Social Connectedness and Belonging

Social Connectedness by Geralt/AdobeSpark

In the Social Connectedness and Belonging Project, we aim to carry out empirical, historical, philosophical, and theological research and scholarship on how strong social connections affect human flourishing. We aim to better understand and promote the character traits (benevolence, gratitude, forgiveness, etc.) that lead to stronger social connections for human flourishing. We will also seek to connect this research to public audiences through symposia, a documentary film, and public commentary in popular media outlets. This initiative will aim to understand why friendship and community participation are declining in multiple societies. We also aim to explore new ways to measure social relationships, provide a new etiology of the so-called “loneliness epidemic,” and understand the social determinants (cultural, economic and technological, etc.) of declining social connectedness. Drawing on analytic, descriptive, and practical discourses, we aim to think about what loneliness is, identify its causes, and support practitioners and policymakers in finding solutions. Close social relationships may in some cases affect life evaluations even more than economic or health conditions, yet prominent policy frameworks and indices for social progress omit social connectedness from their political goals or merely instrumentalize social connections for purely material ends; some policies may even weaken social connections. We aim to explore why these disconnects and omissions are happening and how to bridge these gaps in understanding in the policymaking process.