A lot of the hand-wringing over how isolated all the social media connection is making us is pretty overblown. In the world of pregnancy, birth, adoption and parenting, I think the ease of communication — and even the over-sharing — has made some of life’s drudgery more bearable and even more regularly pleasant.
The studies even bear this out. We get a little charge whenever someone retweets us, “like”s us, leaves a comment on something we wrote. Attention, turns out, is pretty nice.
But can it replace deeper relationships? Do more than validate us in the moment? Can Facebook trigger the pleasure centers of the brain that react to physical contact, a human hug? Some students at MIT are testing this out.
With an inflatable vest.
Atlantic blogger John Metcalfe explains the “Like-a-Hug” coat, which senses anytime the wearer gets a “like” on her Facebook wall. Here’s how the jacket’s inventor, Melissa Chow, likes to think of it:
Like-A-Hug is a wearable social media vest that allows for hugs to be given via Facebook, bringing us closer despite physical distance. The vest inflates when friends ‘Like’ a photo, video, or status update on the wearer’s wall, thereby allowing us to feel the warmth, encouragement, support, or love that we feel when we receive hugs. Hugs can also be sent back to the original sender by squeezing the vest and deflating it.
I like a hug as much as the next person, but intentionally avoid puffy clothing — I’d make an exception for inflatable vests on aircrafts but only in the event of a water landing.
Plus, some status updates are so clever, the likes just keep coming. I’m imagining some kind of reverse iron-lung appearance — puff out, puff in, out, in. Not every situation can tolerate that kind of action, and I’m imagining the excitement wearing thin on even the neediest of wearers.
Look, I don’t know where all this social connection is going and maybe the lines between the virtual and physical are starting to blur. But if you’re needing a jacket to show you affection, maybe it’s time to log off and go shake someone’s hand.
Here’s a video of the jacket in action.
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