A recipe for loneliness

A recipe for loneliness

As someone who has been single for a long time and as a life coach who supports single professionals, I am particularly conscious of all maladies that could impact singles, most of which is social isolation, loneliness and its byproduct, depression.

I know that the best cure for loneliness is to interact frequently with people (and even a group of people) who share values, beliefs and goals in ways that encourage trust. (Loneliness is actually the want of emotional intimacy so it’s pretty clear that interacting with people on a deeper level can prevent loneliness.) This is the reason why I launched the Empowered Singles Support Circles.

I was talking with a woman the other day about the monthly gatherings and she said some things that made me curious. So I wonder if what she said is true for all of you.

Are you too exhausted to invest in your social network?

She said that singles are too exhausted and busy to attend face to face events; they like being in groups as they maintain the illusion that they are actually attending something but they don’t want to invest time and money unless there’s a high chance of a good payout of meeting a potential partner.

For me, I have never approached socializing with a payout in mind. I’ve only ever wanted to meet people of like minds, to form mutually beneficial relationships that could lead to business relationships, friendships and so on. And in fact, my experiences personally and professionally have demonstrated that when we become attached to outcomes (the payout), we set ourselves up for a lot of frustration and despair and we prevent ourselves from forming relationships that have the potential to benefit us in other ways.

Chat rooms the wave of the future?

How can you know who you're chatting with?

How can you know who you’re chatting with?

She then said that at mix and mingle events, most singles stand around waiting for someone else to make the move because they don’t want to be vulnerable and possibly be rejected but that they LOVE singles chat rooms because they mix and mingle online at home and get to know someone before investing in a public appearance (clothes, make up, drive time, cost of food/drink).

Since I’m somewhat of a social scientist, I started to research how valid this chat room argument is. While it may be true that singles LOVE chat rooms, I haven’t found any proof that chat rooms can actually satisfy our need for social interaction or lead to healthier real-time relationships – but I did find lots of evidence that chat rooms offer the same liabilities as online dating sites.

First, when communicating with people face-to-face, we perceive subtle things about them, so we can decide whether we should respond to them, trust them, or even befriend them. We rely on cues that can only be obtained through body language, tone of voice and so on. Chat rooms deny us that opportunity since we are primarily looking at words on a screen.

Chat rooms, like online dating, encourage us to fall into a common trap that is known in social psychology as perceptual accentuation. Perceptual accentuation is actually an erroneous way of thinking that encourages inaccurate perceptions based on our own desires rather than on reality. In other words, we project on our chat room buddy traits and behaviors that we wish to experience in another person.

Because of the anonymity in a chat room environment, people communicating via chat rooms may put forth less effort to control what they say and may also encourage people to behave counter to the way they typically act. A shy person may behave in a more outgoing manner in a chat room than in a face-to- face interaction. Therefore, people who see themselves as introverted may appear extroverted to others in a chat room.

Either way, chat rooms obscure our ability to make accurate assessments about the person we’re communicating with and I cannot possibly see how this tool can adequately fulfill our primitive need to be eyeball to eyeball with real human beings.

What about you? What are your thoughts and inclinations toward attending live events? What gets in your way? Are you too exhausted to focus on the building blocks of a great life, such as a robust support community?

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