Ping! Ding! Ping! There goes your phone again. Someone liked your Instagram picture, favorited your latest tweet, and left a comment on your TikTok. It’s estimated that over two billion people in over 195 countries use social media to connect with old friends and make new ones.
With this magnitude of people using social platforms to keep in touch with one another, we should be more connected than ever. But data tells a different story. In fact, according to Cigna, a global health service company, 46% of adults say they sometimes or always feel lonely. And 47% of adults say they feel “left out.” FOMO is real, and nearly half of us are experiencing it. We have the world on speed-dial, yet we’re incredibly lonely on the whole. Not only does loneliness cause psychological pain, but it can also affect us on a cellular level, leading to issues like chronic inflammation, which can put people at risk for a host of other diseases.
In today’s improvement-obsessed culture, we spend a lot of money and energy on fixing “the self,” but perhaps we should put equal amounts of attention to the growth of our friendships and community. Laughing with a friend can be so nourishing to the soul, and crying on the shoulder of a supportive bestie calms our nerves. A couple of beers with new friends can help us feel more connected. There’s a name for this: community-care. Initially, the term community-care referred to long-term care for the mentally ill, elderly, or disabled people provided by the community as opposed to hospitals or institutions. With the rising popularity of self-care, the word has evolved to suggest the time and energy people use to take care of each other.
And it’s time we start making space for this type of care. We can all stand to be more intentional about how we create meaningful connections, deepen friendships, and build a thriving community. And yes, we should even start budgeting for it. Here are a few ways I’ve budgeted for community-care to develop deeper friendships.
I budget for a weekly salsa class.
Learning to dance salsa is something I’ve always wanted to do. Even though I was nervous about going to a class full of strangers and was strapped for cash as a new graduate, I still budgeted $150 for sets of 10 classes. With two back-to-back classes every Friday, this class pass lasted me a little over a month.
From the first class, the infectious drums of the timba music and the friendly instructors bewitched me. And after a few months, I started to see familiar faces and people started to recognize me, too. Soon, Friday nights weren’t just about dancing. I was grabbing dinner with new friends before class and heading to the salsa clubs after class to practice the new moves we learned. At first, I invested in salsa because I adored how happy dancers looked. Ultimately I made those 10-pack classes non-negotiable because the weekly commitment to dancing gave me a sense of community. Over the course of three years, I’ve developed friendships with many of those dancers. I’ve celebrated countless birthday parties, shared many a drunken night and felt sincerely listened to by these people. Now, we call each other family, and we mean it.
I beef up my restaurant budget for impromptu friend dates.
When I first moved to San Francisco, I didn’t know anyone, and I was immensely lonely. In an attempt to make friends, I made profiles on every networking app I could find. I would sign-in daily, praying for matches and when the algorithm gods would send a potential bestie my way, I would immediately send a message introducing myself and offering times to meet.
My enthusiasm was not always matched, but there were a few people who agreed to meet up for dinner or drinks. I was never sure when these meetings would happen, so I started adding an extra $25 a month to my “dining out’ budget and let the remaining money roll over to the next month. Through one of these professional networking apps, I had drinks with a woman with whom I shared similar cultural backgrounds, which meant a similar sense of humor. And after several rounds of drinks, we strolled to another bar where she introduced me to her sister, her roommates, and her boyfriend. That one night sparked several Safeway wine runs and bean-and-cheese quesadilla nights. That money was well-spent — I’ll be a bridesmaid in her Costa Rica wedding this coming February!
I budget specifically for social outings, too.
A few years ago, I was in an UberPool when a woman hopped into the backseat and struck up a conversation. She was the CEO of an up-and-coming social dining company and, on her way to one of those events, she extended an invitation. I immediately bought a ticket to that event on my phone and asked the Uber driver to drop me off at the same location as the friendly CEO.
At the event, I met six strangers with whom I ended up swapping stories and laughs. I enjoyed my time so much that I started budgeting $50 a month for these types of outings. At one of them, I met a woman named Rose. We talked for a bit and exchanged Facebook profiles, but I forgot about our conversation until she invited me to her house-party the following week. It was here that I experienced Rose’s generosity and kindness in full-effect. She had invited me, essentially a complete stranger, into her home, just because I told her I was having trouble making friends in a new city. These days, Rose shows up to every party I throw with a custom-designed homemade cocktail. She always brings a gift and thoughtfully scripted card on every birthday and never fails to share sage advice from her abundance of life experience. At a time when my own mother is so far away, Rose is my San Francisco mama.
Cultivating and nurturing supportive friendships is not only a healthy and necessary part of human life, but it’s also a critical factor in easing the pain of loneliness. I think we can all agree that life is sweeter when we have supportive, caring, and generous people to share it with.
Anya Cherrice has started over in new cities, states, and countries at least half-a-dozen times. In this timeframe, she has learned about the beauty of human connection and community. She now helps people in new places cure homesickness by teaching them how to create more meaningful relationships. Click here to start on your journey to develop deeper friendships. Follow her on Instagram @navigatingculture.
Image via Unsplash