On Finding Love: Today’s world is more connected than ever before. With the rise of the internet and social media, you can connect with people from all over the world without leaving your home.
You would think that this connection would make us less lonely as a society, but the truth is:
Loneliness is a growing concern for society.
25% of Americans have no one that they feel close to.
72% of Americans report feeling lonely, with 30% feeling lonely at least once a week. In fact, loneliness is now considered to be an epidemic and a crisis for both physical and mental health.
Chronic disconnection can play a big part in feeling lonely. Chronic disconnection means failing to connect with others in a meaningful way.
When you are connected with someone, you energize and encourage each other. When the interaction is done you feel better. You have a sense of clarity and meaning about yourself, the other person, and the relationship. Your self-esteem improves as well.
When you are disconnected, however, it’s much the opposite. You feel lethargic or uncomfortable. There’s a sense of confusion about the relationship and what’s going on with it.
Many times this makes people push others even farther away in an attempt to protect themselves, resulting in even more disconnection. This disconnection can cause feelings of loneliness, depression, and low self-esteem.
It would be easy to blame our easy access to entertainment and social media for our sense of disconnection, but the real problem runs much deeper.
From a young age, we are taught that we should only depend on ourselves. We are supposed to be self-sufficient. Needing others is considered a sign of weakness.
We are rewarded for our individual accomplishments and shamed for needing anyone else. This can make us individualistic to the point where we find it difficult to connect with other people.
Loneliness: What is it Really?
It’s easy to assume that the loneliness a person experience is directly related to the number of people in their life. Those with fewer friends and those who live alone are expected to be lonelier than those who are married or have a vast social network.
However, the truth is, loneliness is subjective. It’s a feeling, like love or anger. Let’s use anger as an example. We all have different things that trigger feelings of anger.
For one person it may be being cut off in traffic, while for someone else it could be being insulted. We know and accept that different people are angered by different things.
Loneliness is much the same. What makes one person feel lonely can make someone else feel perfectly fulfilled.
It’s important to understand that different people have different needs for social interaction. This is a key component that is often overlooked.
When you consider romantic relationships, we all understand that some people have a higher need for affection, sex, and attention than others. When the two people have reasonably similar needs in these areas, the relationship is much more likely to be fulfilling to both parties.
It’s the same with social interaction. Some people are perfectly happy with a few close friends that they talk to occasionally, while others need lots of meaningful social contact.
Some people enjoy living alone and having their own space and time. For others, living alone is a lonely nightmare.
Loneliness isn’t about being alone. In fact, being alone generally has little to do with it. It’s lack of quality relationships.
The types of relationships that make us feel valued. That we belong. Having people that you can turn to in a time of crisis. A shoulder to cry on. Someone to pick you up when you are down.
The Social Media Paradox
Social media gets a lot of blame for today’s loneliness epidemic. Is the thing that’s supposed to connect us actually keeping us apart? The answer seems to be both yes and no.
Different studies have shown different results. The reason for this is:
We’ve been asking the wrong question.
Apparently, it’s not about if or even how much you use social media. It’s about how you use it.
When you use social media as a way to create and maintain meaningful connections with people, you feel less lonely.
According to Psychology Today:
Researchers agree that the benefits of connection are actually linked to your subjective sense of connection. In other words, if you feel connected to others on the inside, you reap the benefits thereof!
Online or offline, the most important aspect of your relationships is how they make you feel. If they make you feel heard, understood, and valued, they are good for your physical and emotional well being.
3 Social Media Pitfalls
There are three basic pitfalls when you are using social media. Falling into these traps makes it much more likely that social media use will increase your feelings of loneliness rather than decrease it.
1. Substituting Online Interaction For Physical
Nothing can replace physical human connection. Unfortunately, the amount of people we actually have close real life relationships with is dwindling at an alarming rate.
In 1985, the average person had three people that they felt they could confide in. 20 years later, it’s dropped to one.
Even more concerning, one in four people say they have no close personal friends.
Not having close real life relationships increases your risk of loneliness, and no amount of online connection can replace it.
According to Professor Brene Brown:
A deep sense of love and belonging is an irresistible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong.
One of the reasons that online communication can never replace real life relationships is our basic need for human touch.
In fact, touch has many affects on our brain on a conscious and unconscious level. Touch stimulates many areas of the brain, including the part of the brain responsible for learning new motor patterns.
