Could community be biologically necessary? Is community an evolutionary imperative? These questions and more I immediately thought of when I read a report of a study titled The Pain of Exclusion in the Scientific American Mind in the January/February 2011 edition. The report was summarized in Delanceyplace, a brief daily email on interesting non-fiction mainly historic and occasionally scientific topics of interest
Starting with the opposite of community, exclusion, the article states that “ostracism - rejection, silence, exclusion - is one of the most powerful punishments that one person can inflict on another. Brain scans have shown that this rejection is actually experienced as physical pain, and that this pain is experienced whether those that reject us are close friends or family or total strangers, and whether the act is overt exclusion or merely looking away.”
This kind of reaction does have a function:” it warns us that something is wrong, that there exists a serious threat to our social and psychological well-being” and that “belonging to a group was a need - not a desire or preference - and, when thwarted, leads to psychological and physical illness.”
Ostracism may even be critical in an evolutionary sense. “Social exclusion interferes not only with reproductive success but also with survival. People who do not belong are not included in collaborations necessary to obtain and share food and also lack protection against enemies.”
Could it be that the need for community is built into our DNA? Is this the reason for the explosion of social networks, and the adoption of social media and “community” made possible by the Internet and Web 2.0 technologies? It’s technology-enabled, but it’s just human nature? What do you think?