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Hax: Save your sanity by rejecting isolation and making human contact

Carolyn Hax
| Thursday, November 13, 2014 8:55 p.m.

Adapted from a recent online discussion:

Dear Carolyn:

Can having a desk job where you literally spend all day staring at a screen, and 95 percent of the interaction you have with people is through email and IM, make you crazy?

I guess it doesn’t help that I live alone and all my friends are married, so I rarely see them. I end up home with the cat and the TV every evening. But I’m starting to feel so isolated and trapped in my own head that I might as well be on a deserted island.

I meet people, but friendships don’t develop like they did when I was younger. I meet people I’d like to date and they seem interested at first, but nothing happens.

I’m starting to feel as though I should get a therapist just so I have someone to talk to because, if I don’t, I’m just going to lose all connection to the human race.

— Losing My Mind?

Yes, you can lose your mind from the lack of human contact.

You can also lose your mind from an abundance of human contact, but we give disproportionate airtime to that.

I wish I had an easier or cleverer answer, but you need to force yourself off your couch. It’s obvious, but that’s all there is. Until you form emotional bonds to new people, you’ll have to count on a common purpose to hold you there, or just proximity. The usual suspects: a regular gig somewhere, like volunteering, a rec sports team, a class in something fun; or having roommates; or becoming a Big Brother/Big Sister/Best Buddy. There’s no shame in having to work to make friends.

Re: Losing Mind:

Meetup!

— Anonymous

OK!

Re: Losing Mind:

I am in the same situation. I am trying to get out and do at least a little something different, like signing up for meetups, which have actually gone quite well; most people are nice and like meeting new people. Sometimes, I feel a little resentful that I have to put in so much effort, when personal interactions come so naturally to others, but I’m trying precisely to keep from losing my mind.

— Anonymous 2

If it will help blunt the resentment: This is one of the complaints I receive most frequently. Almost all humans need some company, and the increasing isolation of our culture and the difficulty of meeting people post-school are two powerful currents to fight. It’s nowhere close to being just you.

Re: Losing Mind:

I recently moved to a town where I know only one person besides my co-workers. I go home to a cat. This week, I decided to see a therapist, “just to check in,” and spent almost the whole session crying. But it helped, and I’ll go back. It’s sometimes tough to make new friends when you’re an adult.

— Anonymous 3

I see your “sometimes,” and raise you an “almost always.” There’s a reason pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods are among the most expensive; suburbia’s home-car-work-errands-car-home loop enables total isolation. We want to walk to a show, stop at a cafe on the way home, actually use our voices sometimes.

Email Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com.

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