How To Combat Your “Millennial Loneliness”

I’m kind of lonely.

Not really in general, but right now, I’m pretty lonely. My boyfriend is working overnight at the hospital, and I have one best friend who happens to be busy tonight, another best friend who lives very far, and unfortunately, I don’t exactly have a fourth or fifth person to call.

So, it is Monday night, I’m home alone, and I’m drinking a glass of red wine and watching Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce (which is a truly awful show, but one that pairs perfectly with loneliness and a glass of red wine). It is my own doing, thought, so I have no right to complain.

But it isn’t just me who feels this way. In early February, Forbes writer Caroline Beaton wrote an article about how millennials are getting lonelier –- a thought which is definitely believable considering the volume of “Netflix + chillin’ by mYsElF #loser #boring” tweets I see on my feed each day, and especially believable considering all of the actual data she had to support it.

She goes on in her article to explain how the loneliness is actually bad for you –- like, with actual statistics about how and why loneliness can be detrimental to your health and wellbeing. (You should probably click on the link to this article. I couldn’t possibly regurgitate Beaton’s thorough research myself, but I can definitely relay the blown-away sentiment to you guys, and urge you to take a look.)

After I read the article, I thought a lot about it. I was coming up on week one of Drew working nights, and knew I had a lot of lonely evenings ahead of me. It is in the moments that I find myself without my one or two core life-partners that I regret not having more players on my team. I regret having isolated myself preemptively, at risk of not being socially accepted, or whatever other jaded reasoning I had each time I purged myself of another group of high school friends, or casually didn’t respond to a text from a new classmate suggesting we go out for coffee. I thought about it and thought about it, and even asked some girls from my classes if we could exchange numbers and meet for a drink. I don’t want Lonely Millennial Syndrome –- I don’t want it at all.

Which is why I was so delighted to see that last Friday, Beaton wrote a follow-up article to her (personally soul-shattering) article on loneliness, entitled “The Solution to Millennial Loneliness”.

I honestly think the last time I clicked on an article this quickly was when Chelsea wrote about ~traveling~, which I fuckin’ loved (considering that my very first TFD post ever was this).

Anyway, I clicked on the article fast as all heck, and waited for the solution. Caroline friggin’ Beaton, please cure my loneliness.

She suggested, brilliantly, that the change begins within us –- that we, as lonely motherfuckers, need to switch our priorities back to where they were in the days when we treated actual social connection as something important to us.

We are increasingly consumed with and impressed by busyness in our society, and would proudly sport an “I’m A Workaholic” badge over an “I Have Tons Of Pals” badge any day. We glorify insane busyness, and, put simply, we’ve put meaningful relationships on the back burner in favor of working on our own professional development.

In fact, I tweeted today about the fact that people often use the excuse of being a “busy, working adult!” to justify their lack of social connection and obligation to maintaining relationships, and how I often think that making that justification probably means you are a shitty friend. I never said that I’m not sometimes the shitty friend. In fact, I’m often the shitty friend. We’re all sometimes the shitty friend. The point is, I want not to be. We all need to try not to be, lest we chain ourselves to exclusively-online social connection, which is, at best, faux-friendship, requiring no actual relationship demands or obligation. In her article, Beaton says “Just meeting people, however, isn’t enough. We also need to sacrifice for them.”

We don’t like to sacrifice for them. But we need to.

So, if I could offer any advice based on what I got out of these two articles, it would be this: email an old friend. Make (and keep!) a coffee date with the work pal you platonically friendship-flirt with during your 9-to-5 hours. Actually respond to the “Just checking in!” text from the high school bestie you haven’t spoken to in ages. Don’t, by any means, let people into your life who have no place in it – you don’t need to be friends with everyone. But you do need to be friends with some people. Your health, happiness, and productivity depend on it.

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at mary@thefinancialdiet.com!

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  • Bee

    I was just talking to a coworker about this today. My mom texted me to say that she had made a new friend today while shopping and that they already had lunch plans. I so wish that people my age (early to mid 20s) were more like this! I’m not necessarily lacking for friends, but it tends to be hard to actually make plans because no one wants to leave home on the weekends. Ultimately, I end up doing most things on my own which I typically don’t mind, but I do find it kind of sad to see younger people avoiding face-to-face human interaction.

  • M R

    I don’t think you have millennial loneliness, I think dating residents is very hard. My boyfriend recently finished a month of nights and it was the worst. It was like I was living alone again except it’s worse because you’ve gotten used to having someone around. Hang in there!

  • Summer

    It’s really difficult for me to relate to this, or even pretend to be able to relate to it, because I totally thrive on alone-time. My husband will get back home sometime today from a week away for work, and while yes, of course I’m looking forward to seeing him, I would also be lying if I said I’d be upset if he were going to be away for a little longer. It’s really pleasant to not have to worry about anyone but myself—I can eat what (and when!) I want, clean when I want, stay up as late as I want, go for long walks at 9pm just because I feel like it, etc. Not that he restricts me from doing any or all of these things while he is around, but you know what I mean. There’s a certain freedom that comes with only having to worry about yourself, just as there is also a different type of freedom in having someone else around to spend time and share decisions with. Rather than looking at it as “I’m so pathetic sitting at home on a weeknight by myself” (because there’s absolutely nothing pathetic about a chill weeknight in the first place), look at it as an opportunity to do whatever you want. Cook a new dish that is perhaps best experimented with when no one else is around to witness the potential failure, find a movie or series to watch that your partner would have little-to-no interest in and make it your own to binge on, surf the internet in that aimless, time-wasting way we all do when we have other stuff we really need to be working on instead in the middle of the workday—the possibilities are endless. Being alone is actually a huge luxury when you live with another human, so embrace it!!

    • Sam

      Seriously! Deployments are rough and not something I look forward to, but the up side is that you can do whatever you want- in my case, after the kid goes to bed. I get to play the ukulele and sing, watch as many stand-up specials and documentaries that I want, or wander down whatever Internet rabbit hole that catches my fancy. I’m always excited when my husband comes home, but after a while, I find myself missing those evenings and looking forward to the next Duty day, when I can have a night to myself again.

      Though, I also agree it is good to be open to making new friends and fostering the friendships you have regardless of distance. This is something that I find difficult, but absolutely necessary for survival, especially when you suddenly find yourself on the other side of the world where you might know one person, who also happens to be leaving the next month. Or all the friends you have worked so hard to make move away all at the same time!

  • Maggie

    I think the thing about millenials, and to an even greater extent the generation following us (what do you even call them?) is that we are are always connected via our devices and so in a way never alone. And if you’re never alone, you don’t know how to be lonely. If you don’t grow up feeling those bouts of loneliness and learning how to deal with (or embrace) being alone, when you finally are confronted with actually being alone you don’t know how to cope and that loneliness will consume you. I honestly think that’s the bigger’s danger of technology. It lets us trade trade meaningful connection for some shallow semblance of not being alone. I think loneliness is perhaps the greatest human fear and it’s one we all should learn to face.

  • AN

    I think it’s also important to note how dependent we can be on our partners for every little thing, including all of our social needs. Part of this solution should include re-thinking how we view our romantic partners and prioritizing connections outside of the people we’re dating.

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