As the heat of summer finally starts to relent upon us, I find myself taking my annual trip to Halsey, NE to teach for a dance camp. In actuality, this is a retreat to the woods, a reunion of old friends, and a moment to slow down and unplug. Every year, I'm reminded how beneficial taking time away is for my overall health and relationships.
As our society tries to connect more and more through screens and proxies, our brains still crave the human connection of face-to-face communication. In fact, the Journal of Neuroscience talked about research from Beijing Normal University that shows significant synchronization of partners' brains in face-to-face dialogue that is not otherwise found in other forms of communication.
We are able to share in the experience more when presented with opportunities to take in nonverbal cues (such as facial expressions) and have a give and take in the back and forth of a two-way conversation. Those social interactions help us feel more connected.
Moreover, face-to-face interactions have been shown to increase creativity and trust in groups. "...[T]he more team members directly interact with each other face-to-face, and the more they trust other team members, the more creative and of higher quality the result of their teamwork is" according to the Journal of Organizational Design and Engineering. 
In a time when the ease of texting and social media makes the illusion of connection seem effortless, I'm reminded of how hollow those forms of communication are while sitting around a picnic table with the other dance teachers laughing about past memories or tubing down the river linked together in a chain. I sense the communal creativity of working together to create cabin skits and interpretive dances.
I'm also reminded of the effort it takes to stop the flow of all my every day responsibilities to be at camp, but how thankful I feel moving amongst the forest, walking up sandhills, pulling inspiration from the sunset. Slowing down to listen to the wind, birds, others, and myself isn't always easy, but I find answers that I wouldn't otherwise find if I didn't take a moment to step out of my routine and unplug.
While retreating for a week may not be possible for most people, I do believe that making the effort to really connect face-to-face is something we are all capable of. To listen, share, and be present with each other takes resolve, but the relationships we nurture reap many rewards.
Encourage yourself to set aside small moments this summer to connect with others beyond the devices. Unplugging can help us reconnect to our strongest bonds. We have to look up from our screens and set down our devices to allow fulfilling connections to materialize and sustain us.
 The Journal of Neuroscience, 7 November 2012, 32(45): 16064-16069
 Int. J. of Organizational Design and Engineering 01/2012; 2(4):380 - 401
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