It can be tough to navigate the modern world at times—a new landscape in which we find ourselves interacting online in ever increasing numbers. We've previously mentioned the effects anonymity can have on behaviour when we find ourselves in virtual realms. With photoshopping, catfishing, fake news, and more—it's often difficult to both define and detect 'reality'. What's more, the human brain is so complex it can convince itself that something is true even with absolutely no evidence or reason.
We've written before of the shocking effects that loneliness can have on a person's mental and physical wellbeing—an issue that is quite literally life or death. Though it's certainly no panacea, belonging to a group or community could help to alleviate this age old plight. However, we can be surrounded by people, yet still feel lonely—so, what does it mean to truly belong? And why are we so bad at it in the modern western world?
We used to be connected geographically, working locally amongst neighbours, visiting our places of worship together, dining together, and so on, and so forth. These days there's less chance of knowing your neighbour, and abundant opportunity to leave local behind. We often find our families scattered across the globe, and our places of work in constant flux, as we hop from rented home to rented home.
It is human nature to try and replace connection and closeness whenever it's lacking. One study found that we are drawn to smartphones much for this reason—as humans have an intense desire to see, and be seen by, others. Our voyeuristic tendencies unsurprisingly derive from our need to connect with others, but can we really say that smartphones satisfy this need?
The statistics appear to disagree, with studies linking high social media usage with an increased likelihood of loneliness—unsurprising when you consider the current landscape of online interaction. As we scroll through image after image of seemingly perfect lives, it's hard not to feel the FOMO, as we scrutinise our own, comparatively flawed existence. These snapshots of human life rarely tell the full story though, and our endless scrolling is no substitute for connection. So, what can be done?
Unfortunately, there's no one size fits all when it comes to mitigating loneliness, but finding your place in a community has proven to help many. A major reason for this is the opportunity it provides to find your place within it. Each community provides its members with different roles, and that sense of purpose is something we strive to find in all walks of life.
It's important to feel as though we have a place in society. Life can be hectic at times, and we all feel the pangs of existentialism from time to time (some much more than others, it would seem). We come from a long line of ancestors whose purpose was survival and procreation—yet here we are today, standing upright with no predators chasing us. We may find purpose in our day to day, but it's hard not to think that our minds just aren't built for this way of life. Or, at least, they may just be taking their sweet time adapting.
In the meantime, it's up to us to find our place in the world as best we can—and belonging to a community is one solid answer to this ongoing problem. Communities allow us to reclaim a sense of purpose and begin to carve out our own space to belong in. No matter how (seemingly) small your place is within, this can do a great deal for self-worth, self-esteem, and self-confidence.
Purpose aside, nothing really beats a genuine sense of belonging. It's not purely about socialising — to belong is to find a place to truly be ourselves. There's something very isolating about pretending to be someone you're not. You're never truly seen, and any praise on your actions or character can wash over you.
If we cannot fully express ourselves and the extent of our character, our relationships might lack a certain closeness. Most people have, at some stage in their lives, pretended to be something or someone they are not. Whether you've invented an entirely fresh persona from scratch, or you're just with-holding some small element of yourself that might be 'a bit much'—we all have many faces. The reasons for this are tenfold, and many are both the cause and consequence of loneliness—and, if we don't have some place to truly be ourselves, we run the risk of further isolation.
Belonging is a genuine feeling of acceptance and connectedness to an individual, group or community. It could encompass being part of something greater than yourself, or even exploring a passion or interest—but really, much of it boils down to acceptance. One's social identity, morals, beliefs and ideals are often entwined with, and encouraged by, that sense of belonging. To feel a sense of unity and commonality can inspire and even galvanise us toward a mutual end.
This sense of belonging is "fundamental to the way humankind organizes itself". We are not solitary creatures, and we have not been for millions of years. Nurturing a sense of belonging can not only bolster our sense of self, but also help you to cope with hardships throughout life. As the old saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved.
A Canadian survey found that those "reporting very strong compared to very weak community belonging had an increased odds of better mental health." Their participants were (or had previously been) involved in services for "the prevention and treatment of mental and substance use disorders." They found community based intervention to be effective in both engaging and retaining individuals in such services.
The correlation between community belonging and good mental health was unsurprising — with participants reporting strong community belonging being six times more likely to record very good or excellent mental health. These findings have been echoed throughout countless studies, and the undeniable efficacy of community belonging simply cannot be ignored. And, why on Earth would we?
After countless studies, surveys and analyses, the facts are in—we need each other. Borne of our ancestors' need for mutual protection against predators; the comparative ease of hunting and foraging; and the efficacy of shared responsibility in child-rearing. It's impossible to deny, so why not embrace it? Have a look on Tevent for a new community or Event—it's time to meet some new people, and watch the good times roll.