anthropology · behavior · community · creativity · culture · happiness · mental health · Social

Social Cohesion in a time of Physical Distance


This is an odd time for the world. For the first time in a century we are faced with a novel virus that we don’t yet know all that is involved with keeping it at bay and keeping ourselves safe. Many nations are asking or demanding their citizens maintain “social distance” and/or quarantine themselves in their homes.

A friend pointed out an important distinction – we should be calling this “physical distance” not social distance, as this is a time when we need social cohesion and support more than ever.

And what a glorious age that we live in that we can still do this?

My kids can still call grandma on video calls, even though she is 1000’s of miles away. I can write an email or send pictures to my friends in a nanosecond.

I live in King County, one of the epicenters of the outbreak in the US, and immediately after schools closed parents created a Facebook group dedicated to supporting each other, sharing online resources for videos, workbooks, and fun online activities for kids to do while they were out of school. I’ll post a few of my favorites below.

Music and science groups also started offering their materials live, including free concerts and events. Authors have started offering “virtual” book signings and draw-alongs for kids and adults alike.

There are numerous organizations offering free resources – classes, books, videos – and even free Live events that will encourage our Netflix-enabled on-demand culture to schedule some time to tune in and all watch the same experience at the same time. The magic of the early Television age will be renewed as we will all be able to experience a concert together in real time, granted on channels like Facebook Live and Instagram, Zoom, and other channels.

Italy is demonstrating this social cohesion better than any nation currently. They have had impromptu sing-alongs, flash mob concerts, and just plain rebellious screaming from the balconies of their apartments in Naples, Rome, Sicily, and Florence.



We do not need to feel alone or isolated.

We can create solidarity among our neighbors with symbols, music, and messages.

My kids and I are going to spend the afternoon creating art and then decorating our front yard with art, just to remind everyone we are here, we are alive and well, and we are a community.


There are NUMEROUS opportunities for online learning, these are primarily Resources for online book readings, live events, and other free media that help support social cohesion and reducing feelings of isolation (although if you need those resources, here are just a few):

If you have others please share them and I will post them!



community · happiness · Social · technology · youtube

Social Networks Can’t Replace Real Human Interaction

Virtual space, including friendships there, does not fully replace that real live human interaction we get in real world spaces. More and more studies are finding this out, and people are reacting to it, often on social media.

graphic designer Shimi Cohen, based in Tel Aviv, has provided “a fresh and subtly soul-wrenching reminder of the way our screens can become cells of solitary confinement.”

The animation was Cohen’s senior project at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design. Based in part on MIT professor Sherry Turkle’s book Alone Together and Yair Amichai-Hamburger’s article “The Invention of Being Lonely,” inspiration also came from a personal place. “Like many others,” Cohen tells Co.Design, “I became addicted to socializing through my phone and social media. This started to bother me and intrigue me at the same time.”

Discovered at Co.Design.

This is a wonderful and simple reminder to get off the computer from time to time and actually go interact outside with real people.

behavior · brain · community · emotion · happiness · mental health · Social

Yes, you can now be addicted to social media

Illustration of Facebook mobile interface
Social media keeps us connected with friends, but for some can be detrimental to everyday life. Image via Wikipedia

I love being able to connect to old friends, classmates, and coworkers via social media, as well as share thoughts, ideas, and new developments. But some people can take it too far, and while I have my weaknesses as much as the next gal, I don’t think I’d consider myself addicted as they describe it. Apparently people can receive intense highs from the social interactions and feel like they need a “fix” if they go on too long without checking in to one of their social media networks.

When you hear the word ‘addiction’ perhaps you think of alcohol, drugs and sex. But what about social media? Over recent years there’s been an emergence of studies into social media as a new form of addiction.

Research by Retrevo Gadgetology looked into how people use social networking sites. Out of those asked, 45% said they check Facebook or Twitter after getting into bed. People under the age of 25 were the more extreme with 19% saying they log on any time they wake up during the night, 27% said they sometimes check when they wake up during the night and 32% check in first thing in a morning.

via Social Media: The Pursuit of Happiness.

To me this indicates just how detached and isolated many of us are, that instead of going to a local gathering or even a bar or club when we’re feeling lonely, we go online. It’s been shown that Americans feel more isolated and alone than at any other time in our history (or at least history of checking for this kind of thing), and I would hypothesize we’re turning to these social media networks as some way to retain communities we’ve established in other physical locales, or create new ones that are entirely virtual. I also wonder if the meta-interaction makes people feel less fulfilled than dealing with people in real, physical life and make them anxious to get more. I believe social media networks are useful, no doubt, but I do wonder if we are using them as a crutch rather than actually meeting people in person. Granted a lot of social media sites encourage actual in-person meetings, from online dating sites to the new GrubwithUs startup that acts as matchmaker for hungry social types in various cities across the U.S.

What are your thoughts about social media networks and people who can’t seem to unplug from them? Leave your thoughts and/or experiences in the comments below.

community · Social · technology

Social Media Powers Medical Research

An interesting social experiment as well as clinical study, from the Wall Street Journal; while the study itself, which looked at using Lithium to treat ASL (Lou Gehrigs disease) found the treatment didn’t work, they DID find that using social networks to recruit people for the study turned out to be incredibly effective.

The new study, published online in the journal Nature Biotechnology, represents an early example of how social networking could play a role in clinical trials, an area of medical science with strict procedures that many would consider especially difficult to apply in the online world.

“The approach has tremendous potential,” said Lee Hartwell, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist now at Arizona State University, and formerly president of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Standard clinical trials play a central role in the research enterprise of both of those institutions.

Dr. Hartwell, who wasn’t involved in the study, said social-network trials aren’t likely to replace conventional randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trials, the gold-standard for generating medical evidence. But such trials have become so complicated and time-consuming that new models are needed, he said.

Read more about the study

I think this is a great example of the power of communities, whether they exist online or are geographically-based, or both. People with illnesses and their families need support networks, which they find online. I think this is great that doctors and clinicians are also able to tap into these communities and ask for their input and insight into the treatment. Not only is it a great instant resource for the doctors, it loops the patients back into the whole treatment process.