More significantly, it affects our emotional responses. One study followed subjects who were told that the would receive a shock.
The subjects who had their hand held by a technician or a loved one had a reduced limbic system response. Put in simple terms, they were less stressed or upset by the thought of the shock.
Another study had subjects communicate their emotions to a blindfolded stranger, solely by using touch. They communicated eight emotions: anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, sympathy, happiness, and sadness.
The success rate was 78%.
To put this into perspective, the rate that can be defined as chance is only 25%. Clearly, we have an innate ability to communicate our emotions through touch alone.
2. Social Media Snacking
No, it doesn’t mean sharing your favorite snack recipes on Pinterest. Social media snacking is defined as reading everyone else’s social media, but not posting anything yourself.
This may temporarily make you feel like you are interacting with people, but it’s actually just like the empty calories from potato chips.
It won’t satisfy you for very long, and it isn’t really healthy.
Social media can be a tool for healthy social interaction. However, interaction implies that you are actually communicating instead of just reading everyone else’s posts.
Ever notice that people on television shows never use the bathroom? There’s a similar phenomenon with social media. No one wants to show you their toilet moments.
They will show you their vacation, but neglect to mention the fight they had with their wife on the trip. You’ll see their new car, but not their stress about paying the payment.
When we interact in person, we seem to talk about these things naturally. We are more gritty and real. Social media can show you a shiny picture perfect snapshot of someone’s life that’s actually far from reality.
When you start comparing your life to what you see on social media, you are bound to wind up feeling that you don’t measure up. Not many can live up to that picture perfect ideal.
Consider social media to be like the airbrushed photos you see on magazine covers. Sure, it’s a real person, but all the imperfections have been hidden.
Physical and Mental Impacts of Loneliness
You are probably aware that loneliness has impacts on your physical and mental health, but most of us aren’t aware of how severe those impacts can be.
Loneliness increases your risk of death by 26%.
That’s right. If you feel lonely on a regular basis, your chances of dying from all causes are an average of 26% higher.
However, it isn’t just the subjective feeling of loneliness that has a negative impact. Some studies have also found that those who are socially isolated, even if they aren’t lonely, run about the same risk of death.
We know that loneliness is a feeling. Have you ever felt completely alone in a crowd of people? Loneliness is all about lack of quality fulfilling relationships.
Social isolation, on the other hand, refers to being socially isolated from other people. This occurs often in the elderly, but it’s becoming more common for young people as well.
It could be due to feeling socially awkward or simply having a busy schedule. After all, our society values hard work and independence.
It puts little value on the most important thing of all, our relationships with each other.
Loneliness and social isolation are now thought to be a greater health risk factor than obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It has many affects on our physical bodies, some of which scientists are only now beginning to understand.
In lonely people who see the world as a threatening place, their immune systems choose to focus on bacteria rather than viral threats. Without the antiviral protection and the body’s antibodies produced against various ills, the result means a person has less ability to fight cancers and other illnesses. Those who are socially isolated suffer from higher all-cause mortality, and, infection and heart disease.
In addition to the physical affects, loneliness is also a risk factor for many mental illnesses, including everything from depression to schizophrenia.
Who Is the Most Lonely?
In the past, most research on loneliness has centered around the elderly. They were the loneliest demographic. They are at a high risk for social isolation due to many factors, including not being physically able to go out and socialize.
However, today, the elderly are not the most lonely. You may be surprised to know:
Millennials are the loneliest demographic today.
One study found that millennials were the loneliest, with 26% of them feeling lonely, followed by 24% of Gen Xers. This survey found the elderly to be the least lonely, with only 6% reporting feeling lonely.
A much larger study performed by Cigna used the UCLA’s loneliness scale to create their own index, making it a much more accurate representation than simply asking if someone feels lonely.
Surprisingly, they found that the loneliest demographic were 18-22 year olds. Before you blame social media for the loneliness of this group, you should know that there was no difference found in those who used social media a lot and those who barely used it at all.
Apparently, young people aren’t lonely because of social media.
The average loneliness score for Americans was 44, which is alarming in itself. However, the number for 18-22 year olds was 48. Compare that with 39 for those 72 and older, who have long been considered the most at risk for loneliness.
Another often overlooked demographic for loneliness are single parents. 20% of children born in the U.S. today are born out of wedlock.
Even more alarming, one in four children are being raised without a father.
