We live in a world where we can ‘virtually’ have anything. With a tap of a screen, you are instantly connected with anything or anyone in the world – food, clothing, love, travel, dates or sexual encounters. Yet as we continue to spend more time with our touch-screens, are we becoming touch-phobic?
Do you shoot out an icy glare when a stranger accidentally bumps into you? Do you cringe when someone seems to be edging into your personal space? Or do you go the other direction and believe that touch immediately indicates a sexual advance? When did a simple platonic touch on the arm, on the leg, on the back or a hug, become more than just a touch?
In a society where we spend more time touching our phone than any living being, there is a growing movement popularizing cuddling as a social activity, and it is challenging us to get over our anxieties about fulfilling our need for platonic touch. CuddleUp, an online portal connecting local cuddees with cuddlers, is encouraging members to shift their mindset about reaching out for a cuddle or snuggling with strangers. It may seem unusual at first, but with our independent lifestyles, many are lacking a real human connection. Facebook will never touch you back, you need another person for that.
“We need to question why we are more comfortable with the idea of using technology to arrange a casual sexual encounter, but think it’s offside to want to find someone to simply cuddle with,” says CuddleUp co-founder Francis Santos. “North America’s hook-up culture is driven by a need for closeness, much of which may be stemming from touch deprivation in the first place.”
It’s easy to immediately dismiss the concept as weird, but is it really? For those without a regular cuddle partner, CuddleUp provides a real opportunity to find uncommitted, platonic closeness on your own terms. Members come from all different walks of life, but it is not uncommon to find members who are going through a transitionary period in their life (living in a new city, losing a loved one), battling illness or disability, seniors who no longer have partners or limited family members to reach out to, and those who have had traumatic experiences associated to touch. To them a hug, a good squeeze or a pat on the back can make all the difference.
We’ve been socialized to believe that you only cuddle with those you are sleeping with, yet as a baby and throughout childhood you revelled in the closeness received from loved ones. Positive touch made you feel safe and secure. This continues to hold true as an adult. There are hundreds of studies that speak to the benefits of positive touch or cuddling, such as releasing oxytocin and dopamine, lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels, reducing stress and anxiety, boosting your immune system, and decreasing pain levels.
Cuddling is fast being accepted as a needed service, as demonstrated with regularly scheduled cuddle parties across North America and the first ever Cuddle Conference that was held earlier this year. In an over sexualized world, CuddleUp recognizes that we crave touch and hopes that the acceptance of this online portal can act as a catalyst for change.
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