Why IRL friendships are good for you in the digital age

Step away from your screen and pick up the phone – research shows nothing beats real-life friendships to feel truly loved.

The digital age has made it easier to connect with people near and far, with many of sharing our daily lives with hundreds of ‘friends’ online.

But a good old-fashioned chinwag with someone you consider a bestie is still the most powerful way to truly connect with someone and help you feel genuinely happy, says “happiness expert” Dr Darren Morton.

“When happiness science researchers look at the top 10 per cent of happy people, one of the things that always emerges is they have good social connectedness,” Dr Morton says.

Why it’s good to have real-life friends

A study by Oregon Health and Science University found adults who had regular face-to-face interactions experienced unsurpassed mental health benefits.

While strong social bonds have long been associated with improved mental health, the study looked specifically at the type of communication.

And they found phone calls and digital communication did not have the same power as face-to-face contact.


Benefits of friendship

“With social media, we think we’ve never been more connected, we’ve got x-number of friends, but what we know is it just doesn’t cut it,” says Dr Morton.

“We’re actually wired to connect. The people you are most connected to are those you feel for and with. That only happens in a face-to-face space. To be our best we need to be connected.”

The findings also indicated the benefits of in-person socialising lasted – even years later.

But digital friendships can be good for you too

All this is not to say should shut down your social media accounts, disconnect your phone and huddle into a closed-off community with your nearest and dearest.

There are benefits to modern forms of communication, including helping people maintain social connections that otherwise may not have been possible, accessing information, and boosting self-confidence and social skills, according to a review by the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre.

Live More Happy by Dr Darren Morton, published by Signs Publishing, RRP: $24.95

Written by Claire Burke