Come as stranger, leave as friend

Despite being more connected than ever, evidence shows that we have never felt more isolated and alone. We have technology embedded in our everyday life that enables us to reach anyone, any-time from anywhere and yet 49% of UK’s population have suffered depression due to loneliness.

How is that possible? Shouldn’t we be happier? It seems that the technological advancement, mobile phones and social media are replacing real life interaction rather than enriching and complimenting them. But as humans we gain meaning, even fulfilment from such social encounters. According to the BBC “we need each other to survive in a very real way”.

We don’t just need each other to be happy and to survive but it has been proven that social relationships are crucial for our mental health. With Twitter, Instagram and Facebook coercing the public to portray the best version of their experiences, many people have become more concerned with fulfilling their on-line personas than fulfilling their lives.

But as the BBC says, “social activity stimulates your brain in a similar way to activities like reading and doing crosswords. Just like learning new skills or being physically active, it helps to develop connections between the nerve cells in different areas of the brain. And research also suggests that people who are lonely are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. When it comes to the brain, a rich and varied life is the key to long-term health.”

All these reasons have contributed to my decision to create Yumzee, a new way of social home dining. It connects people that love cooking with people that love good food in great company. The encounter of people that meet as strangers and leave as friends has proven to be invaluable. It seems easier and more relaxing for people to open up in the comfort of someone’s home, over the warmth of a home-made meal.

We know that when the connection we make with our Wi-Fi becomes more important than the connection we make with the people around us, our mental health suffers. People can often be intimidated or anxious about meeting new people: Yumzee takes a lot of this pressure away by connecting people through one of the homeliest and comforting things humans can experience; a great meal.

In 2014, the New York times published an article about the daily commute regarding an experiment about interacting with strangers. Unsurprisingly, the results showed that‘’when we talk to strangers, we stand to gain much more than the “me time” we might lose’’. Taking a chance to engage with someone you wouldn’t normally, leads to positive experiences. In addition, ‘’benefits of connecting with others also turn out to be contagious’’. You are not only benefiting your own well-being, but sending that positivity into the world around you.

I have hosted many meals myself and was always astonished by the quality of social interaction that strangers can have with each other. Sometimes, more intimate and personal than a circle of friends, who know each other over years. I remember being nervous before my first meal, wondering whether people would get along, whether my food was acceptable and whether I was going have to entertain them. None of these fears came true. From the comments I received, everyone enjoyed the new and social interaction. I saw all my first guests again, either at hosting themselves or in the home of another host.