Humans are social beings apart from similar species. One of the characteristics unique to human beings is their need and ability to socialize. Humans live together in the environment with other humans as well as other species, and what makes us different from other species is that humans are able to socialize with each other. They interact with each other and have a reciprocal need for each other. The fact that they are able to socialize makes them need to socialize.
From early times, humans have lived in communities. They have supported and helped each other, bonded to each other, lived in families; they have formed friendships and romantic relationships. Think about a world in which no other human lives and in which there is no one to share your happiness, joy, anger or sadness. Nothing would matter much if you could not share it with others, and you probably would not be able to handle difficulties if you were not able to seek or get help and support from others.
Let me give you a more specific example to make this clearer. Last year I went to Netherlands on the Erasmus program and stayed there around seven months. When I remember my first days there, that time does not mean all that much to me because I did not know many people then; I was just trying to get used to a new culture, a new home, a new environment. However, as the weeks and months went on, and I met more people, made friends and spent time with them, I began not wanting to think about leaving and saying good-bye. In short, I met people, and those people made the time I spent in Tilburg much more fun, much more worth remembering.
In the field of psychology, it is well known that people have a strong need to belong. A social psychology study showing how people feel when others reject them demonstrates the “cyberball paradigm.” In the study, participants played a virtual ball-tossing game on the computer. Individual participants were included in the game for the first two minutes but then rejected by the other players (who were in fact virtual rather than “real” players). Participants were asked how they felt after playing the game, and the results show that even cyber-ostracism leads to an increase in anger and sadness while decreasing positive feelings. If human beings cannot bear rejection by virtual players, how they can handle being alone in the real world, where they live in a social environment?
Moreover, is it only our psychological well-being that is influenced by rejection, or are we physically affected as well? A study done in 2010 found that better social relationships lead to better health outcomes, and also that when relationships deteriorate, people have trouble dealing with the difficulties they face in their physical health. This study even suggests that the quality and quantity of the relationships a person has may be linked to both morbidity and mortality. Better and stronger relationships were said to increase people’s likelihood of survival. It was found that the impact of social relationships on the risk of death is similar to that of such risk factors as smoking and alcohol.
Another, well-known study looks at the long-term effects of social relationships on human life. Done at Harvard University, this was a longitudinal study, meaning that it recorded data on the participants starting from an early age and continuing over time to see the changes and impacts of various factors on a long-term basis. The results indicated that out of a huge number of participants, the happiest were those who had good relationships with others, rather than those who earned the highest incomes or were more successful.
Many other studies also show how important it is to have good relationships in life, and how the only thing we can gain in life is people. This does not mean that each person needs to be oversocialized and have lots of friends. What matters is to have satisfying relationships and find those people with whom you enjoy spending time. Who makes you feel comfortable and relaxed, and who do you want to share something good, or bad, with? This is important, because all of us need people in our lives who make us laugh a little louder, smile a little bigger and live just a little bit better. There’s a famous quote from a cartoon that most of us have probably watched at least once: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying good-bye so hard.” So, have things that make saying good-bye difficult, and that make you thankful that you do have them, every day.