We Literally Need Friends to Survive

Social by Matthew D. Leiberman

Human beings are wired to be social – it’s literally built into our brains! When not preoccupied on a specific task, it’s ‘standby’ mode is to process social information. Our lives are constantly experienced through a social lens.

It makes good sense from an evolutionary perspective. In order to increase brain size (thus increasing capacity), human babies today are all born prematurely. Their brains have not fully developed, and they are totally reliant on support from their family. Due to this structural vulnerability, we’ve evolved mechanisms to seek strong connections with others in order to survive.

This bonding effect is so strong that any social pain we feel is experienced in the same way as physical pain. Bullying, therefore, is essentially the same as physical assault, and the loss of a loved one is essentially the same as physical injury or sickness.

In recent decades, our society has increasingly become more materialistic, and many believe that wealth will increase our happiness. Unfortunately, we are all becoming more and more unhappy. Furthermore, the drive for economic development has destroyed much of the social stability that we enjoyed in the past.

Social pleasures (such as being treated fairly, recognized, valued and loved) are actually equivalent to financial gain, as far as our brains are concerned. Seeing you’re neighbour every day, for example, is worth an increase of happiness equivalent to an extra $40,000 in yearly salary. Keeping people happy makes great financial sense.

There are an array of areas that could be vastly improved using this new scientific research. The quality in education, workplaces and communities could all be exponentially improved if we took our natural and vital social tendencies into account.

I found this book very heavy with scientific knowledge to back up its hypothesis. However, since the implications of this research are so important for the future of our species I would highly recommend this book to anyone seeking to make the world a better place for us to live. Together.