I enjoy what I do. I fundraise for a law school in Detroit, which means lots of face-to-face meetings with alumni one-on-one. I thrive in this job because something so fundamental about me desperately wants and needs one-on-one time with people. I enjoy deep conversations about family, loss, success, motivations, and personal meaning behind all of these things. I generally just love understanding the person in front of me.
This realization got me thinking about how face-to-face time and interaction is so fundamental in us all. It’s much more important than society leads us to believe. In the age of smartphones, we are more connected than ever. But, aren’t we more disconnected than ever, too? Can a text ever really replace the coffee visit?
In an article titled, “Millennials And The Loneliness Epidemic,” Neil Howe wrote that ” A recent Cigna survey revealed that nearly half of Americans always or sometimes feel alone (46%) or left out (47%). Fully 54% said they always or sometimes feel that no one knows them well. Loneliness isn’t just a U.S. phenomenon. In a nationwide survey released in October from the BBC, a third of Britons said that they often or very often feel lonely. “
Do any general search on loneliness and you will find some startling statistics. So, maybe it’s a cultural issue which we can’t change.
Some researchers think capitalism is the root cause of loneliness and mental health problems. Capitalism and Mental Health writer David Matthews pointed out that: “Modern monopoly-capitalist society continues to be characterized by an incompatibility between, on the one hand, capitalism’s ruthless pursuit of profit and, on the other, the essential needs of people. As a result, the conditions required for optimum mental health are violently undermined, with monopoly-capitalist society plagued by neuroses and more severe mental-health problems. ” However, this is from a socialist publication. I’m not convinced that loneliness and feeling disconnected is a capitalism problem. I believe it’s a human challenge we must all take action to ward against.
What I do agree with is this: our jobs prevent us from forming deep, long-sustained relationships outside the workplace. Perhaps, though, you can connect with others where you work.
We can also work on connection with others by making explicit goals of it. In an article titled, “Is Social Connection the Best Path to Happiness?” a study asked 1,200 Germans how satisfied they were and asked what they wanted to work on. The article found that, “Ultimately, people who wrote down at least one social strategy tended to follow through and spend more time socializing that year, and they (in turn) became more satisfied with their lives.” So, if you want to become more satisfied with life, focus on connecting with people!!
Technological advances are not going to solve the disconnection problem. I believe going back to the human need for face-to-face connection is.
Look at how well Alcoholic Anonymous meetings work. Why do they work? Because people get to know others who have the same problems they do face-to-face. They interact, talk, drink bad coffee, and share their struggles together. That’s so basic but our culture is going away from that. Not the coffee part – that’s seems to be improving. So, here are my five suggestions how to get out there and meet people face-to-face. You may find your overall well-being is improved if you do these things.
- Join a Group. It’s as simple as that. Try to find something you’re interested in. Maybe a historic preservation group, women’s professional development group, or even a bird-watching group. You’ll find like-minded people there.
- Join a Charitable organization and stick to it long-term. You may find a connection with not only the people volunteering but the people who need help. The needy are probably in need of human connection just as much as you are!
- Find a counselor or psychologist to talk to. As someone who has gone to therapy and was trained a psychotherapist, it can be very helpful. Therapists are naturally inclined for connection…that’s why they do the work that they do!
- Visit a friend or family member and get outside. There are so many positive things about being with nature while you talk to someone. Take a look at this list if you need more reason to go outside: 11 Scientific Benefits of Being Outdoors
- If all those are too time-consuming, try having an ad-hoc conversation at work. Sometimes, opening up to someone you see every day will ward the loneliness blues away. It’s amazing how similar we are in our need for belonging and connection.