During the 2016 Global Symposium on Overcoming Social Isolation and Deepening Social Connectedness, we had the opportunity to connect with many individuals including youth, Indigenous Elders, practitioners and other professionals who shared their insights, experiences and strategies in overcoming social isolation to accelerate a global movement of unity and inclusiveness within their communities.
We spoke to Weeda Mehran, a visiting scholar at McGill University’s Institute for the Study of International Development. She is currently looking at the successful recruitment of individuals to radicalized, violent movements through the lens of social connectedness. There is a scientifically proven correlation between socially isolated, depressed individuals and extremist leanings, and recruitment is often a result of psychological detachment. Weeda explains, “If social isolation is one of the factors that actually impacts recruitment or joining radicalizing movements, then of course you might expect that providing that social connectedness inside communities…that can be a buffer in order to prevent the youth from joining [such movements].”
For Weeda, fostering greater social connectedness is about self-awareness: we must all be mindful of the role we play in perpetuating social isolation and the responsibility we each have as humans to engage with others. “All of us, when we go online, when we go to pick up our coffee from the coffee shop everyday…we can have a small conversation with someone else, and connect with them through small talk. I think that’s the baby steps that each one of us can take in order to change the whole concept of space into a meaningful place to live.”
Weeda’s attendance at the Symposium has been immensely beneficial, not only to her ongoing research but also by providing new insights for living a socially connected life. “Hearing others’ experiences and also their perspectives will enrichen our solutions for the kind of social isolation problems that each one of us are facing, or studying, or struggling with.”
Watch the full interview with Weeda Mehran below. You can also access this interview and the others conducted by visiting the Social Connectedness YouTube Channel.