There is a common complaint amongst 20 and 30 something moms in my circles. “How do I make friends?” They ask. “How do you meet and connect with people now that we’re no longer in high school / college?” Many of us (and probably not just moms) feel a lack of connection, companionship, and intimacy in our lives. The online interest groups we join to discuss our hobbies are a poor replacement for actual community with real, human interaction. We know this, and yet we feel utterly ignorant to what we can do about it. We have no idea how to meet and interact with real people in real life. I have a few ideas though.
First off, I think online communities do more harm than good on that front. They trick our brains into thinking we’re having interaction, but we aren’t. It’s a shallow replacement, but it’s enough to get us out fix so we don’t feel compelled to go out looking for more, even if we really want more. It’s a good enough for now solution to our loneliness. So I’d recommend cutting back on that and start doing things in real life. What kind of things? Well, you could go to your local library, park, rec center, museum, etc. You could join a club on Meetup.com, or take a class, or join a local community society like the Masons or the Elks or the Rotary Club. There’s all kinds of options out there. Then there are more meaningful, active options, like volunteering and getting involved in activism. If you were to devote a few hours a week to something that you are passionate about, you would be sure to meet other people who share interests with you, and even if your new BFF isn’t there right away, you are still using your time productively and contributing to society in meaningful ways, so you can feel good about how you are spending your time. You can even put that time on your resume, and hey, you might inspire others to get involved to, increasing the amount of people you meet, and increasing the amount of good that is done in this world. The difference between these kinds of activities and the Internet is that they put you in the middle of a face to face community again, much like school. Yes, you are forced to put on pants and a bra (if bras are a thing you do) to do your social interacting, and I totally understand how that can be unappealing, but that’s part of how it works. You were forced to get dressed and put effort in to go to school as well. Effort is the primary difference. I know we are all very busy, but not one of us is so busy that we’re entitled to friends while we sit on the couch in our pjs. Relationships require effort. They require you getting up and out of your comfort zone. If you are expecting that of your friend, you need to do it yourself as well. Otherwise we end up like the people in WallE. Hell, part of the reason we probably aren’t friends with our high school and college friends anymore is because we stopped putting in effort at real interaction.
Now, I know that a lot of the time you show up to those things and there’s no one your age and there may be only a few people there. But if more people started utilizing these means of connection more often, and stopped using the crutch of Facebook, that would change. But that’s also why I feel so strongly that if you are looking to get out of your house, interact with others who share your interests, and maybe make a few friends in the process, volunteering and activism are your best possible options. Not that joining a club or going to events aren’t good, they’re great, but it’s easy to write them off as a waste of time if you don’t immediately make a new friend there because you aren’t actually doing anything. Unless it’s entirely entertaining on it’s own, there’s not a lot of incentive to keep going if there aren’t people you love there the first few times. Activism and volunteering, on the other hand, leave you feeling as if you are doing something important. Even if you don’t make a new best friend, you end up feeling good about the time you spent. Furthermore, you are building skills that are useful in home, career, and community life.
I think a lot of people my age shy away from activism and volunteering because they don’t think it has anything to offer them. While that attitude misses the point of altruistic acts entirely, it also is completely untrue. These are activities where you are likely to meet other people who share the same interests as you, develop skills like leadership, fundraising, etc., make job connections, and network. It is, in that sense, very much like going to school. You get thrown into an actual group of people, some of whom you may like, others you may not like as much (but likely you will get along with more than you don’t, because unlike school, what’s bringing you all together is a common cause, not the location of your house), and you are doing activities that educate, build skills, and produce things of value. You actually get a lot out of volunteering and activism.
I challenge anyone who feels that the adult world is lacking in real world companionship to try and get out of the house and involved in a cause that’s important to them. I am getting involved in 350.org, myself.