The Need for Human Contact

In this digitally connected world, we can sometimes forget the importance of real human contact.

Two things brought this home to me this week.

The first was the memorial service for Michael Jackson on Tuesday.

I was amazed at the masses gathered around the world to watch this event together. It seemed like there was some collective comfort, or at least importance, in being with other people to experience this moment.

From Times Square to Trafalgar Square thousands of people chose to move away from the comfort of their own living room TV screens to view this event in the company of others…who for the most part were total strangers.

Even at my office, a few of us sat in the kitchen to watch this during lunch. It did somehow feel more significant to experience this with other people.

The last time we assembled like this was to watch the Obama inauguration. I am sure we could have a healthy discussion about the parallels between those events and the relative significance.

But my point here is not whether this moment was truly worthy of historic meaning. It’s that people seemed to judge it so and felt the need to mark the moment with other people.

The second thing that brought this notion of human contact front and center for me was this Free Hugs video by Juan Mann.

Maybe you’ve already seen it. I discovered it this week in a talk by Mitch Joel for his new book “Six Pixels of Separation” (more on that in a future post).

It’s a few years, old but it’s still powerful. As I understand it, Juan created a movement for Free Hugs in Australia that got global attention (he was even on Oprah).

The purpose of the movement is to perpetuate “acts of human kindness” designed for the sole purpose of making people feel better…and presumably less alone. Anyway it’s definitely worth watching.

Another relevant analogy is something many of us did last weekend… watching fireworks.

Sure you can watch them on TV, but I think there is something so fundamental to the enjoyment of the experience of seeing them live and sharing the moment with others (and of course hearing the crowd ooh and aah).

Incidentally, National Free Hugs Day every year is the first Saturday of July. In 2009, this happened to fall on July 4th. An interesting coincidence.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?
What experiences do you think are enhanced by the human collective?

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