The Illusion of Togetherness: How Community Can Help You Live a Longer, Happier Life
We’re more connected—yet lonelier—than ever before. This is one of the most significant paradoxes of our modern culture.
By and large, people are living in “the illusion of togetherness”, feeling alone despite all the ways we can reach each other.
Even though we are more connected with one another through social media and technology, research has shown that people are feeling more isolated than at any point in human history.
Consider these stats:
- Only 13% of Americans report having more than 10 close friends, down from 33% in 1990
- Time spent alone increased by over 5% between 2003 and 2019
- 36% of all Americans (and 61% of young adults) feel “serious loneliness”
Even though social interactions are possible with the simple touch of a button, we’re collectively spending less and less time with each other in person.
These topics were discussed in an episode of the podcast Plain English with Derek Thompson, which featured the directors of the Harvard Study of Adult Development. Running over the course of more than eight decades, this study—one of the longest-running studies in history—focused on happiness and wellbeing as it followed Americans throughout their adult lives.
In this article, we’ll explore how these insights pertain to the value of community in helping you to live a happier and healthier life.
How the Illusion of Togetherness Is Impacting Our Lives
Digital apps like instant messaging and video calls have helped us keep in touch with our friends and loved ones in ways that were once thought to be impossible.
But despite this sense of connection, the truth is that our genuine relationships are deteriorating.
In his podcast, Thompson shared some startling data about how Americans have been spending their time in recent years:
- Alone Time Has Increased: People are spending eight additional hours alone when compared to 10 years ago.
- We Have Less Friends: Dipping from 63% to 38% over the course of 30 years, 25% fewer people have five or more close friends.
- Efforts to Connect Has Decreased: The number of people who report being social or communicating with friends during an average day has declined by 10% over the last two decades.
Authentic Connections: The Key to Happiness
In the podcast, Thompson reveals that having friends and community are among the most important keys to a life well-lived—a concept referred to as social fitness.
This term refers to the idea that, much like your physical and mental health, you must put energy into maintaining your social health.
According to the Harvard study, keeping your relationships and connections in good shape plays a substantial role in your overall well-being. In fact, the individuals in the study who had the warmest connections and relationships stayed healthiest longest and reported being the happiest.
How Does Social Fitness Contribute to Happiness?
As many will attest, connecting with someone over WhatsApp or FaceTime cannot replace the feeling of getting together with friends for a coffee or going for dinner with your spouse.
That said, the idea that social fitness can result in happier, healthier people is complex. There are a few pieces to this puzzle:
- Brain Exercise: Deep connections with another person require you to exercise your brain in cognitively challenging ways, keeping your mind fit.
- Stress Buster: Having strong connections with others helps often allow us to better navigate stressful situations.
- Wound Healing: Relationships often include skin-to-skin contact, such as hand holding, which helps build stronger immunological responses—this can be seen with new mothers and their babies through the practice of kangaroo care.
Find Your Community and Improve Your Social Fitness
The study reports that it is through our quality relationships that we find value in our lives. The milestones that we achieve mean a lot less when we don’t have people to celebrate those events and successes with.
Authentic connections give our lives meaning and purpose.
Finding your community is one of the first steps you can take towards creating a more fulfilling and healthier lifestyle.
Based on your values and life goals, below are three examples of where you can find meaningful connections with like-minded people.
1. Live-Work Communities
If sustainable living is important to you, communities in which you live, work and play like SOMO Village are the ideal solution.
SOMO Village offers an innovative and inspiring environment that is based on community. It provides amenities in which you can forge strong connections with your neighbors, such as:
- Headwaters Farm: This 25-acre community farm that SOMO Village is building from the ground up provides people with the opportunity to volunteer, take classes, help raise a barn, and even buy a membership into the CSA for access to group farm dinners and weekly produce boxes.
- Coworking Spaces: Located right in SOMO Village, there’s a vibrant and thriving business hub. Comprised of 600,000 square feet of solar-powered and modern commercial space, this workplace is home to a multitude of diverse companies who use it to work, network, and participate in our local business community.
- Heirloom Cafe: Just one of several eateries and restaurants available within SOMO Village, Heirloom Cafe offers locally-sourced organic food, beverages, and catering. It makes a wonderful spot to meet with your friends and catch up!
- Entertainment: From concerts to cultural events, SOMO Village Event Center offers an incredible venue to go listen to live music, hold a conference, or even just connect with others. Plus, the world-renowned Green Music Center is only about a 10-minute walk away from the Village.
With so many opportunities to regularly connect with familiar faces, it’s no wonder that tight-knit communities like SOMO Village are more beneficial for your wellbeing when compared to cities. In fact, studies like the one conducted by World Economic Forum have found that living in overcrowded environments like large urban areas can increase feelings of loneliness by up to 38%.
2. Outdoor Recreational Sports
During the pandemic, there were so many venues and organized events that had to shut down. But one thing remained steadfastly open—the great outdoors.
If you’re someone who loves to get outside and be active, recreational sports that you can do in nature are a great way to connect with others. Not to mention the revitalizing fresh air and beautiful scenery!
Around SOMO Village, there are a number of spectacular trails, regional parks, and panoramic mountain views all within minutes from our community. Some of our favorite outdoor pastimes include biking the cycling routes and hitting the hiking trails of Sonoma County.
3. Volunteer and Non-Profit Organizations
You can also get involved in your community by giving back to the people who live in it.
In our article, 10 Meaningful Ways to Give Back to the Sonoma County Community, we share a few different causes you can volunteer for, including:
- Donating to a local food bank or soup kitchen
- Giving blood at a local blood drive
- Tutoring students struggling in school
Volunteering doesn’t have to be an imposing commitment. But if you donate your time to the same organizations over time, you’ll likely continue to bump into familiar faces and make new, genuine connections.
For those living in SOMO Village, there’s also the opportunity to give back to the community in a number of different ways. For example, you could help out during an outdoor concert at the SOMO Village Event Center or spend your free time tending to one of our community gardens.
No matter what type of community you decide to get involved in, remember that it’s the experience and opportunities to create in-person relationships that truly matter.
Learn More About SOMO Village
If you’re interested in living in a sustainable community that fuses the best of city living with the country lifestyle and all the amazing things that Sonoma County has to offer, we invited you to visit SOMO Village. To learn more, download our residential project brief or get in touch with us today.