The Power of Community and Social Integration
Episode #8 of the course Coping with loneliness in the modern world by Sonia Chauhan
This lesson is about the supreme combatant to loneliness and the greatest source of comfort to humans: social bonding and solidarity.
The Village Effect
I’ve harped enough on the fact that we are built to be social creatures. We have this unique skill that sets us apart from all other animals: the ability to share stories with each other to form a society. This is called social integration.
All major human achievements in history have been results of social integration, of humans coming together to catalyze a common goal. In fact, it has been established that genetically, our basic purpose is to connect with each other in meaningful ways [1, 2].
Psychologist Susan Pinker offers insightful advice by pitching the idea of creating a “Village Effect” in our modern-day lifestyles for a less lonely and a more fulfilled life. In her book of the same title, she propounds the importance of frequent face-to-face interactions with constant members of our personal communities. These are people you tend to meet every day, like your neighbors, the doorman of your building, your local barista, or your dog-walker .
The idea is to live our lives as if we are living in a village where it’s common to interact with scores of people before the sun goes down. Those of you who live in busy cities, I want to ask you: How many of you even bother to chat with another person unless you need something from them?
Your Challenge: Create Your Own Village Effect
Here are ideas on how you can create the Village Effect in your routine:
Join an activity-based group. I want you to find out and join a community that matches your interests. It could be a book club if you love reading, or it could be Toastmasters if you are a budding entrepreneur.
This way, not only do you learn, but you also connect with others in a way that is rewarding to everyone. It also gives you a chance to interact with people from different backgrounds with different lifestyles.
There are two rules for this:
1. The activity must not involve being in front of a screen.
2. There must be face-to-face interaction.
Stick to the group. Don’t get discouraged or lazy the first chance you get. Make it to the group meeting every single time that you possibly can. Please, sacrifice your afternoon snooze for one day.
It’s not easy to swap an instant-gratification activity for a self-improvement activity, and many times, lying in bed might sound much more appealing. But I need you to persevere.
Allow yourself time to settle into the group. My personal rule is to give every group at least two meets before I make up my mind whether a particular activity is my cup of tea or not.
Don’t be easily deterred. It’s easy to feel daunted in the real world when we are used to playing by our own rules in the virtual one. I know that it takes more effort to be charming and spontaneous when conversations are happening in real time. That said, be ready to cut others some slack too. And don’t expect people to understand your value before you contribute anything to their world.
Now that you have a fairly good understanding of loneliness, it’s also wise to look at “lonely” from another angle. In the final lesson tomorrow, I will take you to what happens when you make peace with your solitary existence and learn to find joy in your “aloneness.”
 “The Neurobiology of Attachment” by Thomas R. Insel and Larry J. Young
 Ethics, Part IV by Benedict Spinoza
 The Village Effect by Susan Pinker
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