bring us a sense of fun and joy.
We all hear about self-care, but many fail to practice it until they reach a state of burnout or depression. By reaching out and staying connected to others, we begin to meet a number of our self-care needs. Video socialization can leave you feeling renewed and refreshed. We need to make time in our lives for the things that excite us. Meeting others with the same interests can help us to feel even more motivated. This motivation and zest for life will spill over into other areas of our lives, even after such socialization.
When you reach out and do something you are a bit scared of – like talking with new people on Zoom – you gain confidence. Sharing what we are passionate about with like-minded individuals who appreciate our knowledge and insight helps us to build our confidence and self-esteem.
Learn New Things
Sharing knowledge helps us better understand what we already know, and also offers an opportunity to expand this understanding through others. As humans, we are always seeking to grow and learn more. Video socialization gives us the chance to learn new things from others.
The COVID pandemic has presented a serious challenge to our society. We are wired to connect with others, yet we are unable to do so in in traditional ways. With every challenge, we must adapt as a society. Video socialization is one way to avoid the risks of isolation and even thrive during this difficult time. VideoSocialize is one company providing an easy way with their “mixer meetings” to socialize online.
Crosier, B. S., Webster, G. D., & Dillon, H. M. (2012). Wired to connect: Evolutionary psychology and social networks. Review of general Psychology, 16(2), 230-239.
Fishbane, M. D. (2007). Wired to connect: Neuroscience, relationships, and therapy. Family process, 46(3), 395-412.
Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., Baker, M., Harris, T., & Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta-Analytic Review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(2), 227–237. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691614568352
Kross, E., Verduyn, P., Demiralp, E., Park, J., Lee, D. S., Lin, N., … & Ybarra, O. (2013). Facebook use predicts declines in subjective well-being in young adults. PloS one, 8(8), e69841. Retrieved from: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0069841&mbid=synd_msnhealth%20(https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0069841&mbid=synd_msnhealth)
Seyfzadeh, A., Haghighatian, M., & Mohajerani, A. (2019). Social Isolation in the Elderly: The Neglected Issue. Iranian journal of public health, 48(2), 365–366.
Articles on the videosocialize.com blog are commissioned by VideoSocialize from talented writers with a variety of backgrounds. All articles copyright VideoSocialize. Would you be interested in sharing your thoughts on this article in a 4 person Zoom discussion which would be uploaded to YouTube? If so, please contact us.
Kylie Feller, M.A, is a registered clinical counsellor with her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Psychology and Counselling psychology. For the last 10 years she has been studying and helping people overcome their mental health challenges. She is passionate about helping people gain the knowledge, resources and tools to help them develop greater health and well-being in their life.