For thousands of years no human being could survive on their own without a community. We relied on others for food, shelter and support and they relied on us.
However, now with urbanisation, city living, digital lives and loss of community all of a sudden we aren’t reliant on others for our survival.
Moreover, the western culture promotes an individualistic society. It’s perceived that independence and individual goals are what makes you strong.
Conversely, if we need to talk things over or need help from someone it’s seen as weakness.
Striving for some independence and individual goals is great.
But the disconnection between how we’ve evolved to live in communities and the modern individualistic social norms is contributing to a loneliness epidemic that few of us are even really aware of.
The dilemma of loneliness
It seems silly in this society to feel lonely because people aren’t hard to find.
Most of us live in cities with millions of people. We have technology to connect with anyone whenever we want to.
However, digital connection is not the same. In fact, it’s often anti-social.
And there is a difference between loneliness and being alone.
You can be lonely even when surrounded by other people. Especially in an individualistic society where many people’s values are more individualistic. As the great late Robin Williams reportedly said,
I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone.
So we need human connection, but it seems increasingly difficult to find meaningful connection in modern society.
So what’s the solution?
How to build human connection in a lonely society
- Like your own company first
The best relationship you’ll ever have is with yourself.
Once you become more self aware and accept yourself you will find it easier to connect with other like minded people.
You will also be more content when you are alone – so you can be alone but not lonely.
Liking your own company comes down to emotional intelligence – being self aware and having empathy for yourself and the world around you.
Things like journaling and meditation will help you become aware of your thoughts and emotions to become self aware.
- Find groups with similar interests
Once you have some self awareness, you can make a list of what your values are and what you enjoy.
Then you can go out into the real world and find others who share your values and interests;
- Go to an exercise class
- Find local events on meetup or gumtree
- Attend networking events
- Join a sports league
- Attend community events
Yes, you have to put in the work to find these groups of people which can cause temporary anxiety.
But know that most of them have put in the same work and feel as anxious as you.
We are usually concerned what others think of us whilst they are simultaneously concerned with what we think of them.
- Make it a priority to reconnect
Once you have found a like minded group, nurturing friendships from those you meet is really important.
Connection doesn’t happen straight away. It takes multiple shared experiences to feel connected to someone.
Unfortunately in a quick fix society we think if we don’t hit it off with someone straight away it never will.
So making it a priority is important. This is the key to make your meetups a habit and a priority as opposed to something you only do if you have free time.
Just because it’s fun or it’s your hobby doesn’t mean it isn’t a priority. Human connection is not an optional extra if you want a healthy and fulfilling life.
Make human connection a priority
Humans evolved to live in communities where they had a support system.
But in an individualistic, disconnected society it’s no wonder that our mismatched lifestyles have resulted in depression, anxiety and deteriorating physical health.
And whilst there is a difference between being alone and loneliness, human connection is essential and is often undervalued when it comes to our health.
The good news is there is a solution and we can make it a priority.