As a society, we are lonelier than we’ve ever been. According to a study from the Survey Center on American Life in 2019, almost 50% of all Americans reported having less than 3 close friends, up from 25% reporting the same in 1990. With the increase in technology, we are all supposedly more connected than ever and yet undeniably lonelier than ever.
Community has been a vital aspect of humanity throughout history. The first communities formed when groups of nuclear families lived together in villages interdependently. They all had their roles in the community, and none could function fully on their own. They celebrated interdependence and recognized their need for one another. As society and technology evolved and allowed for people to move out of small villages into large cities, that sense of interdependence was lost. In fact, it was seen as a weakness to need other people. The same is true for our culture today.
We use technology so we don’t have to ask for help from others. We seek virtual relationships to avoid rejection and awkwardness. We fill our lives with things to keep ourselves busy and don’t have time to spend on finding friends.
The young adult population is hit especially hard by the lack of community in current culture. Young adults often don’t have the built-in community that those in other life stages do as they’re transitioning between their family of origin and the family they establish with a partner in adulthood. When psychologist Erik Erikson identified the main task of each life stage, he identified the task of young adulthood as “Intimacy vs isolation.” Based on this task, young adults must answer the question: Will I be loved, or will I be alone? More young adults than ever are finding themselves alone and struggling to find that community they long for.
So, how do we find community once we are out of school and forming our adult identities? The best way to find community is to engage in the things you are passionate about and find others there who are passionate about those things as well. Volunteering for a cause you support, attending a service for your faith tradition, or getting involved with adult sports teams or workout classes can all be places where you find your people. We need to be intentional and have a plan for finding community; it’s not as easy as it was in kindergarten! We need to identify our own barriers to community, whether they be insecurity, busyness, or fear of rejection, and make a plan to overcome these and create our own support systems.
It won’t be easy or immediate, but when you find your community it will be worth it.