Happiness has many different components. From physical health to mental wellness, from financial security to living with a sense of purpose, a life of true contentment has many components.
One of the most important predictors of happiness is your relationships with others: friends, family, work colleagues, mentors, and your wider community. Many studies have shown that healthy social connections are crucial to well-being, life satisfaction, and even longevity. They can also reduce depression and anxiety while boosting your self-esteem. They matter a lot.
The catch is that building strong connections doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it takes time, patience, and energy — things that can feel in short supply for so many of us these days. That said, there is one shortcut you can take right now to enhance the strength and quality of your relationships — and that’s stepping away from social media and focusing on ‘real-life’ socializing.
In this internet era, many relationships are maintained — even formed — online. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, especially if it helps you to stay in touch with that college friend in a different city or your cousin on the other side of the world. Plus, plenty of people meet their partners via online dating. Or, if you work long hours, then linking with your friends on social apps might be a lifeline for you.
No one’s saying that we have to somehow pretend that Facebook was never invented or magically time-travel back to 2001. Yet, if you feel that your life has one too many shallow or unsatisfying relationships — or you just feel lonely at times — then what harm could it do to assess the role social media could play in it all?
Because if your digital interactions are taking priority over physical ones, that could be a problem. And if your Facebook comments are replacing proper conversations, your Instagram ‘brand’ has submerged authentic self-expression, or your WhatsApp friend group is so busy swapping memes that you never get around to meeting for pizza, then it’s probably time to review your priorities.
If you’re not interacting regularly with people in person, you’re missing out on a big part of what makes human beings happy. We didn’t evolve to mediate our relationships behind screens; we evolved to connect with people in real life, messy and complicated as that can be at times (but seriously, is the online world any less complicated?).
But the question is — if you’re immersed in a routine of work, streaming channels, and sleep, then how do you make the shift into richer, more meaningful socializing?
Get intentional about how you spend your time
One simple way is to schedule time each week for in-person activities. You don’t even need to have firm plans; it’s more about deciding that certain segments of your week are set aside for the people who matter to you (or for meeting new people).
True, sometimes it can feel like planning events with friends requires a Ph.D. in diary coordination (in other words, not worth the hassle). But it truly is worth it because what’s the alternative — a life lived gazing at a phone every evening?
If you’ve gotten out of the habit of regular socializing, make a point of blocking off time in your planner for meet-ups. Then invite a friend out for dim sum, join a volunteer group, head to a salsa club, attend a community meeting, or sign up for a bonsai workshop. Whatever works for you (and don’t be afraid to try new things).
Start small — and try some ‘commitment hacks’
If this idea feels daunting (maybe because you get socially anxious at times or are just mega busy), then start small. Schedule one single slot every week for meeting up with people, then try to stick to it as best as you can. It can also help if it’s a regular thing rather than ad-hoc, for instance, a running club.
Also, making a financial commitment to an activity can help you to keep to the routine. In other words, if you’ve paid for a pottery course, you’re much more likely to attend. Likewise, making a commitment to others can help, for instance, having a tennis buddy whom you don’t want to let down.
By getting intentional about your social schedule, you will strengthen your network and develop new connections outside of the digital zone. Scrolling Twitter can never beat laughing together with friends, getting a hug from your grandma, or enjoying a sunset view from a hilltop with your new hiking group. Real life beats the internet every time.