80% of single parents are mothers. Single parents struggle very much with loneliness. You read a lot about the loneliness of single mothers, but single fathers seem to be at an even greater risk.
Single parents generally bear all of the responsibility for taking care of the household. This includes taking care of the financial responsibilities, the household duties, as well as caring for the child’s emotional needs.
This leaves little time for socializing, and single parents in particular can feel burnt out and too exhausted to reach out to anyone.
Single fathers are at a particularly high risk for premature death, and it’s believed that loneliness plays a large role.
In fact, single fathers are three times more likely to die than partnered fathers or single mothers.
According to author and scientist, Maria Chiu:
Single fathers are less likely to have relationships and connections within and between social networks that would work to enhance their health, productivity and well-being.
If loneliness is such a problem, then how do we solve it? Many people look to romantic relationships to combat loneliness, however, you are much more likely to attract or settle for the wrong person when you are lonely.
If you feel lonely, you should focus on building relationships with friends and family first.
Finding and Building Friendships
Since loneliness is a subjective feeling, the first thing you should do is figure out why you feel lonely. You should ask yourself these questions:
- Do I have any friends in my life?
- Have I opened up enough to the friends I already have?
- Am I comfortable being alone?
- Do I make friends easily but not keep them for long?
- Do I get bored with friends and push them away?
- Do I believe that I deserve good friends in my life?
If you don’t have friends, you’ll need to find some. If the problem is that you have friends but aren’t close with them, you need to open up to them more and do things with them.
If your problem is that you get bored or you don’t keep friends, you’ll need to find the underlying reason. Do you choose the wrong friends? Do you not have things in common with them?
5 Steps to Making New Friends
Wondering how to make new friends? Follow these steps to find new and meaningful friendships.
1. Get Rid of Bad Friendships
I know what you are thinking. If you are already and lonely and in need of friends, how will getting rid of the ones you have help?
It’s simple. Every relationship we have requires time, energy, and effort. These three things are limited resources. We only have so much of each. When we expend them on relationships that aren’t good for us, we take away from what we could give to relationships that are good for us.
Signs its time to end your friendship
- You feel worse instead of better after talking to them
- It’s always about them
- They are only there when they need you or want something
- The relationship is emotionally draining
Relationships of all kinds are a matter of give and take. If you are constantly giving and not getting, it’s probably time to move on. Everyone deserves friends that they can count on in life.
2. Be Interesting
When you are lonely, you may be tempted to spend all your free time at home on the couch watching Netflix. However, it’s easier to make new friends when you have interesting things to say.
Take up a new hobby, read a book, learn something new. Pursue a passion that you’ve given up because you didn’t have the time. This will boost your confidence and give you interesting things to talk about.
3. Join Something
Join a book club, a city sports league, an activity club, or a group centered around a hobby you enjoy. Find something that you are interested in, and join something related to it.
We all want to feel that we belong. Just knowing that you are part of a group can help ease your feelings of loneliness. It also gives you lots of opportunities to meet new friends with at least one common interest.
4. Reconnect With Old Friends
Social media sites like Facebook make connecting with people that you’ve lost touch with as simple as a search for their name.
Reconnect with some of the friends that you lost touch with because life got in the way. Find out how they are. Maybe you can rekindle the friendship, and maybe you are simply at different stages in your life and aren’t compatible anymore.
Regardless, a chance at a renewed friendship is certainly worth the effort of a Facebook message.
5. Find New Friends Online
There are online groups and chats for everything these days. Some of them will connect you with people with similar interests near you, and some will connect you to people all over the world.
Building close online friendships can certainly help ease your loneliness. It’s a great way to connect with people from different walks of life and even different cultures, as well as people that you have a lot in common with.
Just be sure that you are maintaining friendships with people in your daily life as well. Online friendships can be wonderful and supportive, but they are no substitute for a friend that will come over and give you a hug when you need one.
Friendships are wonderful, but we are designed with a need for romantic companionship as well. According to two psychologists and researchers, Baumeister and Leary,
Human beings are “naturally driven toward establishing and sustaining belonging.” Hence, “people should generally be at least as reluctant to break social bonds as they are eager to form them in the first place.” They further argue that in many cases, people are reluctant to dissolve even destructive relationships. The need to belong goes beyond the need for superficial social ties or sexual interactions; it is a need for meaningful, profound bonding.
Despite the Hollywood idea that hookups and freedom are the way to happiness, we have a need for romantic companionship.
