Woven for Connection – Humanity’s Most Powerful Thread

  • Published
  • By Capt. La Toya N. Brown, Mental Health Flight Commander
  • 412th Test Wing

We live in a world where connecting with people has never been easier. Instead of relying on long-distance phone plans or breaking out stationery and pens, people can connect through the ever-expanding web of the internet. Yet, despite technological advances that connect people, many people say they feel lonelier than ever. The human need for connection and belonging is not just an accessory; it is necessary for survival. Have you ever wondered why many survival reality shows are partner driven? It’s because humans are social creatures who are innately predisposed to lean on our community for safety and prosperity. From an evolutionary standpoint, this makes sense. Our ancestors relied on strong social bonds for survival, heavily employing cooperation in hunting, gathering, and defense strategies, and this need remains ingrained in our biology. From a well-being perspective, numerous research articles have highlighted the negative effects of loneliness on humans, ranging from cardiovascular problems to risk for depression and anxiety. Conversely, a strong sense of belonging can have multiple benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety, boosting the immune system, and promoting overall life satisfaction and longevity.

Knowing that connection and belonging are woven into the very tapestry of human needs and behavior, one would think that creating an environment that embodies this need would be easy, but it’s not. Some critics suggest that hustle culture and work demands leave little time for people to form bonds. Others argue that the overemphasis on individualism today’s society has led to people prioritizing individual achievements over collective identity, making it challenging to build a sense of community. Finally, other theories posit the idea of the “loss of a third space.” This premise suggests that third spaces, such as churches, community centers, and local clubs, which typically foster social interaction, have lost their influence. Regardless of whether it’s one or all of these factors or more, finding ways to combat these challenges is vital and requires a call to action that we must answer.

Fortunately, there are several avenues through which we can cultivate a stronger sense of belonging and connection. One avenue is practicing active listening and compassion. Active listening—listening for the sake of understanding—invites others to feel safe in a space where they can share their feelings and be supported. Another approach is to engage with your community. We live in a time where we have unique opportunities to build amazing communities, both virtual and physical, and we can leverage both worlds to maximize connection and belonging. Such opportunities could involve joining online forums and groups that share your interests, from basketweaving to exploring Mars. In physical spaces, joining a local club or even sharing your interests, such as creating a DnD (Dungeon and Dragons) campaign with others, can create a space where shared experiences can occur (you might be surprised). The key is to find a good balance between virtual and physical engagement to get the most out of forming connections.

The pursuit of connection is a lifelong journey. It requires constant effort, vulnerability, and a commitment to building bridges. In essence, the human connection is the glue that binds us together. It enables us to thrive as individuals and as a society. By nurturing and prioritizing connections in our personal and professional lives, we weave a tapestry of shared experiences and create a foundation where individuals feel valued, supported, and safe. At Edwards AFB and Plant 42, where we’ve always challenged the impossible and shattered barriers, let us take the lead in striving for an installation where connection is the cornerstone of every interaction and builds a safer community.