Connection

An Open Letter To Anyone Who Feels Lonely on Facebook

Isolation is an epidemic.

The other night, after a particularly long social media binge, I felt the sudden onset of a hangover. While it may not have started in wine or ended in a headache, the similar anxious, listless, comfortless quality was palpably present. It was a classic emotional hangover. The irony, of course, was that it came from an outlet designed to foster connection from the comfort of my couch.

The truth is that social media has grown far beyond friendships and is now a tool used to sell teeth-whiteners, compare ourselves to our exes, and fake a fantasy life.  As Facebook continues to exacerbate our need for authentic connection, our social skills continue to degenerate.

Sure, we can interact. But, can we connect?

If you’d rather text than talk, order food online over using a phone, or scroll through Instagram pics rather than seeing friends in person, then this post is for you.

Social connection impacts our emotional and physical health. According to former U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, isolation and loneliness can create chronic stress, similar to factors such as illness, poverty, discrimination, and violence. It’s a growing epidemic: In the 1980s, 20% of adult Americans said they were lonely. Today, the percentage has doubled to 40%.

The good news is that you don’t have to swear off social media to create more connection. Here are:

7 steps to build better relationships:

1) Upgrade your connection.

No, I’m not talking about your internet speed. Instead of texting, talk on the phone. Meet friends and colleagues in person. Even Facetime and Skype can build better bonds. Feeling short on time? Remember, just because something is efficient, doesn’t make it better. Communication on each medium varies. So, avoid the misunderstandings and deepen your relationships by upgrading how you communicate.

2) Accept the friend request.

Often, we place people in categories without giving them a real chance. Deepen your current connections by:

  • Trying something new (e.g. going for a hike instead of a drink)
  • Sharing how you feel (e.g. being vulnerable and honest)
  • Working on it rather than dismissing it (e.g. being courageous enough to troubleshoot problems rather than ghosting) 

3) Who dis?

Define what you want in a friend down to every last detail. Want a bestie who does yoga, yoda impressions, and yodels with her yorkie? Weird, but cool. You have to know what you want to know if you have it and where to find it.

4) Expand your circle with friends, not followers.

The best way to meet people with similar interests is by exploring your own. Upgrade your activities by rekindling an old hobby or starting a new one. If you want to meet the right people, you need to be your best self. That means less time doing what isn’t working and more time doing things that speak to your passions and values.

5) Disconnect.

I can’t tell you how many times I go to a restaurant and see people ignoring each other and staring at their phones (even when they're on a date!) Unless there’s a life-threatening emergency, let the other person know you actually want to be there by silencing your phone and putting it away.

6) Can you hear me now?

So often we listen to respond rather than to hear. Instead of secretly planning your response, let their words sink in. Your undivided attention is the greatest gift you can give someone and the key to understanding and empathy.

    7) Still loading.

    Loneliness is normal. Even with strong relationships, this natural human emotion is bound to surface. Our feelings of isolation took time to develop, so don’t expect overnight results. Be patient with yourself and others, focusing on the steps you’re taking instead of how far you have to go.

    The Takeaway:

    Whether you’re surrounded by people or alone on your couch, isolation is a growing issue. Don’t let the number of Facebook friends or followers define you, your relationships, or your time. In any moment, you can take simple steps to feel less lonely and create more connection.

    How to Reconnect With Yourself

    Every now and then, I feel a little trapped.

    Not by people, not by places, and not by things.

    When I catch myself with this feeling, I start to question it. “What changed to make me feel this way?”

    Nothing in the outside world looks different. 
    No massive event.
    No huge transition I can’t handle.

    But I feel a little stuck.
    A little unhappy.
    And a little confused. 

    I look around and recognize that I have everything I need. And despite feeling grateful, I think “What gives? Why do I feel this way?"

    After a few cycles of doing this and a healthy dose of obsessive self-analysis, I noticed that in moments where I feel mysteriously off for no good reason, I’ve unplugged.

    I’ve disconnected from myself and started going on autopilot.

    I’ve prioritized doing all the things that “need to get done” and skimped on the things that connect me to myself.

    Suddenly, my must-haves (healthy foods, adequate sleep, movement & meditation) have become nice-to-haves.
    And, not so surprisingly, nice-to-haves become don’t-haves pretty freakin’ fast.

    I can come up with a dozen or so ways to add that back in, become more accountable to myself, and feel like the real me again. If you’ve been following the Blog for a while, you know that I’ve already written about that:

    Despite all that, I've never written about the first and most important step to reconnecting with yourself. Let's use my inner crazy as an example, shall we? As a coach, I’m great at coming up with creative strategies. As a normal human being, there are times I get stuck in judgment or can’t get out of my own head.

    I start to wonder, “what if I can’t connect to myself again? Will I always feel like this?”

    “What if this spirals into what those pedantic spiritual gurus call ‘being asleep?’”

    I’d like to consider this thought pattern adorably neurotic, but in reality, it’s just annoyingly neurotic. I overthink it until I imagine that I’m so far gone that I’ll need a massive shift involving a shaman, a cave made of crystals, and a week without wifi.

    I think that I need some sort of overhaul or cleanse to fix me.

    And that exact thinking is why I’m off in the first place. Because I forget that I’m not broken. I can access my intuition, higher self, and inner awesome whenever I want.

    How?

    It doesn’t require candles, crystals, or a third thing that begins with a “c” that I can’t think of.

    All it takes is willingness.

    You’re probably rolling your eyes right now. I don’t blame you. It seems too simple, too stupid, and too “spiritual” to create real change. Humor me on this one and:

    Imagine if you had the willingness to see your situation differently.

    Imagine if you were willing to reconnect simply as is.

    What would that feel like in your body? 

    There, you did it.

    Sometimes all you need is the willingness to reconnect.

    So here’s my challenge to you:

    Before you sign up for some uber-expensive meditation retreat. Simply state the following “I am willing to see this differently. I am willing to connect to myself.”

    Then, stand back and watch the miracles flow in.

    What do you do to reconnect with yourself?
    Share your tips in the Comments Section below!