In our modern world where American children now spend on average close to 8 hours per day in front of some form media such as TV, video games, computers and cell phones. One can’t help but wonder what these “weapons of mass distraction” are doing to our health and wellness.
In his excellent book, The Blue Zones, Dan Buettner examines the four areas of the world that have the highest density of people living to be 100 years or older. In these cultures he finds common traits that hold true for all of them. One of these traits is the emphasis on maintaining a social circle throughout life. Through this he concludes that if one wants to live a long a fruitful life one needs a strong social support system.
In fact the Journal of the American Medical Association recently validated this conclusion in a recent study. In this study several hundred volunteers were exposed to a cold virus. The volunteers with the most socially diverse networks were the most disease resistant.
One would think that with the advent of cell phones and social networking sites like Facebook that relationships would be even easier to strengthen and maintain. We can now reach virtually anyone we know instantly 24 hours a day. In many cases however this media has actually robbed us of our communities leaving us more isolated than ever. My Grandpa’s generation spent their evening’s playing cards, roughhousing in the yard with their kids, telling jokes, or going dancing. We now spend our evenings surfing the internet, relentlessly updating Facebook with status updates, or zoning out on TV. We have signed off to reality in favor of reality TV.
Fortunately, technology does have an upside. We have infinite opportunities for forming and strengthening personal relationships. The internet is a great tool for finding activities to do with your family and friends, and if you lack a social circle, the internet has sites to find like minded people to hang out with.
Michael Bernard Beckwith said, “The only things that are missing in your life are the things that you’re not willing to give to another.” If you feel lonely, reach out to someone who is lonely. If you feel disconnected to your family, turn off the TV and reconnect. The health of our society depends on each one of us working diligently to improve our interconnections and strengthen our social networks. Make sure you do your part.
There are several great websites for families to find activities to do and for individuals to make new friends. Meetup.com is a site that holds gatherings such as hikes or get-togethers based on similar interests. I, as well as my sister, Susan, have used this site very successfully when relocating to new areas. Yelp.com is good for finding hikes, restaurants, parks, playgrounds etc. Taking a class at a community college also works like a charm!