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Why Making More Friends Only Makes You Even More Lonely

Why Making More Friends Only Makes You Even More Lonely

Chronic loneliness is a modern-day epidemic, and a sad one at that. We live in such a busy time, and it’s all too common to sacrifice relationships for more work, more money, more stuff. But as a species, humans don’t do well by themselves. We survive best in groups where we can look to others for support and empathy.

Despite the instinctual need for others, the percentage of Americans who say they frequently feel alone is at an all time high. In the 1970s and 1980s, the percentage was around 11% and 20%, respectively. Yet in 2010, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) repeated a similar study and the percentage was as high as 45%.[1]

When feelings of loneliness seem to overwhelm us, the instinctual fix is to make more friends; to socialize. But all this really accomplishes is a more intense realization of loneliness.

Loneliness Exists Even with Physical Company

Feeling alone is not the same as truly being alone. Think about this common situation: in a family gathering, a handful of relatives are sitting at the table with others, but they are scrolling through Facebook on their phone or texting people who are not present. None of the people in this scenario are truly alone, but they do create loneliness. Through being more interested in their phone than physical company, they miss out on true human connection through company.

Another relatable example is patients in hospitals. While these ill people are quite literally surrounded with support, they often feel lonely and forgotten if their relatives do not stop by frequently. Any type of separation, be it literal or emotional makes us (and even animals) feel very alone and cut off.[2]

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In animals, it’s not separating a monkey from any companion, it’s separating them from a preferred companion. When we do that, we see the same effects in those monkeys that we see in humans; they feel lonely.

Connecting Is Easy, Deepening Is Not

Part of the problem with being hyper-social or making new “friends” to fill a void comes from the fact that those connections are actually empty. This is due to how simple it is to connect with new people.

Any time you open an app like Facebook or SnapChat, you’re making connections with people. They could be long-time friends, acquaintances or even strangers, but the attention makes the line blur between true companion and internet stranger. A person can have thousands of friends on Facebook but only truly know 50 of them. The high number doesn’t mean loneliness is an impossibility.

Another trend in the loneliness quick-fix is dating apps. If you need a mood booster or just want someone to compliment you and keep you company, any dating app can do the trick within minutes. There are often no strings attached, but along with being dangerous, this is also emotionally detrimental; while you may not feel alone for the hour you spend with a new person, as soon as they leave (most likely to never be heard from again), you feel even more alone than before.

Promiscuity Is a Loner’s Drug

When you make new friends because of loneliness, you’re being promiscuous. While this word is typically associated with dating a lot or being intimate very casually, the alternate definition is more about being indiscriminate or casual when it comes to who you surround yourself with.

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Sure, it can feel good to connect with a lot of people, but new connections don’t always lead to strong relationships. The more shallow relationships you build, the more lonely you feel.

Think back to the last time you realized you were ravenously hungry. You probably raided the pantry and ate whatever you could get your hands on, even if it was pure junk food. Making empty connections to try to fill a void is the same thing; When you’re not being selective about who to connect with, you make plenty of shallow connections.

Beating the Loneliness-Free Addiction

Deep relationships connect people on an intimate level. When you truly connect with someone, you trust them. That trust allows you to exchange thoughts and feelings in order to truly grow as a person.

Shallow relationships, however, make people feel distant because thoughts and feelings are not exchanged and shared. Why would you share intimate thoughts and ideas with someone if you don’t know you can trust them to keep it between you?

Shallow connections lead you back to the original problem – “a separation from a preferred companion”, which leads to loneliness.

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It’s a vicious cycle: you feel lonely, you try to meet more people, you connect with even more unsuitable people, and those people leaving you more lonely. It’s why wise people often say they would rather have two really close friends than 20 acquaintances.

So what are you supposed to do? Stop being a friendly person? No.

Stop Aiming for Making More Friends

Aim to connect with a few who you can share your mind with. The goal is to build real relationships on a solid foundation. If you were in love with a diamond bracelet but you couldn’t afford it, wouldn’t it be better to do without than to waste money on a cheap knock off that turned your wrist green? Knock-off friends are no different.

It’s also important to note that friendship and connections with people should be done for you and your happiness, not to impress others or seem popular. Someone can be physically with a lot of people but still feel lonely. It doesn’t matter how many people are impressed by your friend group; if you don’t consider any of those people real friends, you’ve accomplished nothing.

When the people are the right ones, making friends with just a few of them is enough to give you the warmth and connection. When you find yourself physically alone, just sending a quick text to a real friend or two can make you feel better long-term. The real friends are the ones who will make you happy and challenge you to grow.

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Find out the types of friends you need here: The Purpose Of Friendship: The Only 4 Types Of Friends You Need In Life

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed as to how to go about making real connections, start with understanding others’ values to form a deeper connection.The more values you share with each other, the more likely the relationship will be a deep one. Read this article about knowing more about your values: Knowing My Values Has Filled up the Long-Existed Missing Gap in My Life

A Deep Connection Is More Worthwhile Than Hundreds of Shallow Ones

It’s not a bad thing to make friends, it only becomes a problem when you don’t pay attention to who you connect with and those so-called connections are vapid and empty.

Don’t let your “hunger” for going loneliness-free blind you. Be selective about who you connect with. Develop deep connections and ditch the shallow ones. You’re way too good for that anyway.

Reference

More by this author

Anna Chui

Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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Last Updated on May 7, 2019

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

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    They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

    Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

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        1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
        2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
        3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
        4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
        5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

        How to Spot a Wolf

          Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

          Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

          A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

          A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

          Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

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          Ask Questions, the More the Better

          There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

          When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

          Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

          They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

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          Wolves Are Everywhere

          As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

          Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

          Reference

          [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
          [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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