The formation and maintenance of meaningful bonds between yourself and others.

Kind of trendy for lots of reasons these days, with debate about “Facebook Friends” vs. real friends, “Bowling Alone”, a “loneliness epidemic”, data about the surprisingly strong impact of loneliness on health and longevity, etc.

There’s a strong correlation between being socially-active / being satisfied with your social network and general happiness.

Attachment style theory posits that people have a variety of go-to modes of attaching to people or keeping them at arm’s length, that these can be seen in infants and are pretty durable, and that aspects of connections (particularly romantic ones) between people can be predicted based on the attachment styles of the individuals. (J. Bowlby Attachment and Loss, 1969; M. Mikulincer & P.R. Shaver “Adult attachment and happiness” The Oxford Handbook of Happiness, 2013)

Complementary virtues

Contrasting vices

  • alienation
  • being alone
  • aloofness
  • disconnection
  • hermitude
  • isolation
  • loneliness
  • seclusion
  • withdrawal

Virtues possibly in tension

How to acquire or strengthen it

  • Ideas for conversation starters that deviate from mundane paths
  • Taking social initiative
  • How to make friends as an adult
  • Loving-kindness meditation (metta) can enhance relational connectedness: B.L. Fredrickson et al. “Open hearts build lives: Positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (2008) pp. 1045-1062
  • “growth-fostering relationships” include empowerment, knowledge, self worth, connection, and zest, and can be improved by improving those virtues individually: C. Kauffman & J. Silberman “Finding and fostering the positive in relationships: Positive interventions in couples therapy” Journal of Clinical Psychology (2009) pp. 520-531

Notes and links

  • "Better Together"
  • Irish loneliness task force report
  • Someone built an app to make it easier for people to connect in their community
  • Is there really a loneliness epidemic? A dissent and some contrary data
  • The surprising power of our social networks
  • LW: Social Skills
  • J.F. Helliwell & R.D. Putnam “The social context of well-being” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (2004) pp. 1435-1446 (close relationships are the most important contextual determinant of wellbeing)
  • R. Nakhaie & R. Arnold “A four year (1996-2000) analysis of social capital and health status of Canadians: The difference that love makes” Social Science & Medicine (2010) pp. 1037-1044 (partnerships like marriage are most potent “social capital”)
  • D.G. Blanchflower & A.J. Oswald “Well-being over time in Britain and the USAJournal of Public Economics (2004) pp. 1359-1386 (well-being drops after separation, widowhood)
  • W.A. Arrindell & F. Luteijn “Similarity between intimate partners for personality traits as related to individual levels of satisfaction with life” Personality and Individual Differences (2000) pp. 627-637 (close bonds are also partnerships with functional benefits)
  • D. Umberson & J.K. Montez “Social relationships and health” Journal of Health and Social Behavior (2010) pp. 54-66

Mentioned elsewhere


Inspirational quotes

  • “Studying connection was a simple idea, but before I knew it, I had been hijacked by my research participants who, when asked to talk about their most important relationships and experiences of connection, kept telling me about heartbreak, betrayal, and shame — the fear of not being worthy of real connection…” ―Brené Brown (Brown also says that people who feel love and belonging are typically those who have a strong sense of self worth; willingness to be vulnerable — a form of courage? — is also key).
  • “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” —MLK, Jr.