making happy

Mix, mingle and make merry

Even as our lifestyles become busier than ever and reliant on digital technology, nothing can replace the joy and warmth of physical human interactions.

Picturesque landscapes, massive glaciers and hot springs make the Nordic island of Iceland a visual treat. On the other hand, cruel climatic conditions, remoteness, and icy winters with 19 hours of darkness a day make the country seem rather uninhabitable. Despite having to battle sub-zero temperatures, Vitamin-D deprivation and miserable dark days, the people of this region are known to be some of the most contented. No wonder Iceland has been ranked the second happiest country in the world in 2020.

But the happiness is not just the result of Iceland’s low unemployment rate, high income and positive-minded people. One might be surprised to know that community pools or sundlaug too contribute to the serene lives of the people. In a sparsely-populated setting like Iceland’s, these pools serve as social spaces that facilitate human interaction.

Not every country has a sundlaug, but they sure have other spaces where people come to socialise. Pubs, cafes, community centres and hot water springs, among many other such spaces, serve as interactive hubs. Clearly, humans always look for ways to stay in contact with one another. After all, man is a social animal. This should explain our innate need for social bonding.

In his book Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, neuroscientist Matthew D Lieberman writes that our need to socialise is as fundamental as our need for food and water. Even studies in child psychology suggest infants are born with an innate motivation to seek contact with others. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs too seconds the idea and explains that the necessity to feel safe, to belong, to be loved and accepted are basic requirements for an individual.

Human resource consultant Noopur Varma too agrees that social bonding is integral to our existence. She says, “When a person is new to a city or a country, there is an automatic tendency to seek someone from their own ethnic groups. This gives them a sense of cultural or regional belonging and understanding.” However, social bonding runs deeper than familiarity. To a certain extent, it also depends on an individual’s likes, dislikes, ideologies and value systems, irrespective of origin or ethnicity, Noopur observes.

Though the Internet has brought us closer, perhaps it does not satiate our need for real human interaction. After all, the warmth of a hug, the assurance of a nod, and the affirmation of a handshake are things text messages and emojis cannot replace.

Social bonding also depends on individuals and their willingness to open up. If one is very sociable, s/he may enjoy being with a variety of people. Otherwise, no matter how conducive the environment is, the individual may not interact with others easily.

Of course, it is not just people’s willingness to open up. The place of dwelling matters too. For instance, in smaller towns, people make the time to greet their neighbours and be part of their lives. The scenario is different in metropolitan cities. It is not that people do not want to interact with each other. It is just that they do not have time for that kind of luxury. Srividya Kumar, a techie, says, “I work night shifts. By the time I am back home, I am exhausted and all I want to do is rest. There is hardly any time to interact with my neighbours.”

Moreover, people work in different time zones these days. They might even work remotely or from home. Naturally, this reduces their interaction with others. Though the Internet has brought us closer, perhaps it does not satiate our need for real human interaction. After all, the warmth of a hug, the assurance of a nod, and the affirmation of a handshake are things text messages and emojis cannot replace.

In one of his talks, American TV personality Fred Rogers is known to have said: “Nothing will ever take the place of one person actually being with another person. Let’s not get so fascinated by what technology can do that we forget what it can’t do. A computer can help you learn to spell H-U-G, but it can never know the risks or the joy of actually giving or receiving one.”

Co-founder of Bangalore-based Foonza Media Biju Ebenezer seconds this thought. He believes that there is only a sense of loss and emptiness when we associate technology with our interactions. Both are happy in their own existence. The moment we try to relate the two is when the problem starts, he notes.

Whatever the nature of our living, we can be certain about one thing: Life can be unimaginably hard without human interactions. After all, even an atom needs to bond with another atom in order to form a compound.

Likewise, we humans bond with each other for a greater happiness that we cannot experience alone.




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