weak ties

Have you ever spent almost an entire day without talking to anyone? Has it ever felt difficult to build up the energy to engage in a meaningful conversation with a friend, family member, or colleague?

If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression — feelings of sadness, changes in sleep, appetite, energy level or concentration, to name a few — it can be hard, almost impossible, to be social. But studies show that you don’t always need to have deep and meaningful interactions to feel happier. In fact, an abundance of “weak ties” or shallow relationships can result in your feeling happier. And, the beauty of these relationships is how low stakes they are.

During a time when getting out of bed and connecting with the world is harder than it has ever been before, just going out to a coffee shop or to the grocery store and engaging in a low stakes conversation with someone can make a difference.

Allie Volpe, a writer for The New York Times, described how the more weak ties we have, the happier we feel because it enhances our sense of belonging to a community.

Belonging. Connectedness. These are important for your happiness and wellbeing. Studies show that as you get older (merely 25+), it gets harder and harder to find the time for deep, meaningful relationships outside of your family, but that does not mean your connectedness to others and sense of belonging to a community should cease to exist. Short, low-stakes and low-cost relationships can help.

Allie Volpe continues in her article and cited Gillian Sandstrom, a psychology lecturer who examines social interactions and stated that after a big move out of state or out of the country, or following the loss of a loved one, sustaining a network of low-stakes relationships helps enmesh us within our community.

How UberEats, Seamless, GrubHub and Amazon hinder your ability to form weak ties and might be contributing to your depression.

How do UberEats or Amazon fit into this? The internet has made it incredibly easy to order food from GrubHub or to buy your necessities (or, really, anything you could possibly imagine) on Amazon. But, doing so comes with a downside. Based on the research, relying on those services can increase your experience of feeling alone and isolated, disconnected from everyone else. Before GrubHub, when you had to walk or drive to the local Chinese restaurant to pick up dinner, you didn’t just pick up food — you smiled at a neighbor on your block, talked to the person behind the counter about your missing fortune cookies, and answered another customer’s question about your order! Before Amazon, when you wanted to buy a book at a bookstore, you didn’t just buy a book — you asked an employee for help finding a book, spoke to the cashier, and maybe even stopped for a coffee. With Grubhub, Amazon, and all the other on-demand platforms, your only interactions are digital and certainly don’t include all those “weak ties” once present.

Next time you feel you just don’t want to talk to anyone, try going outside and doing something easy and low-stakes, but that helps you have a moment of interaction with another human being. Even for those small moments can pick you up and form a base you can build on day by day.

Sources

Sandstrom, G. M., & Dunn, E. W. (2014). Social Interactions and Well-Being: The Surprising Power of Weak Ties. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40(7), 910–922. https://doi.org/

Volpe, A. (2019, May 07). Why You Need a Network of Low-Stakes, Casual Friendships. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/

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