Recently, NPR had a great article on loneliness (NPR article). How is it possible that, with the multitude of ways we have to connect with others, we can feel so disconnected? How many of us aimlessly scroll through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat once, twice, even multiple times a day? I know I'm guilty.
Do you feel better after 30 minutes of mindless scrolling? I think for most of us, that's a no. As the article touches on, scrolling through social media doesn't involve any direct connection with others. Sure, we see what people ate and drank and their thoughts on the current headlines, but that's not enough to foster a true connection.
Connecting with others involves more meaningful conversation. Talking about your day, your struggles, frustrations, highs, and lows. That's truly getting to know someone and also allowing them to get to know you.
With so much of our lives involving being online, loneliness is bound to creep in. So let's talk about how you can feel less lonely in this technology driven world.
Limit your social media time if you're just scrolling. Give yourself 15-30 minutes and then move on to something else. Better yet, instead of just scrolling, maybe send an old friend you haven't seen in years a quick message to say hello or reach out to that distant cousin you used to be close with as a child to see how they're doing. As the article noted, social media is more beneficial when you are truly connecting with others.
Meet face to face. I truly believe that humans have a basic need to connect with others and feel a sense of acceptance. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and invite a friend to meet for coffee or invite a friend or two to happy hour at one of your favorite spots. Time with friends fills our souls thus decreasing our feelings of loneliness.
Get involved. What are you interested in? Research what's in your area. Perhaps a recreational sport league, an art class, dance class, knitting club, or start your own group. Start a weekly meetup with a couple friends or coworkers. If you are feeling lonely, chances are there's others in your circle who are struggling with the same feelings.
Don't isolate yourself. As humans, when we began to feel loneliness, sadness, or similar, we tend to draw inward and want to be by ourselves. Push back against these feelings and get out of your home. If nothing else, head to a local coffee shop to hang out for an hour. You'll likely feel better just being around others, even if you don't know anyone.
Take a look at how much time you're spending on social media. Does it leave you with a good feeling or do you find yourself feeling down? If it's the latter, try the steps above and let me know how it goes.
Maria Inoa, LCSW
Full Potential Counseling