This past week an interesting article caught my attention. The headline talks about how 22% of millenials they surveyed say they have no friends. In case you don’t remember who fits in what category, millenials are those born between the early 80’s and late 90’s (between 23 and 38 years of age today). Fitting in that age group I understand the statistic, because I really do enjoy my alone time. As much as I am OK with being around people and need people in my life, I’m also very happy to be by myself and do my own thing. To be clear, loneliness is something that every generation struggles with at different points in time, from the youngest to the oldest, because they don’t have friends yet, or all their friends have moved away or passed away, or just because of changes in situation.
The catch the article presents is that millenials seem to be caught between a strong desire to be by themselves and the desire that everyone has to be with others. So why are they lonely or alone? For those who are independent and enjoy being left to their own devices, you can fall into patterns that you forget what it’s like to make friends and how to do it and so as friends move on with their lives you have fewer friends. Others may have struggled in the past with finding people they feel comfortable with and have given up on finding those people. Yes, you can connect with people on social media and it’s better than nothing, but it’s not really the same as meeting up at a coffee house, event, or house and hanging out together and being able to be physically present with them.
The one thing the article doesn’t talk about and doesn’t indicate their research touches on is if they’re OK with not having [lots of] friends. To some degree it’s healthy to be alone and to like your own space. It’s also good to know that you prefer to be alone and to accept that. It’s harder for people who thrive in interpersonal relationships to understand the desire and interest in being alone. But no one should be an island and everyone should belong to a circle of people, however small, they can trust and rely on.
Having spent an evening in the presence of many tens of thousands people at a baseball game and driving on roads today that were filled with cars and people headed to their weekend destinations, I’m reminded of both the fact that it can be so easy to blend in with the crowd and be alone, and that when we’re surrounded by so many other people that we really aren’t ever alone.
You’re in control of your life, spend time with the people you want to spend time with, explore the world in whatever way both challenges you and helps you feel safe, and know that you can still do your part to be kind to others and help those in need even if you aren’t friends with them.