A recent conversation about the challenges of meeting new friends as an adult prompted me to do some thinking – and reading, about connection. This does seem to be a topic on a lot of minds these days, and our own Coco noted in a great Thursday Thought (bit.ly/1Lmcsly) that despite technology and social media making it easier than ever to contact people in a myriad of ways… it’s becoming more difficult to actually connect in meaningful ways.
Building on this idea is Emily White, who documents her quest to find a sense of belonging after moving to a new city in her book Count Me In : How I Stepped Off the Sidelines, Created Connection, and Built a Fuller, Richer, More Lived-in Life. White makes a few key observations on the contributing factors to her own difficulty in finding connection with new people:
- North American cities offer fewer shared spaces (parks, libraries, community centres) for meeting and there is less participation in public groups (social clubs, churches, political groups etc.) that offer long-term affiliation with large groups of people than there were a couple of generations ago.
- We seem to rely increasingly on connection in private ways – limiting ourselves to a couple of key BFFs, or a romantic partner. And people are spending more and more time alone (online, watching Netflix – guilty!) than ever before.
- This decline in socialization can lead to isolation; and loneliness has well-documented, negative effects on health, so it’s worthwhile to figure out how to engage more and avoid slipping into a solitary funk.
Throughout the book, White tries a number of different ways to increase her “belongingness” like joining a community garden, volunteering with animals, yoga and attending church, but she struggles to find the right fit. And while I found the questions behind her search really relevant, the book itself became bogged down in too many details – so, confession: I ended up skimming the middle.
What I did take away from Count Me In, being an introvert myself, was that it’s a good idea for many of us to actively seek out broader types of connection and that the benefits of doing so are significant. A little extra effort may be required – but there are still many interesting ways to get involved locally and be more socially engaged. After finishing the book I’ve decided to try “counting myself in” by joining a running club (wish me luck!). A more adventurous friend of mine regularly joins new groups she finds through Meetup.com and random facebook events. Where do you go to connect with new people?