Right now it seems we as a society have forgotten how important physical touch can be. Sure online support or being able to talk to one another from great distances is a wonderful thing but sometimes we just need a good hug.
I have noticed a lot of people in this world through becoming more connected are also becoming increasingly disconnected. We’re not as willing to truly be there for one another and things that should be seemingly normal are coming across as ‘bad.’ We as human beings need and crave physical touch. Why is physical touch in such a decline and what can we do to correct the issue as a whole?
I recently came across an article posted by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley in Greater Good Magazine from 2018 that really got me thinking about this topic big time. In this article, it covers research that studied human tough as a whole and outlined just how lacking this kind of thing is in our world right now. Social media itself has been quite damning for touch as a whole, and we need to work to correct that.
Instead of holding our phones in our hands perhaps we should be holding each other’s hands in the ways we are capable of from time to time. Touch in itself plays a huge role in our lives from the very moment we’re born as well as the duration of our existence inside our mother’s wombs. Touch is important for our development and if we’re not teaching these kinds of things to our children how will they turn out?
JJ: So, at its most basic level, why do we need to be touched? Why is it important?
TF: If you take an extreme example of, say, orphans in Romania, you get growth deprivation and all kinds of developmental delays without sufficient touch. Those kids are very autistic-like, and they’re growth-deprived. I visited an orphanage over in Romania, and it was just pathetic seeing these kids. They were half their expected height and weight for their age. There were 20-some kids in a space with one or two adults, so you can imagine that they didn’t get their fair share of touch. They were getting adequate nutrition, but there were other things at play. For example, the kids that were on the top floor of this orphanage were looking healthier than the kids on the bottom floor, and the only difference I could see was that the top-floor kids were getting some sunlight.
JJ: What are other effects of touch deprivation?
TF: Aside from the Romanian case, which is an extreme example, we also compared kids in Paris with kids in Miami. We looked at preschoolers on playgrounds, and we also looked at adolescents in McDonald’s restaurants. For the preschoolers, the kids in Paris were getting touched more by their parents on the playground than the kids in Miami. And the kids in Paris were less aggressive with each other than the kids in Miami. We were looking at a positive touch and negative touch, and what kind of talk was going on. The same pertained to adolescents. We looked at those kids interacting with each other, and in Paris, the kids were touching each other and hugging each other and stroking each other more than the kids in Miami. And they were less aggressive, both verbally and physically.
JJ: It seems we’ve become more and more concerned about touch in school and in society. I’m wondering whether you see Americans touching less and less over the years?
TF: I’m doing an airport study, and I was in two airports yesterday, and there’s no touching going on. Everyone’s on their smartphone, even couples who were obviously traveling together, even parents of children. The kids are all on smartphones and so are their parents and little two-year-olds on iPads.
JJ: What kind of lessons can we take from your studies from a parenting perspective?
TF: I think parents need to be touching their kids as much as they can because kids aren’t getting it at school. And when they’re with their peers, they’re also on their phones. I think certainly kids today are much more touch-deprived than they were before smartphones. So I think parents have to make a special effort to provide as much touch as they can.
Think about it like this, when you’re upset and really breaking down, do you want someone to be comforting you through their phone or would you rather have someone physically there with you being your shoulder to cry on? Personally, I’d much rather have a hug from someone I care for than a ‘hope you’re doing well’ text while I’m at my worse. Gentle touches as a whole are important, and we as a society need to remember that. Of course, you shouldn’t be touching people without permission but you should be able to comfort those who need it when they’re willing to accept it in this manner.
What do you think about all of this and do you feel like society is lacking in this area? I for one am interested in seeing just how this kind of thing is corrected or if it is corrected at all. For more on the topic please check out the video below.