Science is unequivocal, we need each other. Our lives are constellations of relationships: strong and weak; distant or close. We are our happiest selves when we are in relationships that foster mutuality and trust,1 and are in environments that support thriving. We know the structures and supports needed to facilitate the successful operation of both of these sets of relationships— with each other, and with systems. For children to thrive, they need supportive and secure families; for families to thrive, they need supportive and secure neighborhoods. Our last three Champion of Children reports have laid the ground work; here we are bringing it all together with the singular focus of strengthening social fabric in our communities.
Even though, by nature, we require nurture, just how connected are we? How much do we actually support one another, or create institutional arrangements or places that facilitate support and connection? In the age of social media it may feel like we are more connected than ever before, but what of the quality and depth of these connections? Ironically, there is evidence to show that even as our technological connections have increased, we have never been lonelier. 2 When it comes to social media, researchers are finding that it’s the use of the tool, our interactions with it, that matter. For example, in an ongoing longitudinal study of Facebook use, researchers find that it’s not Facebook that creates loneliness—people who experience loneliness on Facebook are lonely away from it as well. It’s how it is used, whether actively (i.e. composed communication such as conversations on your wall, which correlates with decreased loneliness) or passively (i.e. one-click communication by “liking” a post or as your personal “broadcast” of status updates, both of which correlate with increased loneliness).3 But more to the point: “using social media doesn’t create new social networks; it just transfers established networks from one platform to another.”4 The research is clear: face-to-face interactions will always trump virtual interactions.