I took my mini Aussie doodle to the dog park to socialize. While he “connected” with other dogs through prolonged sniffs and ball chases, I did the exact opposite. I found an unoccupied corner, started a podcast, and made sure to avoid any unnecessary human interaction.
Upon reading this, my dad and others have surely rolled their eyes and chided, “Classic Millennial,” before going back to scrolling through whatever app they’re using — intentionally or not — to avoid human interaction.
I wish this was a “Millennial” phenomenon. It’s not. Gen Zers spend upwards of four hours a day on their phone. Before Boomers celebrate their superiority, they need to look in the mirror…something that might prove hard given that they, too, are distracted by screens. Boomers average an hour on social media per day and outpace everyone else when it comes to consuming daytime TV.
Collectively, we’re all living through an “Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation,” according to the U.S. Surgeon General.
And, it’s our own dang fault.
We need to get off our armchairs, log out of our apps, and commit to being humans. It’s a simple agenda that won’t come about unless we get serious about being less lonely.
Step One: ban screens wherever your great-great-grandparent would have gone to see friends. Bar? No screens. Cafe? No screens. Dog park? You guessed it (yes, I know dog parks weren’t big in the 1920s, but let’s leave that aside for now). Some pioneering, Luddite institutions (oxymoron intended) have already instituted this rule.
Step Two: wear a nametag. You’re laughing. Good. It’s silly, but easy. If you don’t want to share your real name, fine. Pick any name and make it easier for you and for others to strike up a conversation.
Step Three: set up a “Screen Hour” and tell your friends about it. If your friends know that you only look at your phone from 7 p.m. to 8.p.m. each day, then, assuming they’re nice, they will try to limit their texts to that hour. In the remaining 23 hours of screen-free humanity, your odds of making a friend will skyrocket.
Step Four: talk about the weather — by which I mean, don’t talk about politics. Some folks who, like me, want to revive our civic community, would disagree with me and urge people to talk more about elections, candidates, and issues. But, especially in the early stages of a friendship, a political comment that lands the wrong way has the potential to halt any progress along the path to “friend” status.
Step Five: use the F word. When you’re looking for a “F”riend, don’t be afraid to say so. It can be a little daunting to admit you’re looking for more friends. As someone who has lived in three states in as many years, I’ve gotten over that fear through repetition. I sure wish I had told that guy at that dog park with the bulldog that I could use a friend — we could have walked our dogs to a coffee spot. That opportunity passed, but I’ve resolved not to miss the next one.
You may think each of these steps is a bunch of baloney, to quote my grandma. That’s fine. My goal isn’t for you to follow Frazier’s Five Steps to Friendship. My goal is much more humble — just put your screen down when there’s a human in front of you; friendships will follow. And those friendships may be the foundation for a lot of other necessary progress — specifically, stronger communities. But I’ll leave my one-cent of wisdom on that topic for another day.
Kevin Frazier will join the Crump College of Law at St. Thomas University as an Assistant Professor this fall. ©2023 The Fulcrum. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.
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