On average we have 136 friends on Facebook, but 40% of us see none of them on a weekly basis.

Just 6% meet up with one social media friend a week, while just over one in ten (11%) touch base with two.

loneliness-1

With these statistics being true of our friends on social media, it’s no wonder that almost four out of ten (37%) of us feel we have no neighbours we consider to be friends and just over one in five (21%) have no one nearby that we could depend on for a favour.

Seven out of ten (72%) of us would ask a neighbour to accept a package but only a third of us (30%) are prepared to ask for a cup of sugar (30%).

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It feels that whilst we have invested heavily in creating virtual connections we have sometimes ignored our human relationships. We aren’t always using social media to enhance our real world relationships, instead replacing face-to-face contact with these virtual friendships.

We may have plenty of social media friends, but having neighbours that you can turn to, whether that’s to take in a parcel, borrow some milk or just for a chat, is so important. We all want to feel part of a community and know that someone is there to help a hand.

Many of us are having less and less actual contact with those who matter to us, and – as a result – are missing out on the health benefits that friendships can provide.

Research has even shown that a strong social network gives us some protection against illness. The theory is that when we are in close proximity with those we like and love, we increase the levels of ‘bonding hormone’ oxytocin in our bloodstreams. Good levels of oxytocin counteract harmful stress chemicals, such as adrenaline and cortisol, in our bodies.

This boost only occurs when we meet other individuals for real, as opposed to online.

Why not make the commitment today, to meet up with a friend, from social media or otherwise, who you haven’t seen in a while? Just for a chat and a catch-up, and start taking the time to invest in your genuine friendships, for the good of yourself and your community too.

Read a blog post from Co-op’s Chief Membership Officer, Rufus on how he hopes to forge stronger communities by asking people to Join the Co-op.

Christine Webber
Psychotherapist and Health Writer

Join the conversation! 5 Comments

  1. My neighbour is just the person who happened to be living in the place next to the one I bought. It’s not entirely random but there’s some randomness to it. We don’t necessarily share many interests in common or have similar personalities. He may like chess, I may like HALO. I might like barbeques, she might hate the smell that gets into your clothes and think barbeque food is a health hazard.

    I think the thing that’s important in forming a strong social network are finding people I feel I have a connection with by virtue of shared interests. It might be the season ticket holder next to me at the football or the members of my local yoga class. We might not be neighbours but instead meet when our dogs are draw to each other as we take the same path round the park.

    The Co-op supports this by supporting local community groups and local good causes. Perhaps this is something to build on – to develop community activities – to help people get started and find others with shared interests locally.

    In the same way that people put adverts in the NME “Drummer wanted for heavy metal band – must have own van” the Co-op could provide that sort of service to promote connection-forming in local communities.

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    • That’s very interesting Vic, I have to agree with you. I’m courteous with my neighbours, but prefer to find people who share my interests via social media and meet them.I have friends from across the region who I wouldn’t normally bump into, but have the pleasure of meeting frequently because of social media. :o) ^Jordan

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  2. I don’t have either milk or sugar in my house so I couldn’t lend them to anyone if they wanted some and in any case the Co-op is only 400m away.

    If we were in the parcel delivery business we might want to ensure people were willing to take in parcels but as our local presence is a shop can we focus on the activities that drive footfall and average basket by making the shop a more important social hub for it’s community ?

    The police say “Evidence suggests that the more staff you can afford to have in the shop the greater the deterrent against robbers.”

    If we can’t increase staff numbers can we get more people coming into the shop instead ? Using the shop as a drop-off for charitable donations or a pick-up point for prescriptions for example.

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    • Making Co-op Food stores and Funeral Homes hubs for local communities is high on our agenda, but facilitating face-to-face connections between people has to start even closer to home too, Shaz. Wouldn’t you agree? ^Jordan

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  3. TELEVISION IS A POWERFULL WAY OF PERSUADING PEOPLE OF ALL AGES AND SOCIAL STATUS TO ONLY THINK OF THEMSELVES THE MEDIA EMPHASIES THIS IMAGE OF NO SUCH
    THING AS SOCIETY ONLY YOUR SELF

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