“Being around people who loved me and whom I loved healed me.” - Dr. Marisa G. Franco
Quite simply, you are wired for social connection and you need it. Often, you seek connection through romantic love or nuclear families. An alternative route, of at least equal importance, is building a community.
Dr. Marisa G. Franco argues in her book, Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make—and Keep—Friends, to focus more on community building. Briefly, here are some of the standout reasons for the importance of communities: social connection, acceptance, witness, open-mindedness, empathy, self-esteem, shared burdens, and better health.
Not surprisingly, the experience of being accepted wholly for who you are cannot be understated. It builds your confidence. Moreover, it gives you the security to explore the world and gives you a witness to your life. Witnesses stand by you, they validate you and they hold the memory of an experience with us. In the book, Dr. Franco quotes a woman named Harriet, “for our life to feel significant, we crave someone to witness it, to verify its importance.” (pg. 5).
Unquestionably, another benefit of a community (especially diverse communities) is open-mindedness.
“Research finds that having one friend in an outgroup (i.e. a group you’re not a part of) alters people’s response to that entire outgroup, suggesting friendship may be necessary, but likely not sufficient, to trigger systematic change” (p. 10) Understandably, community is a key ingredient to helping make positive changes in our world. And furthermore, it can open up a whole new world!
Relatedly, community helps us to be more empathetic. When you connect with others you experience incorporating them into yourself.
For example, I enjoy flowers and animals more now, because of my friend’s love of flowers and animals. As you experience this, you position yourself to be more empathetic. “Inclusion of others in the self is actually part of why we’re empathetic towards our friends. It feels like we are being empathetic to ourselves” (p. 25). Not surprisingly, increased empathy and open-mindedness go hand in hand.
Self-Esteem & Shared Burdens
Furthermore, community is shown to strengthen our self-esteem. Equally important, community helps you share the weight of your burdens. “Our ancestors lived in tribes, where responsibility for one another was diffused among many…it takes an entire community for us to feel whole” (p. 8).
Are you still not fully convinced of the importance of community? Lastly, “The impact of loneliness on our mortality is akin to smoking fifteen cigarettes a day” (p. 7). Importantly, community is a key way to combat loneliness, so do it for your health!
Interested in learning more? Then hear Dr. Franco speak about her findings on the We Can Do Hard Things Podcast: