If You're Lonely, You Don't Need to "Hang Out." You Need to Get Involved.

A different view of friendship.

If You're Lonely, You Don't Need to "Hang Out." You Need to Get Involved.
Photo by Litter Caterpillars Instagram

Whenever I’m feeling emotionally low, one of my friends always tells me the same thing: you need to get out. You need to socialize more. You need to make more friends.

She has many friends, and she’s always on the search for more. She constantly surrounds herself with people so that she doesn’t feel lonely. She’s still a college student, so it’s not too difficult for her to do that.

Perhaps she’s right: after all, there’s constant headlines about a loneliness epidemic in America. 

Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that socializing just for the sake of socializing just makes me feel even lonelier. I’m 22 years old: many of my peers are drinking, clubbing, solo traveling, etc. None of that interests me. 

If you happen to be a Collapse and COVID-aware person like me, most of the time you’d probably rather be alone than hang out with other people “for fun.” Because any type of “fun” usually involves downplaying and/or ignoring the dire situation that we’re in. 

So, for a while I accepted being (mostly) alone. Until I recently read the book Mutualism by Sara Horowitz, founder of the Freelancers Union, and my perspective on socializing and making friends completely changed. 

Mutualism makes the case that the future is going to be built by small groups of people within local communities. That mutualism actually predates capitalism, and that the United States actually has a strong history of mutualist organizations such as unions. 

The ongoing COVID pandemic continues to highlight the need for mutualism. Climate disasters that are increasing in their frequency and intensity highlight the need for it as well. 

But today, most people still expect deeply flawed, incompetent governments and politicians to solve our problems. And our increasingly individualistic mindset means that we feel as though we need to be entirely self-reliant and solve our own problems. However, in the past, it was normal for people to believe that all they needed was each other. They united together to solve their own problems and take care of each other. 

If we’re going to survive, that will be our future as well.

Horowitz says that mutualist orgs are characterized by a social purpose (capacity to solve a problem for a community), a sustainable economic mechanism (capacity for revenue to exceed expenses), and a long term focus (capacity to outlive their original members). 

Joining and participating in mutualist orgs (or creating one of your own) is a meaningful way of socializing and making friends. 

More importantly, in a society that prioritizes short-term results, the long-term focus of mutualist orgs means that you’re helping to build the future. Reducing your own loneliness isn’t the focus; it’s just a happy byproduct of doing what needs to be done.  

As a long-term Christian and athlete, I used to find community through church and running groups. But whenever I mentioned the climate crisis, Christians constantly talked about heaven and the perfect, unblemished world we’d escape to after our deaths. To start off a sermon series on creation care, one of the pastors at my old church even said that she didn’t want to make anyone feel bad about their carbon-heavy lifestyles. My cross country and track teammates in college wanted to return to interstate, large-scale meets as soon as possible, the coronavirus be damned. 

These “communities” ended up making me feel lonely and angry. So I decided to cut ties. I either completely left or limited my time spent in these groups.

Now I’m starting to find my community through volunteer, activist, and mutualist groups. I clean up trash; I help fix bikes; I do community organizing; I do direct action

If you’re feeling lonely, the solution isn’t simply finding people to “hang out” with. Find people who genuinely care about making the world a better place. People who you can build the future with. People who are problem solvers, not problem avoiders. Search for a mutualist and/or activist org in your area and get involved. It may take some time and effort. It may be a bit frustrating and nerve-wracking at first, especially if you’re new to these types of groups. But it’s worth it. 

It may seem strange to some, but this type of community is way more “fun” for me.

And besides, when things get rough, problem solvers and community builders are the type of people you’re going to want to have in your corner.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to OK Doomer.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.