Who is writing online about human connection?
June 10, 2019 7:41 AM   Subscribe

In the throes of a paradigm-shifting personal epiphany that 'OMG SOCIAL BONDS MATTER', I am driven to seek readings or viewpoints that confirm the supreme correctness of my new worldview. Please recommend online writers who will keep me occupied with quiet reading, or else I'll annoy the living heck out of everyone near me by talking about it and (horror) drive them away.

\s I'm not really in danger of annoying anyone... but I really am filled with a hunger for reading current writers - folks who are writing about the necessity and importance of human connection, social bonds, and that type of thing.

What I would strongly like you to recommend:

1) Internet advice columnists, blogs (i.e. people who make this theme a regular brand throughout a certain set of writings)

2) Medium articles, Twitter threads, humor/satire from the Onion or Reductess or McSweeny's

3) Maybe podcasts? I am not personally a fan of podcasts but my side-goal is to find works aimed at the internet age

4) Any surprising or well written academic treatment/textbook/research you have come across on this topic -- again, this isn't my primary ask, but if you think of some standout thing, please do mention it.

What I don't need:

1) advice on how to win friends and influence people (thank you kindly, but via therapy and lucky quirks of personality, I got this!)

2) (and this is important) recs for writers who focus on dampening intense or unhealthily enmeshed types of connection via boundaries or distancing, e.g. Captain Awkward. This stuff is important and useful, but I specifically set out to find writing about the other side of the coin and I'm failing miserably!
posted by MiraK to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Zaron Burnett III on Medium may have some things you like.
posted by wellred at 7:48 AM on June 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

You don't mention political sympathies, so I'm not sure if you're open to right-ish sources, but if you are, Front Porch Republic is a site about the need for healthy communities and civil society. The signal to noise ratio can be tough sometimes, and you'll notice some obvious blind spots, but it's basically approaching communitarianism from the right.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:51 AM on June 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think you would like Heather Havriletsky (Ask Polly) and Cheryl Strayed writing as Dear Sugar (Also collected in the book Tiny Beautiful Things.)
posted by sallybrown at 7:52 AM on June 10, 2019 [6 favorites]

The essay collection The Empathy Exams has some good writing on this topic.
posted by praemunire at 7:58 AM on June 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Kevinbelt, I have some anxiety about wading into a right-wing community due to the possibility of encountering misogyny, racism, etc.

I can deal with extremely covert or passive forms of bigotry, such as folks "merely" failing to mention or consider or feature marginalized peoples or well-meaning people with implicitly biased assumptions, and I am fully capable of Not Reading The Comments, but anything more overt than that is a big nope. What's FPR like in that respect?
posted by MiraK at 8:04 AM on June 10, 2019

Oh, I love this question. I will probably have to keep coming back to it because I have a bunch of thoughts, some of which are just bullet points I want to search for but will tell you about them first. (For efficiency's sake, not because I'm trying to be like LMGTFY, or rather LYGTFM.)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:14 AM on June 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

And finally, this poem by Phillip Lopate called "We Who Are Your Closest Friends"

we who are
your closest friends
feel the time
has come to tell you
that every Thursday
we have been meeting
as a group
to devise ways
to keep you
in perpetual uncertainty
discontent and
by neither loving you
as much as you want
nor cutting you adrift

your analyst is
in on it
plus your boyfriend
and your ex-husband
and we have pledged
to disappoint you
as long as you need us

in announcing our
we realize we have
placed in your hands
a possible antidote
against uncertainty
indeed against ourselves
but since our Thursday nights
have brought us
to a community of purpose
rare in itself
with you as
the natural center
we feel hopeful you
will continue to make
demands for affection
if not as a consequence
of your
disastrous personality

then for the good of the collective
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:15 AM on June 10, 2019 [8 favorites]

Krista Tippett's On Being podcast might be for you.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:28 AM on June 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Isolation is the dream killer, not your attitude.

I like this because it flies directly in the face of much of the self-improvement schtick. Sometimes the best idea really is just to ask for help. The only reason why I won't give this a complete thumbs up is there's a mild patina of hucksterism, but maybe that's just me. tldr; it's worth watching for the concept.
posted by storybored at 9:33 AM on June 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

"What's FPR like in that respect?"

Those are the blind spots I mentioned. I don't recall ever encountering any outright misogyny or racism (although I should note I mostly stopped reading any right-wing media, even anti-Trump outlets, so this might not be the case anymore - I haven't noticed on my isolated visits since then though). It's more just a cultural bubble: the unexplored assumption that white men's experiences are universal. Problematic, of course, but not hostile. Most of the writers are academics, and so there's kind of a genteel tone to the writing.

I was going to say it's kind of like Rod Dreher but without the trans-hysteria, but that reminded me that Dreher wrote a book that fits what you're looking for: The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, about his sister who never left their small honeys and how the town reacted when she got cancer. I hope I'm not spoiling it (this information is public and kind of unavoidable if you read any biographical info about Dreher whatsoever) to say that he found the close-knit town's response so inspiring that he moved back. I'd recommend his blog, but at this point it's mostly inside baseball about religion and hysteria about "the trans agenda". If you look through the archives, though, around 2014-15, there's some good communitarian posts mixed in.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:21 AM on June 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Johann Hari's TED talk about addiction falls in here, and he's written quite a bit about the connection between loss of connection and depression, as well.
posted by hanov3r at 3:40 PM on June 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

One of the recent seminal works about this from a social science viewpoint is Bowling Alone.
posted by slidell at 3:47 PM on June 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For 4), try this talk on the health effect of social contact by Alex Haslam, Professor of Psychology at the University of Queensland. He's an engaging speaker and it was the first place I learned, to my surprise, that social isolation is a greater health threat than smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise. Haslam is one of several authors of a recent academic book on the subject (The New Psychology of Health: Unlocking the Social Cure) if you're interested, but the main ideas are in the talk.
posted by trotzdem_kunst at 4:57 PM on June 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

Hi. You may enjoy this podcast about 'collective joy' from UK left-political media group Novara, featuring Jeremy Gilbert (prof of political theory and pop culture), Keir Milburn (lecturer in political economy) and Nadia Idle (activist and writer). They talk about ideas about collective joy that show up in thinking about, e.g., sports crowds, dancefloors, and bus queues. They discuss stuff that's connected to these (recent-ish) books:

Lynne Segal – Radical Happiness: Moments of Collective Joy.
Barbara Ehrenreich – Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy.
Jeremy Gilbert – Common Ground: Democracy and Collectivity in an Age of Individualism.
John Protevi – Political Affect: Connecting the Social and the Somatic.

It's part of a series of podcasts that Novara are making with these hosts, under the name #ACFM which stands for 'Acid Corbynism' or 'Acid Communism' FM. The label 'Acid Communism' is explained in the first episode in the series here (the episode about 'Collective Joy' is episode 2 of the series) and in an article in Red Pepper by Jeremy Gilbert here.
posted by Joeruckus at 2:03 AM on June 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all so much for this great list of suggestions! Looking through each of them.
posted by MiraK at 9:01 AM on June 11, 2019

+1 on the On Being recommendation. For academic articles, you might find "high quality connections" a fruitful phrase.
posted by 10ch at 4:59 PM on June 11, 2019

Some of Brene Brown's work (website, books, TED Talks, etc.) might scratch this itch.
posted by dancing leaves at 12:07 PM on October 27, 2019

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