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Touching journalism

I confess I have a cynical view of journalists and journalism. On the occasions when I have been involved in news stories I felt the journalists produced factually flawed accounts that, for me, missed the essence of the story. This is hardly surprising, as in most cases the person producing the piece had little or no specialist knowledge of the subject. They were specialists in communication, not content. I was reminded of this recently, when listening to BBC radio. They announced the results of research called the 'Touch Test'. Amongst the headline 'findings' was that 'People who like interpersonal touch tend to have higher levels of well-being and lower levels of loneliness.' This was presented as proof that touch makes us happier.

Now, I'm not one to argue with the idea that wanted touch is nourishing. I suspect few counsellors would. My problem is with the way the journalists presented something which could easily read at least 2 ways. Is it not possible that people who have been brought up comfortable with touch and intimacy find it easier to live contented and emotionally fulfilled lives than many of those who have grown up wary of letting people in? Rather than 'they are happier because they enjoy touch', could the conclusion not as easily read 'they are happier and more open to intimacy, therefore they can enjoy touch'?

Not to be too boringly science-y here, but the problem seems to be that there are two major variables at play in this study; comfort with being touched and levels of well-being. It's not immediately clear which of these is dependent on the other. In concluding that well-being is the result of touch, the journalists seemed to imply that we would all be better off if we touched more. I instinctively agree, however, I don't think it's quite as simple as advising those who find touch difficult to increase their touchiness in order to feel better. In my experience there are many factors, many experiences and feelings, behind an individual's comfort with touch and I'm not sure that surveys that find out the screamingly obvious help those who may wish their lives were different.

There is a danger in making 'A causes B' statements when we are dealing with the thoughts and feelings of human beings. In this case, I suspect A impacts on B, which in turn impacts on A and so on. To add to this, none of us experience either A or B exactly the same way.

Sometimes the more we simplify, the more we create complications.




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