I just got through visiting some of my favorite people in the world: my best friends from college, one of which just got engaged and is taking the leap of faith to open her own business in San Francisco! Woo hoo! Spending time with my friends from college always reminds me of the importance of relationships, because regardless of how much time has passed, I always feel close and connected with them. We always have things to talk about. I feel comfortable, and spending time with them feels natural. We understand each other’s personalities, nuances, neuroses, and we love one another more for them. All of my friends from college have strong personalities. We are all characters, and yet we all love and appreciate each other for that clear, strong personality. At one point in college we all lived in a house together, saw each other everyday, showered in the same shower, got ready in the same bathroom together before going out for the night, watched all of our favorite television shows together. It was great (except for times when the toilette paper ran out), and while I love having my own house, and my own space am I happier?
In high school, I knew a couple girls who lived on a commune. Just two families, with a shared kitchen and living room. Each family had their own buildings for bedrooms and I thought this was an ideal. In college I would talk longingly about living on a commune someday with my “soulmate friends”. Now, I don’t even live in the same town. Some of my “grown up” dreams include owning my own home someday; having a space to call my own. Isn’t this the American dream? As we make more money, we separate ourselves even more. Dorms become apartments. Apartments become homes. Homes become estates. As an individualistic society, have we forgotten about the importance of relationships? Are we not a social species, wired for human connection, wired to need to feel part of some social whole? I often walk around Costco on a Saturday and think “I hate people” as I look around weaving around an oblivious family who is moving at molasses speed, dodging the screaming child and employees pushing samples of some overly processed, finger food. But seriously, after spending a day with a group of friends, exchanging updates about our present life, talking about music, drinking wine, and trading info about common interests, I felt energized, renewed, part of the group of my favorite people in the world and proud to be included in that social circle.
In the Geography of Bliss, the author poses the argument that “about 70 percent of our happiness stems from our relationships, both quantity and quality, with friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors. During life’s difficult patches, camaraderie blunts our misery; during the good times, it boosts our happiness.
So the greatest source of happiness is other people-and what does money do? It isolates us from other people. It enables us to build walls literal and figurative, around ourselves.”
Like it or not, our society appears to be heading in the direction towards further isolation where phone calls are replaced by texts, college class is replaced by online learning, and social circles are dictated by Facebook. We can’t let ourselves slip into this online, disengaged society. LOL doesn’t replace laughing until you cry. Posting a status update on Facebook does not give you the same release as venting to a friend, or sharing a special accomplishment with someone face to face, watching their excitement at learning of your accomplishments. We are hardwired to require human contact, social experiences, touch; we need to feel part of a group of people. We need to feel accepted, included, valued, and relationships are the only true way to meet these needs. Schedule in time for friends and loved ones. If 70% of our happiness truly does come from our relationships, I’d say that we greatly under prioritize social hour. Call a friend, meet up for drinks. Fit in social time any way you can.