Michelle Drouin, a behavioral scientist, explores love, belongingness, and fulfillment in a modern, “connected” world
Millions of people around the world are not getting the physical, emotional, and intellectual intimacy they crave. Through the wonders of modern technology, we are connecting with more people more often than ever before, but are these connections the kind for which we are longing? Add in a pandemic, and you have a recipe for loneliness.
In Out of Touch: How to Survive an Intimacy Famine, Professor of Psychology and behavioral scientist Michelle Drouin investigates what she calls our intimacy famine, exploring love, belongingness, and fulfillment and considering why relationships carried out on technological platforms may leave us starving for physical connection. Drouin puts it this way: When most of our interactions are through social media, we are taking tiny hits of dopamine (a reward chemical) rather than the huge shots of oxytocin (a love hormone) that an intimate in-person relationship would provide. “It’s a trade that leaves us wanting,” Drouin writes.
“With the proliferation of our omnipresent ‘screens,’ it is even more challenging to be attuned to our intimacy needs. Drouin does an amazing job weaving in psychology, technology, artificial intelligence, and even biochemistry to help us understand the role of intimacy in our lives,” writes Larry D. Rosen, Professor of Psychology at California State University and author of The Distracted Mind. “As an aid to our personal intimacy issues, she offers us straightforward ‘survival’ tips that are cogent and appealing.”
Her “survival tips” cover topics from raising children to having a happy marriage, to dating in a modern world and growing old happily. Among many other ideas, she suggests:
- Make a goal of having at least one hug per day that lasts for 20 seconds or more;
- Put in the effort to sustain friendships and relationships that are of value to you—but if there is no reciprocity, find new ones;
- Overcome your reluctance to connect with strangers in meaningful ways;
- Put your phone to good use by using it to connect with loved ones (like texting your friends while you wait in line for your coffee or calling your grandmother during your commute);
- Talk to or interact with a pet when you are lonely—and if you don’t own a pet, visit a shelter or take the neighbor’s dog for a walk.
Although Out of Touch offers tangible, applicable advice on how to feel more connected, Drouin argues that the aim of her work is a bit broader. The point of her book, she writes, is “to draw your attention to the myriad issues we are confronting as humans in modern society and really think about them, perhaps in ways you’ve never thought about them before.”
Out of Touch in the media:
- Drouin was interviewed on the BBC Science Focus Instant Genius podcast, and for the Science Focus magazine online and in print.
The science of intimacy, with Dr Michelle Drouin
Intimacy famine: Are smartphones really making us more lonely?
- An essay from the author—arguing that while robot companionship can't fully replace humans, they could help alleviate loneliness in senior homes—appeared in Salon.
Robots are coming for the elderly—and that's a good thing
- Drouin joined WSBT-TV’s “Hometown Living” to share her perspective on human connection.
Technologies creating bridges for human connection
- The Guardian US ran an excerpt from Out of Touch about how technology helps and hinders intimacy in our relationships.
The age of intimacy famine: when we interact with our phones rather than our loved ones
- The author participated in a Talk at Google discussing Out of Touch, intimacy, belongingness, and modern technology.
Michelle Drouin, Out of Touch: How to Survive an Intimacy Famine—Talks at Google
- WNYC’s podcast The Takeaway featured Drouin as a guest to speak about the book and her work.
Are we in an intimacy famine?
- The Daily Telegraph mentioned Out of Touch in a piece about loneliness and digital culture.
Our phones are coming between us—it’s time to call it a day
- Drouin wrote an essay for the MIT Press Reader and Popular Science, offering a key to “hacking time.”
Try this if you want healthier screen-use habits that will stick
- An interview with Drouin appeared in the Breaking Brave with Marilyn Barefoot podcast.
Psychology Professor & Research Scientist Dr. Michelle Drouin on abuse, domestic violence, mental health, social media and so much more
- “At a time when technology seems to provide endless connectivity, it also leaves us strangely isolated. Throughout this insightful and entertaining book, Drouin highlights the path forward and left me, personally, optimistic about the future.”
—Keith A. Grossman, President, TIME