Lately, it seems, there has been a strange trend. Rather than going to friends’ houses for dinner parties, going to the restaurant with another couple, or grabbing coffee with a good buddy, people are sitting behind their computers and socializing virtually. While social media has really opened up a lot of venues for keeping in touch with friends from college and high school, I can’t help but wonder if it’s hurting our communities.
Let’s step back for a moment. It’s possible, I believe, to be around someone else often and yet feel lonely. Looking back in time, people have typically known their neighbors, hosted small holiday parties, gone to movies in groups, and had people over for dinner on a regular basis. Coworkers would actually go out together for a few drinks after work – or they’d get together to watch a game on tv.
What do you do when you work from home and your closest friends live hours away?
You step away from the computer. You get involved with your community. You take chances on new people.
Humans, as a group, tend to have a certain comfort level. We like routine, we like stability, and habits are hard to break. However, if we don’t step out of our comfort level, we wind up spending yet another Saturday night, with our spouse, on the couch watching reruns of 90s TV shows on Netflix. While there’s nothing wrong with this – I quite enjoy watching a marathon of Frasier episodes with Wining Husband – it can get kind of lonely, even if the person holding your hand is your best friend.
I know the names of more people who live across the country from me than the names of my neighbors. I know their kids’ names, I know what they did last night. I honestly could not tell you what the names of our neighbors’ kids are, and I have met all of 3 of them. We’ve been living here since February. Part of that is their fault, and part of it is our fault. As renters we just haven’t made a whole heck of a lot of effort to get to know the people sharing the cul de sac with us.
I’m more likely to sit on Facebook chat and post quotes from the most recent episode of Big Bang Theory with my best friend from junior high school than I am to have said neighbors over for a cup of coffee – much less a glass of wine – and I think the reason boils down to that whole comfort thing.
It also boils down to being busy. With Wining Husband racing toward tenure review next year, Tiger Boy running around between school, friends, youth group, and play rehearsals, and running my own business, sometimes it’s nice to just sit in front of the TV, turn the brain off, and disengage. But doing that on a regular basis is leading to a creeping feeling of loneliness.
It’s not just when you get married. Before I got married, I spent many times going long stretches without hearing another adult human voice – sure there were the corner store guys and the people working at the grocery co-op, but as far as meaningful interactions, they were few and far between – until I met Wining Husband. Instead, I’d sit on my computer, typing away to friends about what was going on with them, miles away.
Sure, social media and telephone convenience can’t entirely be blamed, but they haven’t helped our flat world either. There are many great things about the Internet. But there’s a beauty in knowing your neighbors as well.
What do you do to meet new people when you’re an adult? How do you make couple friends? Please share your thoughts in the comments section! We need tips!