I saw someone post about being jealous of the characters on Sex and The City for having a close group of friends, it had well over 500 likes, under it were a lot of comments and jokes about being lonely. I see posts like this often, I hear comments about it in person too. People talk about how isolated they feel all the time. They talk about the fear of losing deep and meaningful connections and settling for quick chats. There’s been articles published about the loneliness ‘epidemic’ sweeping across the western world, and debates on if social media makes it worse or better.
I understand it, not because I would define myself as lonely, but because I can see the type of connections I used to have verses the types of connections I have now. My boyfriend excluded, I don’t have a best friend, I haven’t had one since I was in high school. I have friends, and I love them all dearly, but I don’t have one that I rush to talk about almost everything, and I certainly don’t have one that I talk to everyday. Maybe this is part of growing up, maybe we’re meant to trade some of these connections in for ones of a different kind. After all, we get busy, we’re working, we get in romantic relationships, we might just not have the time or energy to be buddies like we were in grade school. I honestly believe this is true, but I also believe that there is more going on here than just that.
I think that as a whole our society is becoming more isolated. I believe that as with most everything, most of this is our own doing. Sure it’s hard to meet people, but I think the real problem is that once we meet people we never get close to them. So how do we change that? How do we move on to being more social?
- Change your idea of social events: It’s becoming more common to be an introvert than an extrovert and I’m not surprised. We’ve made all social gatherings a production. It’s parties and concerts and shopping, but it doesn’t have to be that way all the time. It can also be two people sitting on the couch catching up or making cookies at home. Social events don’t have to be energy draining, and when they aren’t, we tend to make more room for them because they aren’t taking up our down time but rather adding to it.
- Check in, and do so often: A small “hey how are you doing” text goes a long way, a text asking how a big meeting went goes even farther. People used to chat on the phone all the time, before that they did it in person. I don’t think we need to always do it like that, but we need to stop pretending that checking someone’s social media feed is the same thing as checking in.
- Try to have one or two social events planned every week: Again, you get to define a social event. Whether it’s dinner or skyping with someone from the comfort of your home, make sure to pencil it in your planner. Spontaneous get togethers don’t seem to happen like they did in high school and college, they take effort, but the people you love deserve it, and you deserve it.
- Realize that friendship can bloom in all sorts of unexpected places with all sort of unexpected people: Don’t limit yourself to people you get friend crushes on (it’s a real thing- knowing someone who you want to be closer to but aren’t quite sure how to get there). A lot of people walk through your life, and while they might not be your ‘type’ most of them would end up being great friends if you let them. Invite them to lunch or a coffee, don’t let all these wonderful people just walk on by because on the surface you might not have to much in common. We all end up having much more in common than we expect, a lot of that happens just by living on the same planet with a set of the same emotions.
- Get into the right kind of conversations: Sometimes when I get together with a friend it’s just chit-chat, there’s nothing wrong with simply catching up, in fact it’s needed, but make sure all your conversations aren’t ending there. Has something been on the back of your mind? Bring it up. Confiding in people is one of the most important steps in creating deeper and more meaningful friendships. Also letting someone in leads to getting good advice, viewing things from a different perspective, and feeling less alone.
Humans are pack animals, no amount of evolution is going to change that. We require other people to survive, but we also require them to thrive. It’s why loneliness leads to depression and can change our physical health. Take care of yourself and go talk to someone.