By Jenn La Lima
Are you in social solitude? If your social life has gone mostly digital, you might be.
Social media certainly helps us keep in touch, despite our busy lives. But on some level, many of us are in hiding. Don’t let these excuses keep you stuck in a life of increasing social solitude!
But... I don't have time to socialize face-to-face. Hey, I hear you. I keep very busy with work, and I spent years feeding my friendships with online oxygen. But relationships are less fulfilling when we use social media as our main source of social connection. "Use social media in service of your friendships, not in place of getting together," advises friendship expert Jan Yager, Ph.D., author of When Friendship Hurts. "Next time you're about to post something online, stop yourself. Choose one person who really cares about what’s going on in your life, and give that person a call or make a date." Simple pauses like this can keep us out of hiding -- and Yager insists that mindful social connection can create some real-life happiness.
But... social media makes dating much less threatening. Online, it’s pretty easy to monitor the way people perceive you. Post a photo. Write a quote. Share a meme. We use social media as a way to weed out the people who aren't like us, and hold up a green flag for the rest. But in doing so, we might be robbing ourselves of what’s truly attractive. "What’s truly attractive is joy," says Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness. "It’s attractive when you show that you are enjoying someone’s company. Positive energy is appealing and contagious -- but it doesn’t have nearly the same effect online as it does in person. Nobody looks to meet someone whose image is perfect. We want to meet people who seem happy and full of life!"
But... I’m more confident behind social media. If you're anxious or shy, start small by making smiling eye contact with a stranger once in a while. "If talking to new people makes you nervous, start saying hello to puppies or babies as you walk down the street," advises Lombardo. "When we feel insecure, we think everyone is scrutinizing us. Banish this negative self-chatter by mindfully listening to others, rather than getting lost in insecurities." Next, take "hello" a step further by volunteering. “You can always find like-minded people when you volunteer for a cause you care about,” says Lombardo. “Even if it’s just [for] a half-hour, get involved with something you’re passionate about, and you’ll have an automatic conversation starter.”
But... this is how I get information! My friend Kelly calls social media "The Highlight Reel" -- a narrow, controlled view of many, many lives. If you’ve found yourself lost in a newsfeed for an unknown number of minutes, then you’ve hidden. In hiding, we load our brains with lots of semi-important and completely unimportant information. We scroll through the updates, laugh, smile, eye-roll, judge and "like." "Make a commitment to getting out there [in the real world] more regularly," says Lombardo. "Try some deeper questioning. Ask others big questions about life to get a conversation going. A dinner club, a book club, physical activity -- these are fun and easy ways to get more fulfilling information from the people who enjoy your company."