For kids, making friends requires little to no effort. You’re at the same playground. FRIENDS. You’re in my class? WE’RE BEST FRIENDS NOW. As we get older, our social circles shrink, childhood friends move away to get married or have kids, and we find ourselves surrounded by hundreds of people but not close to any of them.
So how do we make friends as an adult?
First, let’s note that “friends” on social media are not the same as real-life friends that you can hug when you’re sad and laugh out loud with, face-to-face. We tend to find ourselves constantly “connected” with thousands of so-called friends, yet still feel overwhelmingly alone.
According to Psychology Today, rates of loneliness have doubled in the last fifty years. A recent study has found that individuals who spent more time on social media a day reported feeling MORE LONELY than those who spent less time on social media. An increase in social media usage has even shown a connection to sleep disturbance and distractibility.
So many of us carry smartphones. And though they are extremely helpful at times, at others they are the portal to an online world that isolates us from the real world around us. The ease of which we access social media or other life online may be causing us to connect more in the digital realm, but disconnect from the world around us.
If this sounds familiar, the first thing I recommend is to set a limit to your phone/social media usage. Yes, it can be uncomfortable to reach out to a real live person and schedule a time to get together. But it can also be SO rewarding when that friendship forms and you find yourself able to confide in someone and rely on them when you need support.
Trust me, I’m speaking this to you as much as I’m speaking this to myself! I make excuses for my phone usage: “but I’m using it to make money!” “I really need to get back to that email ASAP!” “I just want to look at a couple of these pictures!” None of these things are terrible on their own, but combined with the stress of work, lack of people around you that you connect with, and feeling like things in your world just aren’t going your way, this leads to feelings of anxiety, depression, and jealousy.
As a mother, I also don’t want my kids to ever look back and think, “I was never as important to her as her phone.” That’s heavy motivation to stop what I’m doing and invest in those right in front of me.
So, what now? Now that we’ve tried to focus on spending less time online, what do we do?
Make casual friendships. This might be hard for some of us who tend to invest in relationships right away. I’ve found that joining a group helps me with this. I joined a MOMS Club which provided scheduled playdates, normally at a public location, where I could chat with several ladies at a time. This takes the pressure off of having to carry an entire conversation yourself. Participating in a scheduled gathering also provides you with a start time and a designated end time. These get togethers are more low-key and casual, so they aren’t anything to stress out about.
You can pick and choose which ones you go to based on location, times – whatever makes you feel comfortable. AND, if you’re a parent, you can always use your child as an excuse to leave (#MomWin).
Lastly, try to connect with ALL KINDS of people. Before becoming a mom, I would tell you that I’m a bit introverted. I love to write, but not to talk to people. I get nervous, rewind everything I said and wish I didn’t say, and it makes me terrified to talk to strangers. After becoming a mom and bumping myself down to work part-time, I found that I was more interested in casual conversation with strangers than I ever was before! It gives me joy now to strike up a friendly conversation with someone in line at Lidl or to joke with someone at the playground. Maybe I’m desperate, or maybe I just started to crave the connection I had been without for so long.
Feeling lonely isn’t cured just by friendships. It’s cured by connection – with people, those around you, with people you might least expect.
That can be a 30 second connection, or a 30 minute connection. The choice is ultimately up to you!
I encourage you, find one person today to connect with. Then share your experience below!