Q: Why do we need relationships?
Researchers are finding that relationships can be a matter of life and death. The Alameda Country Project on Relationships followed 7,000 people over a 9-year span and found that the most isolated/friendless participants were 3 times more likely to die than those with healthy relationships. They also found that participants who had poor health habits but healthy relationships lived longer than their physically healthy but relationally poor counterparts.
We need relationships because they are an inherent part of who we are as human beings. Scripture states the importance of relationships, saying it is not good to be alone, and shares the numerous ways that friendship is beneficial. Researchers also have found that social support through relationships helps lower or prevent levels of depression.
In addition to research and scripture, I can personally attest to the high importance of relationships after experiencing a 4-month relational desert during a semester abroad. I connected with the nationals, but was excluded from the social group the other students had formed. I was thankful that technology kept me connected to friends and family back home. It was only when I returned home to my JBU relationships that I felt relief as well as a physical and emotional boost.
Technology can help with this, but only to a degree. A recent study found that real-world social connections have a positive association with overall well-being, while passive use of Facebook and other social media platforms have a negative association. I’m not saying burn your iPhone and cast out social media platforms like the legion of demons into a herd of pigs—because doing those things will sure get you strange looks especially if you attempt to cast the social media into a herd of pigs on the quad. Recognize that virtual relationships can’t replace real relationships and the many benefits they give us. We need relationships to be healthy, we need relationships to flourish, and we need relationships because we are human.