Embracing Virtually: How Digital Interactions Mirror the Warmth of Real-World Hugs

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The term “digital hug” may initially appear paradoxical, given our often physically distant existence in the digital world. However, recent research published in Frontiers in Psychology on August 9, 2023, by a collaborative team from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) and University College Dublin suggests that the comforting feelings associated with hugs are not solely tied to their physical aspects.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers conducted online surveys in the UK, Japan, and Mexico to understand how people coped with social restrictions that limited physical interactions. They discovered that the quality of online interactions depended not only on technology but also on pre-interaction, during-interaction, and post-interaction factors.

To explore this further, they used the physical hug as an example, breaking down its components using the Mixed Reality Interaction Matrix (MRIM). Surprisingly, they found that nearly all components of a hug could be translated to the digital space and even amplified in some cases.

Good digital interactions, like in-person ones, require the right skills applied in the right context, generating meaning, connection, and care. These skills are termed “digital tact,” emphasizing the importance of considering the needs and norms of others in online interactions.

In a world increasingly reliant on digital interactions, this research underscores the significance of embodied social interactions. It provides a conceptual and practical toolkit for reimagining online social spaces, benefiting designers, educators, therapists, and society at large. Future research will explore digital tact in experimental contexts.

Digital tact alone may not solve all digital platform issues, but it’s a meaningful step towards improving online interactions and caring for those we engage with online.

 

Source NeuroScienceNews

Neurologica
Author: Neurologica