In this day and age, when the people we love and care about most are only ever a FaceTime away, it can be easy to forget just how important it is to our happiness and wellbeing to be touched. Often, we overlook this; for many of us, physical touch is something that we take totally for granted, especially if we’re involved in intimate and romantic relationships. For a lot of people, however, physical touch is something that is received far less frequently than they need to feel happy and secure in the close interpersonal relationships that they have.
Increasingly, physical touch is a less and less frequent occurrence in many people’s lives, despite it being vital for a person’s emotional wellbeing. Without regular physical contact with the people that we’re close to, our mental health can begin to suffer. A lack of physical touch can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and isolation.
The human touch is vital, and yet millions of people all across the world don’t get enough of it. The saddest part is that it doesn’t need to be much, either – a simple gentle pat or touch on the shoulder or arm is enough for most people to feel socially included, and yet this is a less and less common occurrence today.
The reasons for the decrease in physical touch in the modern era are numerous and complicated. For one thing, the changing attitude of society as to what is and isn’t acceptable to do with regards to intruding on a person’s personal space, particularly in the case of strangers or people that you don’t know well, has resulted in many people feeling hesitant to touch others unless they have their express permission. While this is far from unreasonable to expect from people that aren’t well acquainted, this can spill over into the closer relationships of people’s lives, therefore having a knock-on effect that can affect various aspects of our interpersonal relationships.
The present dialogue around boundaries and consent is important, but for many people it’s doing far more harm than good. It’s gotten to the point where common sense and practicality is ignored because we’re afraid of overstepping the mark and being called out for it on social media. When we can’t show each other compassion, kindness, and caring in a physical way, we suffer because of it.
The internet is filled with stories of this nature. Teachers who are afraid to help children who have fallen because they don’t want to be accused of overstepping a line. Foster parents who are advised not to show their foster kids much physical affection. Strangers who feel awkward about going in for a handshake or a hug, basic human gestures of greeting, when they’re introduced to someone new.
We’re an extremely social species. We thrive off of interaction with each other, and even the most quiet and introverted among us can’t go long without it. The lack of physical touch that many of us experience is something of a crisis. In a world that seems to be getting crazier every day, we need more than ever to learn that it is okay to touch each other; we need to feel connected once more, to feel a genuine bond with our fellow humans.
We need to remember the importance of physical touch.