Living through history is a sensation unlike any other. For most of us, the speed at which the current pandemic has changed our lives simply has no comparison. We were planning vacations, organizing events; we were everywhere, interacting, living lives that were naturally public. And in what seemed like an instant, all of that changed. Events are cancelled or postponed. For those lucky enough to maintain employment, we have swapped conference rooms for creative Zoom backgrounds. We are navigating a new reality, one that for the most part does not include human interaction.
However, even before our current state of affairs, virtual everything was commonplace. Working from home had steadily been on the rise before it became essential. The cultural phenomenon that we refer to as social media had become one of the primary ways that we communicate, regardless of age or inclination. Today, there is a platform for everyone to post, live stream, share, comment, like…all from the comfort of our own private worlds.
But the truth is, on a statistical level, as a society we haven’t gone all-in on tech because we don’t want to. In fact, some studies suggest a link between increased social media use and loneliness and social isolation. We love the freedom that technology offers, but there is something powerful that keeps us from living in a virtual reality.
“Man is by nature a social animal. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.” – Aristotle
We have all heard that humans are “social animals.” Our need to be in the presence of people is so important that it is key to both our health and survival. In fact, according to studies, “social isolation and loneliness have been linked to many physical and mental health problems including heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, and depression. The health damage caused by isolation and loneliness is estimated to increase the risk of early death by 26 percent, has been equated to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is estimated to cumulatively cost Medicare an additional $6.7 billion each year.”
In addition to manifesting physically, the human need for face to face interaction is clearly demonstrated when looking to our largest generation, millennials. This group has had a close relationship with technology their entire lives. To them, digital communication methods, from video chat to social media, is natural. Which is why their preference for experiences, events, and all things tangible is noteworthy:
As we can see when we look to both science and human behavior, we find that real-world experiences, especially those that involve other people, are a main driver of mental wellness, happiness, and even physical health. Not only do we want to gather, science suggests that we actually need to.
No matter if a company is B2B or B2C, your client or customer is almost certainly a human being. And as such, he or she is beholden to psychological needs. Regardless of your brand or industry, you will likely have improved output and performance if you incorporate in-person interactions. From internal team collaboration to consumer engagement, the human touch makes a difference.
This is why so many business leaders insist on face to face communication. And studies back them up. According to an article in the Washington Post, “MIT’s Human Dynamics Lab spent hundreds of hours tracking performance drivers across industries by collecting data from electronic badges that covered everything from tone of voice to body language. The results showed unequivocally that the most valuable communication is done in-person, and that typically 35 percent of the variation in a given team’s performance was explained by the number of times team members actually spoke face-to-face.”
Our need to gather is also demonstrated by the success and growth of experiential marketing. Each year, the Event Track study continues to highlight the benefits and unparalleled efficacy of face to face interaction in marketing. In 2018, the report found powerful key insights, among them:
In-person contact provides a sense of comfort, builds trust, and is so important to people that it compels them to make purchasing decisions. There truly is nothing like it, and when it comes to efficacy, the data speaks for itself.
There is no doubt that people inherently need to be with each other. Whether we look to science or business metrics, the answer is always the same. We love to gather. We love to collaborate. It is in our DNA.
While the current pandemic may be forcing us to rethink how we interact, it does not mean that face-to-face interactions are in jeopardy. While today requires some solitude, tomorrow will not.
Events, experiences, and gatherings will return. We need them. And we will find new ways to make it work. Because, in the end, our physical community, no matter how large or small, provides us with belonging, happiness, and mental health. And for that there simply is no equal, digital or otherwise.
At Elevate, our doors are always open to anyone looking to connect or collaborate. Please contact us anytime! We’d love to hear from you.