Often times we pick up facts that appear useful or interesting and bring them back to our peeps for inspection. Invariably, when we shake a fact out of a gunny-sack and lay it on the table, they’ll gather ‘round and ask, What is it? Where did you find it? Pick it up, we urge. And turn by turn our peeps handle the fact like a shiny rock, hefting it in palm for its weight before passing it to the next, bandying it about with careful regard or callous disinterest. More often than not, the fact is consigned to the dustbin. But it might be pocketed for a rainy day, and sometimes even used.
What kinds of information do we carry to our peepdoms? Many kinds. Gossip, hearsay, handy tips, games, instructions, directions, news, jokes. Why do we do so? Because this sharing of information, whatever the content, contributes to our survival, delectation, and companionship.
You might think companionship the most trivial of these three. I urge you think again, it may well be fundamental to the other two. Cf. Cynthia Townley, our epistemic practices are deeply co-operative. Co-operation is underpinned by trust. Co-operation and trust depend on a modicum of collegiality, sufficient at a professional level for professional projects but found to the greatest degree in our closest relationships.
Consider some items I tote around in my gunny-sack.
“Data across 308,849 individuals, followed for an average of 7.5 years, indicate that individuals with adequate social relationships have a 50% greater likelihood of survival compared to those with poor or insufficient social relationships. The magnitude of this effect is comparable with quitting smoking and it exceeds many well-known risk factors for mortality (e.g., obesity, physical inactivity).”
“A number of studies indicate that social support is linked to better immune functioning and to immune-mediated inflammatory processes.”
“While the evidence is mixed it should be noted that most social support interventions evaluated in the literature thus far are based on support provided from strangers; in contrast, evidence provided in this meta-analysis is based almost entirely on naturally occurring social relationships. Moreover, our analyses suggest that received support is less predictive of mortality than social integration. Therefore, facilitating patient use of naturally occurring social relations and community-based interventions may be more successful than providing social support through hired personnel, except in cases in which patient social relations appear to be detrimental or absent.”
“Many decades ago high mortality rates were observed among infants in custodial care (i.e., orphanages), even when controlling for pre-existing health conditions and medical treatment. Lack of human contact predicted mortality. The medical profession was stunned to learn that infants would die without social interaction. This single finding, so simplistic in hindsight, was responsible for changes in practice and policy that markedly decreased mortality rates in custodial care settings. Contemporary medicine could similarly benefit from acknowledging the data: Social relationships influence the health outcomes of adults.”
” Social relationship–based [medical] interventions represent a major opportunity to enhance not only the quality of life but also survival.”
Holt-Lunstad, Julianne, Timothy B. Smith, and J. Bradley Layton. “Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review.” PLoS Med 7.7 (2010): e1000316.
“People in impoverished nations, with only modest control over whether their basic needs [e.g. food] are fulfilled, can nevertheless find a measure of well-being through social relationships and other psychological needs over which they have more control.” (364)
Tay, Louis, and Ed Diener. “Needs and subjective well-being around the world.” Journal of personality and social psychology 101.2 (2011): 354.
Companionship is the criterion of application that makes my peeps my peeps. Let’s put it this way. I’m not interested in who’s giving me the Christmas hamper, but rather who I’m sharing it with on Christmas day; i.e. not the distribution of hampers, but the distribution of the contents of a hamper. Pam Lindsay, 2019
“A lack of social support [for US Veterans] “has been found to be twice as reliable at predicting PTSD as the severity of the trauma itself.” (95)
Junger Sebastian. Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging. Harper Collins: 2016.
“An important function of social structure is to provide everyone with a personal community, a group of people on who one can rely for support and approval. The accumulated evidence of the social science suggests that the ability to withstand crisis and stress – to persist in the face of danger, loss, privation, or other adversity – is intimately associated with the strength and quality of personal community ties. When these ties are strong, supportive, and responsive to the individual’s physical and emotional needs, the capacity to withstand and overcome stress is heightened. When the personal community ties are weak or non-existent, or when they become inflexible and unresponsive to the individual’s needs, the capacity to cope with stress is weakened or minimized.
The concept of personal community is operationally useful for future studies of health and illness. If the individual’s security and integrative system is closely associated with the strength and quality of the personal community, it is clear that these personal communities should be a prime unit of study in future investigations. Unfortunately, past studies have generally assumed that people’s personal communities coincide with certain geographical limits, with such demographic categories as race, religion, and socio-economic status, or with such limited social circumscriptions as the family, neighbourhood, or peer group. These are unrealistic assumptions in modern urban societies, where people’s personal communities often transcend time and space and the traditional categories or groups that have been used in the study of human behaviour. Future studies should begin with empirically derived circumscriptions of the meaningful and significant persons in these subject’s social world, and attempt to relate the characteristics of these real personal communities to problems of prevention, etiology, and therapy.” (75 & 76)
Fritz, Charles E. “Disasters and mental health: Therapeutic principles drawn from disaster studies.” (1996).
Edith Hahn Beer, Shoah (Holocaust) survivor, writes of her life in immediately post-war Germany, “You will ask how we ate in those days, what we ate. I will tell you that it was like the English song: one got by with a little help from her friends.” (269)
Edith Hahn Beer with Susan Dworkin, The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust, Harper Collins Books: New York, 1999.