Forget Facebook, Abandon Instagram, Move To A Village
People who live in a traditional village — that means a community of about 150 people — are far better off than the rest of us.
Forget Facebook, Abandon Instagram, Move To A Village
By Diane Cole /

In the parts of the world that we cover in our blog, many people live in villages.

Villages have their problems, to be sure. There may not be a doctor or clinic nearby. Girls may not be able to go to school. Clean water might be a long walk away.

But a new book points out that village life has its advantages.

We asked psychologist Susan Pinker, author of The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier and Smarterto explain the benefits of living in a community of about 150 people, the average population of traditional villages throughout history around the world.

What is the village effect?

The village effect is a metaphor for the social contacts we all need as humans in order to thrive. These are the strong social ties that develop naturally in a village, where by necessity you cross paths with each other repeatedly every day. When you think of most villages, there is a central square, a public area where everyone converges or passes by going to the grocer or the post office or city hall or to sit at a cafe. And that is something we have less and less of today in our era of online connections. Commerce is moving online, everything is moving online, and these traditional village spaces are disappearing.

Why is 150 the ideal number for a village population?

One-hundred-fifty is the number that comes up time and again in the types of social interactions that work smoothly. We see it throughout history — whether we're talking about the number of people in traditional hunter-gatherer societies, Neolithic villages, an English country village or the number of Christmas cards we send out. These are people with whom you have strong enough ties that you could ask to borrow $10 until the next payday.

How do these 150 "village" ties compare to online ties?

Not all types of social ties are created equal. Oxford evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar posits 150 as the maximum number of meaningful relationships that the human brain can manage. We know from our own lives there are only so many people that you can invest in that way, that you can call and invite to dinner or check in on when sick.

The Village Effect

These are the types of social ties that develop naturally in a village, where by necessity you cross paths with each other repeatedly every day. When you think of most villages, there is a central square, a public area where everyone converges or passes by going to the grocer or the post office or city hall or sit at a cafe. And so these ties develop naturally through frequent in-person contact.

These are different from the weak contacts that you might have in your online social networks. You could walk by some of these online contacts on the street without even recognizing them. These weak contacts are great if you need a recommendation for a restaurant in a strange city, for instance, or [are] looking for a cleaning lady or other types of information. But in terms of social ties, it's the difference between your mother's lasagna or homemade chicken soup compared with fast food.

Why is the village effect so important?

If you have a cohesive community, you will have extra helping hands for the young and the old and everybody in between. The village effect impacts not only those who are vulnerable but it helps people feel they belong somewhere.

And if we know anything from all of the demographic studies in neurosciences, if you are lonely or isolated, it is almost a death sentence.

When you are getting together face to face, there are a lot of biological phenomena: Oxytocin and neurotransmitters get released, they reduce stress and allow us to trust others. Physical contact unleashes a whole chain of events that make us and make the other person feel good, and affects our health and well-being.

By contrast, according to research, we've never been lonelier as a society than we are now, and this can take a toll on our health.

Those of us who don't live in villages — are we out of luck?

You can create your own village effect. Get out of your car to talk to your neighbors. Talk in person to your colleagues instead of shooting them emails. Build in face-to-face contact with friends the way you would exercise. Look for schools where the emphasis is on teacher-student interaction, not on high-tech bells and whistles.

We need to recognize that digital connections should enhance but never replace the real-life connections. I don't think we all should throw out digital devices and move back to the village. I'm not romanticizing village life but using it as a metaphor as what is disappearing: deep social ties and the in-person contact we all need to survive.

4.5 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 13,764 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 10,831 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
25 Mind-Twisting Optical Illusion Paintings by Rob Gonsalves
Dovas · 6,636 views today · The beautiful and mind-bending illusions in Canadian artist Robert Gonsalves’ paintings have a fun way of twisting your perception and causing you to question what in his...
No Moral Superpower: Arundhati Roy, Edward Snowden, and the Crimes of Empire
Jake Johnson · 6,145 views today · When Arundhati Roy was preparing, in 2014, for a trip to Moscow to meet Edward Snowden, she was troubled by two things. One of them was the fact that the meeting was arranged...
Forget Shorter Showers: Why Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change (2015)
11 min · 5,243 views today · Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday; or that chopping...
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 3,752 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 3,170 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Men Loving Men
Bianca Vivion · 2,935 views today · When my father was seven he and his best friend Phil cut their index fingers open and placed them together to create a “blood pact” that they would always be brothers. To this...
The Empire Vs. The People - Police Attack and Arrest Peaceful Protestors at the Dakota Access Pipeline
6 min · 1,873 views today · On October 22, just before dawn, hundreds of people, including many families, gathered and prepared to march toward the Dakota Access pipeline construction site near Standing...
These Incredible Stories Remind Us of Our Better Selves
36 min · 1,807 views today · #WhoWeAre is a campaign to share the stories of people whose actions show us compassion and to send a message of empathy, hope and optimism. These videos will automatically...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,770 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
And After the Election, The Reaction
Ret Marut · 1,731 views today · Could there be any better illustration of the shortcomings of representative democracy than this year’s Presidential campaign? For months upon tiresome months, the whole world...
The Burden of the New Story
Adebayo Akomolafe · 1,637 views today · The 'new story' - that longed for milieu when all is right with the world and things are set straight - seems to be taking its sweet time coming. Why?
Writers Tom Hayden and Naomi Klein Talk About Journalism and Activism
27 min · 1,461 views today · Author, Activist and Former California State Senator Tom Hayden talks in depth with the author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein, about the state of the fourth...
'The Climate of Fear Is Unacceptable' - Ken Loach on I, Daniel Blake
6 min · 1,253 views today · Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or-winning film I, Daniel Blake tells the story of a man who is denied disability benefit after a heart attack and who is then subsequently caught in a...
Three Massive Mergers - Millions for One Bank and a Disaster for Food, Water, and Climate
Wenonah Hauter · 909 views today · In addition to advising on all three mega-mergers, Credit Suisse is playing a big role behind the scenes of the Dakota Access pipeline.
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 762 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 635 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Ode to Lesvos
5 min · 472 views today · An inspiring story of a few remarkable heroes on the Island of Lesvos who helped almost half a million refugees in 2015 has been documented in a new short film called Ode to...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 458 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Forget Facebook, Abandon Instagram, Move To A Village