What a paradox, right? Making a real connection with another human is one of the most difficult and complex acts to get right. And while we are the most connected generation of all time, more people struggle with depression and loneliness now more than ever before. In fact, some might say that being constantly connected via social media actually increases depression and loneliness.
I don’t know about you, but I find social media to be a drain on my brain – and yet…if it weren’t for social media, no one would even read this blog. Thank Heaven I only engage on a few sites (Never Have I Ever…had a Twitter, IG, Snapchat, TikTok, Vine….etc.) so I don’t feel so overwhelmed but I do, at times, realize that the phone barely rings at all and emails from friends and family are even rarer. But I digress.
What I’m thinking about today isn’t so much about my utter disdain for social media – it’s about how to take some simple steps to build real connections. And I’m also not considering ‘likes’ or ‘retweets’ to be anything near connection. I’m talking about connection. You have to actively make that happen. Yeah. I know, right? You have to do some work.
And, while it is simple, it isn’t easy (My 2020 Theme Song) – especially amidst ‘the Vid’ – but there are some simple ways to connect and I’m hoping you’ll grab one or two of these and try them.
- Set a time and place. So, I’m a quasi-leader of a faux book club. I say this because, first, I rarely have my shit together long enough to plan ahead and post questions so there is absolutely no leadership qualities at play here and two, rarely is anyone ‘on the same page’ (see what I did there?) meaning: some of us read the book, some of us “fake read” the book and some of us just outright do not read the book. Given this, I almost quit the faux-club last week thinking that it obviously wasn’t a priority for anyone (meaning, um, me) when my bestie points out that she “needs this. I need the connection”. (Given the fact that her husband is fighting brain cancer and we are in the middle of a global pandemic, I’d kinda agree that um, yeah, she needs the outlet). She knows that no matter what: I’m going to send out a Zoom link (even if only an hour prior), we are going to drink wine (er, whiskey) and we are virtually going to connect every other week on Tuesdays at 7 pm. (Since it’s virtual, you can join if you want to, too!)
- Make the effort. This is so hard for me. I put so much effort into everything else I do, that putting an effort into building connections is not a pastime I’m excited to embark upon. I have been bitching for years that I don’t go floating because I don’t know how to paddle my kayak/canoe. I was afraid. Yes. A.F.R.A.I.D. and I was waiting for some dude to teach me how. Turns out, that dude’s name was Justin. I, along with two of my girlfriends, signed up for a class at Lake Springfield last Friday, paid the man $30 each, and we got our own kayaks, paddles, and instruction on how to do this. I had to make the effort to herd the cats, but we got it done – us individually lonely girls. And it was fucking fun. But, if you find that you are the one always making the effort, then there needs to be a chat. Making the effort needs to go both ways. Building a pure and meaningful connection is a lot like sex. You can’t do it alone.
- Connect in the present. We all have a person in our life who lives in the past. They bring up how they almost won Star Search back in 1996 and how the band members were ‘so tight’ or how they fell madly in love in with some random person they didn’t even speak to ten years ago. But here’s the deal: Those pieces of our lives are over. Yes, the past may have been the catapult to the relationship today…but if one person is trying to grow and develop and the other person keeps bringing up the high school cheerleading competition, then the connection isn’t about what’s going on today. Have you ever been in a relationship where you feel like you can’t move on because you are stuck in a historical vortex? It’s impossible to feel connected in that scenario. And frankly, it’s boring.
- Connect to a Higher Purpose. I won’t get into all the details, but right after my divorce, things were really financially difficult. I had earned a great salary before that point, but due to circumstances of which I had little control over, I was struggling. Fast forward a few years and while I’m not near where I was before the big “D” I am doing okay and have a little leftover at the end of each month. I like to use that ‘little leftover’ to connect with others – in secret. It’s like when the cute guy in front of you at Starbucks pays for your coffee (this never happens to me, ever, but if it did…this point would be like that). I enjoy being the anonymous donor because I feel connected to something bigger than myself as if my measly little contribution to some single mom’s day is somehow like the Butterfly Effect in the Universe. And, it does come back to me, even though that’s not at all why I do it.
- Connect on a deeper level. I’m not a hyper-fan of Brene Brown, but I do like her stuff and I cannot stress enough the importance of being vulnerable. Although I’m not vulnerable with everyone in my circle – some just can’t be trusted out of the gate and others have proven that they enjoy using the vulnerability as a weapon – I still think it is important to connect with empathy and past experiences. I’m an INTJ so if I connect on a level like this with people I’m pretty much connected for life – unless they prove to be a douchebag. And oh boy. Do I know a lot of those. But, the point is…be vulnerable. Be okay with saying “I have struggled with my weight all my life. Want to go get dessert?” or “My boyfriend and I just broke up. Can you pick up some batteries for me at Walmart?” or, for reals, “My dad died ten years ago. I miss him every single day. I know what you are going through so would you like to just grab a cup of coffee?”
To wrap this up tonight (there’s whiskey in the freezer and reruns of Yellowstone to watch) I realized I’ve been embedding songs recently, so true to form, Imma gonna leave you with this ‘fun little song‘ by One Republic which actually got me thinking about this topic this week. I’m curious if you are feeling disconnected or if you plan to try any of these suggestions to make some changes in your life. How do you find a connection with others?