There’s something special about having someone to come home to. To share the funny and sad moments of your day. To do things and build memories with.
The question for single people then becomes, how and where to find it? Particularly in today’s hookup culture, where love is often seen as an outdated notion.
7 Steps to Finding Love
Finding love in today’s world can seem overwhelming, so we’ll break it down into easy to follow steps.
Step 1. Be Ok With Being Single
That’s right, when finding love, you have to be comfortable with being single. Many times, people are afraid of being alone. This leads them to make bad relationship choices, settling for less than what they really want.
This will eventually lead to heartbreak. Being comfortable by yourself will help you attract a quality partner, because you will be seen as high value yourself.
This is one area where friends are invaluable. They can help fill the void and keep you from feeling lonely while you search for that special someone.
Step 2. Know What You Are Looking For and Offering
Before you start looking for something, you should be clear on what it is you are looking for. You should answer these questions before you even consider serious dating.
- What is important to you in a relationship? In a partner?
- What are your deal breakers?
- What are the things that you can’t live without in a relationship?
- What are your life priorities? Do you want children? Marriage?
- Are you willing and able to devote time and effort to a relationship?
Once you have an idea of what you are looking for, you should think about what you have to offer. This may seem silly, but it will help you see your own relationship value. It can also help you find someone who is looking for the things that you have to offer.
For example, if you are a very honest person, someone who values honesty highly can be a good fit. If you are very affectionate, you’ll want someone who enjoys lots of affection and attention.
Find someone who appreciates the things that you have to offer, and you greatly increase your chances of a successful relationship.
Step 3. Self Improvement
Self improvement can boost your confidence and pull you out of a rut. It can be learning something new, getting a new haircut, or starting a workout program. Do something that makes you feel good about yourself, and represents a fresh start for your life.
Step 4. Get Out There
Before the rise of online dating, it was said that you won’t find anyone sitting at home. Now you can conceivably find love without ever leaving your couch.
However, online dating should be a supplement, not a substitute for, meeting people in real life. Every day we have the opportunity to interact with many different people.
Go out with the intention of starting a conversation with someone. It doesn’t matter if you chat for two minutes and the conversation fizzles out. It’s experience. It’s practice. And it’s always a chance, an opportunity to make a meaningful connection.
Dress neatly and be well groomed. Go out to the park, your local coffee shop, anywhere you can strike up a conversation. The more you do this, the more comfortable you will become with talking to people.
This greatly increases your chances of finding love, simply by increasing the number of people you interact with. However, it also increases your confidence and conversational abilities, which will help immensely in finding love.
Step 5. Get Involved
Get involved in activities, clubs, volunteering, anything that allows you to meet people with a similar interest or passion. Classes can be great as well.
One of the best things about taking a class as a way to meet new people is that you are all on a level playing field. You are all learning something new, and this can help foster connections.
Doing an activity of any sort with someone is also a great way to bond. These types of activities can allow you to do something with someone you find interesting without the pressure of a date. This allows you to relax and get to know each other.
Step 6. Meet Through Friends
It’s easy to believe that everyone is meeting their partners online these days. However, it turns out that most people meet their significant other through friends.
One survey found that nearly 40% of people met their current partner through mutual friends, 20% met through work, and another 20% met through a social setting.
Online dating and social media came in at 15%, making it a viable option for finding love, but certainly not the only one.
The next time your friend offers to set you up on a date, take them up on it. They just might be the one. You can also throw a party or go out with friends and invite them to bring a few new people along.
This allows you to meet new people without feeling pressured to make a love connection.
Step 7. Go Online
Going online can be a great way to meet new people. One of the pluses of going online is that some of the most important information can be found in their profile.
It can save lots of time, allowing you to contact people who have similar interests and goals. You can also meet many people without expending the energy and resources required to meet people in everyday life, increasing your chances of finding love.
Finding Love and Friendship Online
We’ve talked about finding love and friendship in your everyday life, but you are probably wondering where to find them online. Below you’ll find websites and apps for finding love and friendship, with a short description.
Websites and Apps for Finding Friends
These apps will help you find new friends around the block or around the world.
Meetup is all about connecting you with groups of people with a similar interest. The purpose of meetup is to get you actually meeting people in your everyday life, so it’s easy to find groups near you.
You’ll find groups for nearly any interest imaginable. If you can’t find a group for the interest you are looking for, it’s easy to create your own.
