Where Do You Belong? The Power of Community

community of friends

Where do you belong?

We’ve known intuitively for millennia that having a strong caring community around you is essential for a healthy, happy life. And in the last couple of decades Science has been proving us right with sociological, biological and neuroscientific research. 

Yet at a time in history when it should be easier to connect with those we love, many of us feel more isolated and alone than we ever have.

Technology is supposed to connect us, right? But either we failed to count its costs or we are not yet using it correctly. With perfectly curated and digipolishedimages of our friends streamed in front of us like million-dollar ads, we are left feeling less-than, broken or in some way lacking. At least television ads promise us a way out if we buy their product or service; with social media we only feel the inadequacy.

Face-to-face interactions on the other hand – even with the barista who makes your latte at Starbucks – make you feel better. 

Developmental psychologist Susan Pinker, in her 2017 TED Talk, tells us why: 

“Face-to-face contact releases a whole cascade of neurotransmitters, and like a vaccine, they protect you now in the present and well into the future. So simply making eye contact with somebody, shaking hands, giving somebody a high-five is enough to release oxytocin, which increases your level of trust and it lowers your cortisol levels. So it lowers your stress. And dopamine is generated, which gives us a little high and it kills pain. It's like a naturally produced morphine.”

New technologies. New tricks.

Can we use technology to start the same cascade? I say yes.

Watching videos online, seeing images, or reading text on the Internet clearly does not produce these chemicals. 

But there is a middle way, which Pinker acknowledges at the end of her talk, and researchers are just beginning to explore how technology might be designed and used differently.

This, for the Katherine Robertson who earned her degree in Psychology  40 years ago, is very exciting. It pushes me to do the next piece of work I’m here on Earth to do: using technology to facilitate intimacy in diverse communities of like-minded people around the world. 

According to Pinker, “It's a biological imperative to know we belong.... Building in-person interaction into our cities, into our workplaces, into our agendas bolsters the immune system, sends feel-good hormones surging through the bloodstream and brain and helps us live longer.” She calls it...

Building your village.

While the average person in the developed world spends 11 hours online each day, 25 percent of the population now says they have no one to talk to.

Community has the power to save lives, heal minds, and make us better people. Especially when an online group is formed people from other cultures other races other religions it is a diamond opportunity to expand your world in a way to face-to-face contact never can. 

The global café.

I have to say that I love being with people in person, sitting in a café, watching the world go by, engaging in deep philosophical conversation without expectation of an answer. But with my lifestyle of travel every year for the past 10 years, I needed to find a way sustain that sense of community no matter where I am.

At the same time, I’ve seen in the scores of online groups I’ve facilitated for more than five years now the power of technology to join kindred spirits across oceans, across cultures, across race and religion. These connections would not have been possible 10 years ago, and for most of us they would still not be possible if we had to get there in person.

In the work I do online, I see not only the desire but also the willingness to be connected at depth with people who may be total strangers. I see the faith created out of that. I see the power of belief emerge. And I see the courage then to go out and do things they could not have done alone. So my mission for 2019 is to create a community that where these life-changing bonds can form.

Ravi Kaneriya, Head of the World Economic Forum's Social Engagement Team Asia, has identified eight key approaches for building strong communities to meet this universal human need to belong. I will be including all eight of these methods in the new community I’m creating online as a part of the LOVE THE LIFE YOU LIVE program.  During the course of the next six months we will meet in monthly gatherings online and 24/7 in the private Facebook community.

If you would like to be part of this transformational experiment, which launches March 1st, to grow your own vision of life in a curated community of passionate people like you from  other cultures in other parts of the world, click this link to learn more about Love the Life you Live. But don’t wait. Doors close on Saturday.

Reader Interactions


  1. ian says

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