In a recent study by YouGov, over 20-percent of Millennials said they have “no friends.” A further 30-percent said they have “no best-friend.” This is particularly odd, and concerning, considering Millennials are only between 23 to 38 years old. You might expect to see such depressing numbers if you were looking at people over the age of, say, 70. But young people, what’s their excuse?
Genuine friendship is what is at stake here. We are not talking about friends on Facebook or followers on Instagram—those things Millennials have. But what they lack, possibly more than previous generations, are genuine friendships. And just to be clear, that means people who you talk and relate to and who you interact and have fun with, and who will show up for you, physically show up for you if you need them.
What you typically get online is not a complete, fulfilling relationship. Not, at least, if it is completely and fully online. And that is the problem with some of the loneliest Millennials, they act like digital relationship can stand independent of the analog world.
There is nothing wrong with amplifying your relationships from school, and work, and elsewhere by continuing them online. Actually, that is a good thing. Research shows that extending your “real world” relationships online can actually strengthen your connections. The problem occurs when you substitute real world activities for digital play. It is, for example, far healthier to go to a bowling alley with your friends than to play a virtual bowling game on a computer console.
Peaks and Valleys
One thing to keep in mind about this loneliness research is that the number of relationships we have does ebb and flow throughout our lives. We are very connected throughout Elementary, Middle, and High School and College, then our connections go down a bit in young adulthood, then back up in middle age then down dramatically after about the age of 75. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. What has researchers concerned, however, is that Millennials seem to be showing elevated levels of loneliness for their age group—which only begs the question, will things get worse? It’s a problem that is best addressed sooner rather than later.
Using the Internet Right
We are not advocating you ditch the internet and throw away your computer. You don’t need to be a Luddite. What you do need to do is focus on how you are using you time. Mindlessly browsing the internet and drooling over the experiences are participating in while you sit at home is not healthy. If you don’t have many friends or, even if you technically do have some friends, but still feel lonely, you should make the extra effort to put yourself out there. Getting out of your comfort zone is key when it comes to making new friends and strengthening existing connections. This is where the good-side of the internet comes in. There is no better time to find like-minded people than now. Regardless what you are into—whether it be sports or reading or boardgames or cooking—there is sure to be a group out there that you can find on the internet and then start participating in in-person.