Monday, November 5, 2018

Smile, It’s Monday: Your Weekly Wake-up Call to Build Meaningful Relationships

What should young people do with their lives today? 
Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create
stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.
--- Kurt Vonnegut

In the digital age, many of us miss feeling connected with others.

We have a few hundred Facebook “Friends” that make us feel important and socially accepted. Yet we experience moments where we realize we are sitting alone at night in front of a machine looking at small digital photos of people we barely know anymore—if we ever did.

An internal Facebook study found that despite the high number of “Friends” amassed by the average Facebook user, they actually exchange messages with only seven of these people on a monthly basis.

This study is consistent with observations that individuals tend to define their social group around a small number of strong relationships.

In research I have conducted with Sarah Wright of the University of Canterbury, we have defined loneliness as a distressing emotional experience associated with the deficiencies a person perceives in their social relationships. 

Other research by social psychologist John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago has found that loneliness tends to lead to counterproductive interpersonal behaviors such as increased hostility, negativity, depressed mood, anxiety, and decreased cooperativeness.

This week, take one or two small actions that will increase the quality of your connections with other people. Open yourself to joining groups of real people with similar interests who live nearby and are pursuing collective goals you find meaningful.

If you don’t find such groups near you, you are likely not alone. Consider forming one.

Anthony Silard is the president of The Center for Social Leadership, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC and the author of the Simon & Schuster book The Connection: Link Your Passion, Purpose, and Actions to Make a Difference in the World. To receive Smile, It's Monday every other week, enter your email here (1-step only). To support The Center for Social Leadership's Young Leaders Program for disadvantaged youth either directly or through purchases, click here.

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