After stocking up on food and other provisions at my local grocery store, I typically make my way to the self-checkout kiosk. I have my reasons: Usually the process feels faster and the lack of a cashier can be nice when I’m feeling more introverted (especially after I’ve received plenty of extroverted energy at Trader Joe’s).

For some Americans, though, interacting with a familiar cashier is a cherished part of their day. As my colleague Marisa Gerber reported this week, those kinds of human connections are becoming increasingly difficult to maintain, especially for those who grew up in an analog world.

Gerber cites a PlayUSA survey in which two-thirds of those surveyed said technology has made it harder to connect meaningfully with others. At the same time, “66% of respondents said they would choose a self-service kiosk over the human alternative,” she wrote.

. . .

At the same time, loneliness and isolation have become an American epidemic, as the U.S. surgeon general warned in an advisory earlier this year.

. . .

The advisory pointed to a declining trend in social networks and participation, which were “accelerated” by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to officials.

Older adults experience higher rates of social isolation, which “accounts for an estimated $6.7 billion in excess Medicare spending annually, largely due to increased hospital and nursing facility spending,” officials wrote.

But feelings of loneliness and isolation aren’t unique to that group alone, as the advisory explains:

“Studies find the highest prevalence for loneliness and isolation among people with poor physical or mental health, disabilities, financial insecurity, those who live alone, single parents, as well as younger and older populations. For example, while the highest rates of social isolation are found among older adults, young adults are almost twice as likely to report feeling lonely than those over 65.”

And that’s where the regular interactions we have in our communities come in. Toni Antonucci, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, told Gerber that “weak ties” — low-stakes, friendly relationships that come out of daily life — help maintain our well-being.

“It’s somebody who makes you feel important in their world,” she said. “Somebody who makes you feel human.”

Read the complete article in Los Angeles Times