Maybe you, like me, consider yourself quite the introvert. Maybe you, like me, have a difficult time walking the tightrope between feeling quickly overwhelmed by interpersonal relationships, on the one hand, and feeling incredibly lonely, on the other hand.
Maybe you, like me, feel these problems acutely as a male (although I’m sure that females are having their own relational struggles as our culture increasingly pressures us all to be “alone together,” looking at our screens instead of looking each other in the eye).
Maybe we’re not alone.
The Lonely American Man
I just got done listening to a fantastic episode of the podcast Hidden Brain called The Lonely American Man.
I highly recommend that you give this episode a listen, because it’s devoted to an important topic: how certain Western/American ideals of masculinity - the mythic man as a rugged individualist, needing no one in order to succeed - have led to men feeling increasingly isolated and lonely as they grow older.
I really resonated with this episode. Although my current role as a Ph.D. student (and my previous roles as a high school student, college student, and then a seminarian) have included some built-in male “acquaintances/colleagues,” at the very least, I’ve recognized how each stage has felt increasingly lonely. In fact, my closest male friendships now are with a couple people I know from high school - and we only see each other in person 1 or 2 times a year.
Sure, I spend more time face-to-face with my male Ph.D. colleagues, but we’re all just so busy. School, work, marriage, kids, etc. At least for me, in addition to feeling the pressure to not be overly emotional or vulnerable, there’s the added pressure of not wanting to burden other people. I know they’re busy. They know I’m busy. So, we end up just leaving each other alone, persuaded that’s what will make us happy (even if we feel terribly lonely).
If you listen to the end of the podcast episode I linked to above, you’ll hear about an interesting study/experiment performed on commuters. When given the choice/assignment of (1) not interacting with other commuters, (2) interacting with other commuters, and (3) carrying on as normal during their commute, people predicted that they would be happiest - and that other people would be happiest! - when they just stayed out of each other’s way. However, it turns out that we’re much happier when connecting with other people, and that other people are much more willing to connect with us than we often imagine!
Men, How Can We Do Better?
I need to do a better job of taking these things to heart in how I go about my daily life. Although I truly am an introvert - meaning that I need some time alone each day in order to recharge - I’m persuaded that I could benefit from some more meaningful friendships in my life - especially some more face-to-face friendships.
Although I’m sure there’s other great stuff on this topic out there, if you’re interested in this topic, I highly recommend the following posts from The Art of Manliness:
This post contains the following advice on making man/male friendships: - Join an organization - Make some friends at work - Meet your neighbors
Then, when it comes to maintaining male friendships: - Set a common goal - Create a competition - Take a “Mancation” - Have a “Guys Night Out” - Keep in touch with regular communication
Male friendships have changed a LOT over the past couple hundred years. This post gives a nice overview of some of the more significant changes.
The 5 Types are: 1. The Mentor 2. The Wingman 3. The Handyman 4. The Fitness Buff 5. The Work Pal
This is a podcast interview with Geoffrey Greif, the author of the book Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships. Well worth 50 minutes of your time! Be sure to check out the show notes.
What are your thoughts on male friendships or the lack thereof? Please let me know in the comments below!
Note: some of the links above are Amazon affiliate links. This means that, if you click the link and make a purchase on Amazon, I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you). I only ever recommend things I think that my readers will find helpful.