We need other people in our lives. Your crew is a big part of your emotional health. If your device is getting all the attention you should be giving to your friends and family or if you feel like you have a lot of acquaintances but no real friends, you might want to think about how you can create closer ties with the people in your life.
Our social interactions make us happier, and developing deep, meaningful relationships with people lead to feeling support and even greater happiness. This doesn’t mean that you need to try to become besties with everyone you meet. But you can work to create deeper relationships with a few people you really enjoy being around. (As an introvert, I am more comfortable when I limit the number of deep friendships I have.)
So, don’t assume that you’re having a good time with someone when you’re both staring at your individual screens. Make an effort to be present for the people in your life.
Put down the phone.
Reduce textual intimacy.
Your first step is to stop using text as much and actually connect in person — or at least via voice. I love texting as much as the next person. It’s easy and you can avoid a person or put them off. Plus, you can respond slower, reviewing your words before firing off.
Text messaging has given so many of us a way to communicate with less social awkwardness. There’s a reason I work online. There’s a reason I ask people to shoot me an email or text instead of calling me. It’s because it’s an amazing communication tool that puts a bit of distance between you and others.
While all of this is great, the reality is that texting has made it easier to avoid people and their emotions. Want to break up with someone? Send a text and block their number. You can avoid the emotional consequences. Telling your bestie something difficult? Texting means you may have the guts to say something hurtful that you would never say to someone’s face.
Rather than relying on texting (or Facebook messaging) to keep in touch, spend some time talking on the phone, using Skype, or seeing each other in person. And, while you’re doing this, put the phone down. Be present. Don’t be clicking around on the web while Facetiming. Don’t play a game on your phone while you speak with someone.
Textual relations might be easier to manage, but that distance means that you could be missing out on something harder, but worth it.
One of the issues with our soundbite culture is that we’re always looking for the next quip. On top of that, we often want our turn to talk. My 15-year-old son used to barely contain himself when he had something to say, and that meant he was often busy trying to figure out what he would say next, without really listening to me.
Now, though, he’s become a much better listener. And, to my chagrin, I sometimes find myself absent-mindedly listening to him, rather than actively listening. I’m renewing my efforts to pay attention to my son so that he can tell that I actually care what he says — and I do care about what he has to say.
The more you listen, the more you are likely to care about someone. And they will appreciate your effort.
Listening is one of the keys to meaningful relationships. It forces you to pay attention to the other person and usually results in boosting your empathy. Your buddy will appreciate your effort to listen, and you’ll have a willing ear for your own issues. Just the act of sharing these thoughts can help you develop meaningful relationships that go below the surface.
Laughter really is the best medicine. When you can laugh with (not at) someone, you are more likely to build stronger ties. Research indicates that laughter can foster an emotional connection and enhance positive feelings. If you can find some common things to laugh about, you are likely to have deeper relationships.
So, rather than having a chuckle at the videos on your phone, or searching through memes for a laugh, consider laughing with the people around you. There’s no need to develop an emotional relationship with your phone. Instead, see if you can find something fun to do with someone you love. You’ll laugh, develop a better relationship, and ultimately be happier.
Don’t be so judgy.
We all have our unique quirks. If you’re constantly judging others for their issues, no one will want to hang with you. Plus, you’ll have a harder time seeing others’ good qualities. You can’t really understand someone and get to know him or her when you are too busy passing judgment.
And, unfortunately, being on the phone all the time can mean judgment. Are you always looking at someone’s Instagram feed and then making judgments about them?
Too often, we react to what we see on social media or through the camera lens, rather than getting to know those around us on a more personal level. Let go of preconceived notions, and the picture you see on social media. Really get to know your friends and family. You might be surprised to find that you understand them better, and are less willing to judge harshly.
You’ll be happier by accepting others— and you’ll be the kind of person people want to get to know.
Follow up with potential besties.
It can feel vulnerable to put yourself out there and make a move. Whether you are inviting a friend to the movies, asking your brother to hang out with you, or trying to get with someone, following up can feel like defeat. You don’t want to look desperate.
Sometimes, it’s hard to be the one to ask for an activity. It’s easier to just scroll through the latest on Twitter. But that won’t get you out there, making connections with potential friends, or strengthening relationships with people you already like.
When you have a teenager, you risk rejection all the time. What teen boy wants to play a board game with his mom? And sometimes I’m tired and I just want to read a book using my Kindle app and let him just peruse Imgur on his phone. But I suck it up and ask anyway. And, to my surprise, he says yes 80% of the time. We have great conversations while we play board games or Magic.
If you like someone, and you want to be friends or more, put it on the line. Follow up. You’ll show your interest, and it might be the beginning of something really cool. Waiting and making excuses only means that you miss out on the potential for meaningful relationships.
Before you can have a meaningful relationship with anyone, from your mom to your bae, you need to like yourself. Take the time to get to know who you are, and learn to feel confident in that. When you like yourself, you are less likely to use passive-aggressive tactics on others.
Studies indicate that spending a lot of time on social media can lead to poor mental health outcomes. You can feel worse about yourself — and be reluctant to put yourself out there in relationships.
So, put down the phone and improve your relationship with YOU. Think about what you like. Engage in activities that allow you to explore your talents and passions. Get out and volunteer or find a cause. Sometimes we use our phones to distract ourselves from what we don’t like about who we are. Rather than getting into a relationship with your phone, know who are and be happy with that person.
Then, you’ll be in a better place to be happier with others.
Deeper, happier relationships require effort and time. Put down the phone, make eye contact, and watch your relationships mature beyond textual intimacy.