The internet and modern technology supposedly offer countless ways to “connect” with strangers and potentially form some new social connections. Ironically, as technology and social media have continued to rapidly advance and become more widespread, people all over the world are reporting they feel more lonely and isolated.
Somehow, the internet appears to be driving people farther apart than ever before, both ideologically and socially. To be fair, however, it isn’t always easy to hit it off with a stranger or a new group of people. Social interactions are often intimidating, anxiety-inducing, and rarely go exactly how we see things playing out in our minds.
So, what’s a relatively surefire way to create some new social bonds? According to researchers from Aarhus University, the answer to that question is quite simple: music. Researchers found that music creates a unique social atmosphere that’s difficult to recreate via any other type of interaction or situation. More specifically, when two or more people are moving together in synced motion to music, social closeness inherently increases.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be dancing; a crowd swaying in unison together during a concert achieves the same effect.
“There is something sublime and affectionate in moving together with people in the crowd of a concert or a music club. Even just watching people synchronize their movements in dance or when making music together can give us a feeling of harmony and affiliation. A friend just left the following comment on the paper, ‘My best friends are those whom I met at dance parties and electronic music festivals around the globe,’” explains study author & postdoctoral researcher Jan Stupacher.
“The time spent together dancing and laughing creates such a strong bond and feeling of community. This is in line with our general conclusion: The unique context provided by music can strengthen social bonds that connect people with different backgrounds – especially if these people move together in time with the beat and enjoy the same music,” he continues.
For their research, the team at Aarhus University created an online video paradigm program that helped them observe the influence of music and synchronized movements on social bonds across various cultures and individual tastes. Interestingly, they noted across three separate experiments that it doesn’t matter if two or more people are familiar with a piece of music they are dancing or moving to. What does matter is if everyone is enjoying that music.
Now, if you come across someone who loves the same music, songs, and bands as you do, chances are you’ll probably end up becoming friends with that person anyway. But, when it comes to dancing or even just swaying or moving to music with other people, it doesn’t matter if one, two, or everyone involved has never heard that tune before, as long as everyone is enjoying themselves.
“The current study goes to the heart of why human beings are musical creatures in the first place. It shows that the reason why music connects us is that it combines bodily synchronization with positive emotions. It indicates that if there is an evolutionary advantage of music, it is probably due to its ability to synchronize our movements, emotions, and brains,” concludes Professor Peter Vuust, leader of the Center for Music in the Brain at Aarhus University.
It’s a bit harder these days to get outside and start dancing at clubs, bars, and concerts due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. On that note, these findings certainly shed some light on why so many people have found social distancing and lockdown measures so difficult to bear. Humans have always been clever, though, and many places have already started trying out ways to dance while maintaining a safe distance from others.
The full study can be found here, published in Scientific Reports.