Feeling socially connected is a need all of us share, but human interaction isn’t the only way to get it


There was a point, midway through quarantine, where I started to wonder if I was made for it.


I’m used to alone time in abundance — I spent seven years living on my own. And I know firsthand that loneliness and being alone are two different things, and that the presence or absence of other people isn’t necessarily tied to the emotional state. Still, as the time in lockdown stretched on, I braced myself for the wave of loneliness to hit.


Strangely, it never did. I’m not saying I’ve been enjoying this time — I’d do some terrible things for a carefree dinner out right now — but for the most part, I’ve been doing okay without in-person socializing. I’m bored. I’m anxious. But I’m not terribly lonely.


Some people, it turns out, really are less susceptible to loneliness while alone. Or, more specifically, some people have already been living the conclusion of a recent study: that spending time with other people isn’t the only way to feel a sense of belonging. And while the country may be inching toward reopening right now, the warnings of new spikes, second waves, and returns to lockdown mean all of us would benefit from getting to know the alternatives.


We’ve adapted to find connection where we can. Watching Friends can make you feel like you, too, are settling into the sofa at Central Perk. Cooking up your grandmother’s lasagna recipe can feel like a moment of bonding, even if you’re the only one in the kitchen. In fact, Paravati Harrigan and her co-authors found that people who turn to these nontraditional strategies aren’t any lonelier, less happy, or less fulfilled than those who rely on traditional social sources.

我们已经适应了在可能的地方找到联系。看老友记也可以让你觉得自己坐在Central Perk咖啡馆的沙发上。即使你是一个人待在厨房做祖母的千层面食谱也是一种亲密的时刻。实际上,Paravati Harrigan及其合著者发现,转向这些非传统策略的人们比那些依靠传统社会资源的人们不会更孤独,更不幸福或更不充实。

Pavarati Harrigan says it helps to think of your social needs with a fuel tank metaphor: The fuller the tank, the less lonely you’re likely to feel. When our options for filling it with normal socialization are limited, relying on alternative sources can help you make up some of the difference.

帕瓦拉蒂·哈里根(Pavarati Harrigan)说,用油箱这个比喻有助于思考你的社会需求:油箱越满,你越不会感到孤独。如果我们无法通过正常社交来填充它,那么依靠替代资源可以帮助你弥补一些差距。

This is reassuring in the midst of social isolation, and it may also come in handy when alone time is in short supply once again.