Social media has intertwined itself within our daily lives and routines. Many of us are notorious for checking social media first thing in the morning, often before we even climb out of bed! We can watch strangers across the world on TikTok or see snapshots of our friends and family on Instagram and Facebook, creating the illusion that we are connected with one another.
But in an ever-evolving, pandemic world, we have never been so apart. Many studies have found an increased correlation between loneliness and social media usage. In fact, a recent study by Cigna in the United States found that participants who frequented social media over 50 times a week were three times more likely to experience social isolation.
Rich connections with our friends and family are more important than ever. Not only for them, but for our own mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. But we know this is easier said than done - we all lead increasingly busy lives, and the pandemic has made it even harder to be close to those we love physically.
To help, we have rounded up 5 of our favourite tips to being a better friend, combining the old-fashioned way with the realities of modern life.
Schedule time for one another
Making time for a walk or meeting at a café on a sunny Saturday can nurture the love language of quality time. If you can’t meet in person, organise a phone call or video call. Use this time to catch up, enjoy each other’s presence and listen to your friend’s vents about work and life. It’s an opportunity for emotional release and being a shoulder to lean on for both you and your loved one.
Send them a gift
Gifts such as Angel Delivery care packages or an activity gift, such as a puzzle, can be a physical representation of your love. A care package can release stress as they provide meals, and show you have chosen thoughtfully. While a puzzle or a “paint by numbers” will help with brain health and stimulation, especially during these times of isolation during covid.
Read a book together, either online or in person
Reading, especially fiction, is often an escape for many. It allows people to disconnect from their work and busy lives and lose themselves in a fantasy world and story. Joining a virtual book club, or reading a book together, or in tandem with someone else, can create something to talk about and connect over.
Acknowledge their achievements
Applauding and praising your friends’ achievements will show them you are interested in them, and that you care about their goals and dreams. Jot down meaningful dates in your diary when they tell you about them (like graduations or new job start dates). Then when the date arises, you could send them a letter, card, or even a simple message congratulating them. This will help deepen your emotional connection with one another and help them feel loved and seen.
Listen to them
This might seem obvious. But it is easy to talk about ourselves or make our points during a conversation with a friend. Take a pause and allow your friend a moment to talk, while you simply listen. This will not only help them feel seen, but it will create flexibility in your friendship, where you take turns in carrying the emotional burdens. Truly listening to what your friend is saying will help you understand them, without just jumping in with a response or retort. Again, this will help deepen the connection with one another.
Amatenstein, S. (2019). Not So Social Media: How Social Media Increases Loneliness. Retrieved from: https://www.psycom.net/how-social-media-increases-loneliness/
Cohan, W. (2020). Ten Habits That Will Make You a Better Friend. Retrieved from: https://wendylcohan.medium.com/ten-habits-that-can-make-you-a-better-friend-4ed9c21a16ec
Coombs, B. (2020). Loneliness is on the rise and younger workers and social media users feel it most, Cigna survey finds. Retrieved from: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/23/loneliness-is-rising-younger-workers-and-social-media-users-feel-it-most.html#:~:text=The%20study%20found%20an%20increasing,from%2047%25%20a%20year%20ago
Murray, L. K., Althoff, K., & Stuart, E. (2020). How to “Reach In” to Meaningfully Connect with Loved Ones from Afar. Retrieved from: https://publichealth.jhu.edu/2020/how-to-reach-in-to-meaningfully-connect-with-loved-ones-from-afar