Human beings are social animals, and the tenor of our social life is one of the most important influences on our mental and physical health. Without positive, durable relationships, both our minds and our bodies fall apart. We begin life dependent for survival on the quality of our relationship with our primary caregiver, usually our mother. And the nature of that relationship typically influences all the others in our life; we develop an attachment style that influences our personal and professional relationships. Our survival as a species similarly hinges on our capacity for social living. Most of human history was spent in small groups in which each was dependent on the others for survival, and evidence suggests this is the condition to which humans are best adapted. Technology has changed the way we interact with others in our daily lives, but it hasn’t affected our basic need to form supportive bonds with other people.
Understanding Social Life
People today have the freedom to build their own social convoy, which may include family, friends, professional mentors, and other important individuals in their life. Some of these relationships may be predominantly or exclusively online, while others involve face-to-face interactions. Understanding how to establish and maintain these supportive connections is an essential part of life and can greatly affect a person’s physical and mental well-being. Even, and perhaps especially, people who choose to live alone will benefit from cultivating a strong network of social connections. Research examines the optimal social structure for a world of ever- increasing technological complexity.