Most groups have a set time and place that they meet, so join a group and come to the meetup.
Next Door allows you to connect with others in your local neighborhood. Users must verify their address and identity, so you know the people that you meet there are who they say they are.
It’s a great way to meet your neighbors, keep up with local news, and get local recommendations.However, there is a certain amount of drama as well. If your dog poops in someone’s yard, be prepared for the entire neighborhood to know.
While it’s not a dating app, one in three Americans find their partner within a 5 mile radius of their homes. This suggests that Next Door could be helpful in finding love as well.
Skout is one of the original friend making apps. You can find all types of relationships on Skout, but it’s geared toward making friends in your local area. It’s easy to browse people near you and send messages or friend requests.
You can post photos and status updates and see what others are up to as well. Skout is also great for traveling. If you are in a new place, you can still use Skout to find people nearby.
Meet My Dog
Meet My Dog is an app for connecting with other dog owners. If you are a dog lover, you understand the special connection you have with other dog owners. It’s easy to strike up a conversation based on your mutual love for animals, and brag about your four legged best friend.
According to a large online study that used the big five personality traits, there are actually measurable differences between dog and cat people. So if you are looking for someone with similar personality traits, you should look for another dog person.
You’ll create a profile for yourself and your dog. You can add status updates, photos, and of course connect with other dog owners. Set up a play date for your dog, and you just might find your new best friend or love interest.
Best Dating Apps and Websites
If you are finding love, you can find it with these dating sites and apps.
Ok Cupid is a free dating site and app that allows you to answer lots of questions about who you are and what you are looking for. It also allows you to specify the type of relationship you are looking for.
If you are looking for a relationship, it’s easy to filter your search so you only see others who are looking for one too. You’ll also be able to see how compatible you are based on the questions you answered.
The questions on Ok Cupid can be a bit time consuming, but the more you answer, the greater your chances of finding someone that you have things in common with.
POF is the world’s largest dating site. You’ll find lots of bathroom selfies and sexual innuendo, but if your willing to sift through the not so great profiles, you might find someone worth your time.
POF does have some features that make it worth your time, particularly if you want a free dating site. It has several tests that you can take.
These include chemistry, needs, and psychological assessments. There’s also a keeper test and a sex test. These tests aren’t a requirement of the site, but it can be helpful to take them.
They can actually offer you some insight into your own personality, and what you are looking for. Of course, you can also see other’s test results and see how you match up.
Coffee Meets Bagel
Coffee Meets Bagel is often seen as Tinder for those looking for a relationship. One of the best things about Coffee Meets Bagel is that its user base is largely female, so if you’re a man, your chances of finding love are increased.
The atmosphere is casual yet friendly instead of sexual, which may be one of the things that attract women to it. Instead of making you do all the work and browsing through hundreds of profiles, you get a few curated matches each day.
This makes it a great option for those who can be overwhelmed by online dating. It also increases the chances of you making a connection.
Instead of spending lots of time browsing profiles, you are encouraged to get to know your matches.
If you do prefer a larger selection, you are also provided with a group of “maybe” matches. These are limited to around 30.
Coffee Meets Bagel is easy to use, and should certainly be on your list if you are looking for a relationship and finding love.
Happn brings a little of the serendipity of real life to online dating. Signing up for Happn is simple, but you’ll have to link your Facebook account.
Instead of searching or getting your matches from an algorithm, Happn matches you with people that you physically cross paths with during the day. It also takes your interests into account, including your Spotify playlist.
If you’ve ever kicked yourself because you didn’t say hi to that beautiful girl as she walked by, you may get a second chance if you use Happn.
You have to like each other before you communicate, similar to Tinder. However, this saves lots of times because you aren’t messaging people who aren’t interested in you.
Match is arguably the best paid dating site. It allows you to search on your own and provides you with matches. What really makes Match stand out, however, is its matching algorithm.
There’s often a discrepancy between what we say we want and what we actually do. Match’s algorithm bases your matches on what you say you want, as well as your activity on the site.
This allows it to seamlessly provide you with better matches the longer you use the site. Many people find successful relationships on Match, with over 1/3 finding a relationship that lasted longer than 4 months on the site.
Finding love and friendship is essential to our physical and mental well being, yet its often low on our list of priorities. Spend some time working on your relationships, and you’ll live a happier healthier life.