You’ve got something important to tell your colleague. Do you walk down the hall to find them? Of course not! They’re probably busy, and face-to-face conversations can be #awkward. You shoot them a quick email—or better yet, send them an emoji-laden instant message.
It should come as no surprise that 20-somethings say they prefer to text someone rather than talk to them in person. Those digital connections are freaking awesome, but not when they cost us our ability to make human ones. And there’s plenty of research to suggest that’s exactly what’s happening: One recent study found just having cell phones around makes it harder to forge close connections in face-to-face conversations. And in a similar study, middle school students who spent most of their day staring at screens had trouble reading facial expressions. Yikes.
The irony in all of this is that technology can actually connect us with resources that facilitate new relationships and strengthen old ones. See for yourself with these websites, apps, podcasts, and more.
Workshops and Retreats
When you think about it, connection is really all about sharing stories—preferably not rambling ones. Whether you’re looking to sharpen your skills to connect with your investors, coworkers, or weekend softball league, Story University designs workshops that help participants hone their personal narratives and share them with the world. (Membership starting at $27 per month)
Who says summer camp is just for kids? Camp Throwback is an adolescence do over... with way more booze. Go off the grid and revive those what-happens-at-camp-stays-at-camp bonds with your best friends. Is there any better time to get to know someone than the middle of panty raid? (Starting at $250 for three-night retreats)
Trolling Reddit to find others who are also interested in ‘90s cult movies is easy. Finding and making those types of connections IRL is much harder. Enter Club Getaway, a retreat that connects adults with similar passions. Putting the “social” in social networking, the camp offers all-inclusive weekends full of sports, adventures, and ways to explore new creative territory. Pro tip: If you go to the young professionals weekend, be prepared for beer garden karaoke. (Starting at $409 for two-night retreats)
From the creator of the all-star radio show and live event The Moth comes Strangers, a podcast about how people meet. Strangers strays from the traditional how-we-met narrative to talk about what real connection is—however fleeting it may be. You’ll hear about heartbreak and kindness and even those “frightful moments when we discover that we aren't even who we thought we were.” (Free; iTunes).
Make sure you have a box of tissues at the ready because StoryCorps broadcasts some of the best (and most emotional) stories about human connection. The nonprofit has been recording and preserving the stories of everyday people since 2003 and sharing them on the group’s website as well as on NPR. The more than 50,000 recordings include stories on virtually every topic, from friendship to forgiveness. (Free; StoryCorps).
The True Story podcast is like wearing an invisibility cloak to a party with the world’s most interesting people, so you can eavesdrop to your heart’s content. Groups of friends (and sometimes strangers) get together for True Story parties where they share tales related to a specific topic (like close calls or puberty). Then the best stories are broadcast to the entire world. It’s the perfect way to be a voyeur, skip the small talk, and see how people truly connect. (Free; iTunes).
This app is an extrovert's dream. Whether you’re checking out a concert or taking a solo trip around the globe, open it and find people nearby who are looking to hang out. You can search for people by preference (age, gender) or proximity, start chatting with them on the app, and then make plans to meet up IRL. (Free; iOS and Android)
When The New York Times published a story suggesting the fast track to falling in love could be asking suitors 36 probing questions, the Internet went bananas. But the Q&A isn’t just a rubric to opening up to potential soul mates. Try a few on your roommate, coworker, or best friend and establish deeper connections with the people in your inner circle. (Free; iOS and Android)
If you’ve ever had a dog, you know canines crave companionship and attention as much as we do. This app fills that need by connecting dog owners for pooch play dates. It’s a win-win situation: Your dog makes a new four-legged friend and you meet a human companion. Alternatively, grab some chew toys and head down to the neighborhood dog park. (Free; iOS)
Despite all of its pitfalls, Tinder makes the process of finding potential mates incredibly easy. So it was only a matter of time before someone applied the same formula to making new friends—and no, we’re not talking the kind with benefits. Open Wiith and start swiping to meet new people in your area, be it a gym buddy or a coffee shop companion. (Free; iOS)
Ever notice how stress starts piling up as the day goes by? Taking a break to meditate is a great way to remove yourself from the chaos and start thinking clearly again. Calm offers guided meditations that last anywhere from two to 20 minutes. Users can choose a nature scene (everything from a foggy forest to a sunny seashore) to help zen out. Then the guided soundtrack gets you to connect with your breath, your day, and even the floor beneath your feet. (Free; iOS and Android)
Sure, you can like your favorite sports team, band, or hobby on Facebook, but Meetup takes it one step further and provides a platform to meet face-to-face with locals who share similar interests. Sign up for a Meetup group and then get notifications about when and where the next meeting with be. With more than 9,000 groups across the U.S., there’s no excuse not to connect with your community.
This site is exactly what its name suggests: a countdown of a thousand of the little moments that make life wonderful. It covers everything from “when the guy who borrowed your pen actually gives it back” to “watching the Christmas episode of your favorite sitcom in the completely wrong month.” Taking a few minutes every week to read the most recent blog entries reminds us how important it is to take time to smell the roses and appreciate all the small things that make life so awesome.
If you ever need your faith restored in humanity, HONY is the perfect cure-all. What started as a side project by Brandon Stanton to create a photographic census of 10,000 New Yorkers quickly became a window into the souls of the strangers we pass every day on the street, at the coffee shop, or in the midst of our harried daily commute. If you’re flipping through the photos on Facebook, make sure to check out the comment section, which is a surprising haven for positivity and motivation.
Finally make good on your perennial resolution to start volunteering this year. Volunteer Match makes it easy to connect with local causes in your area, whether you care about animals, human rights, or the arts. Each volunteer opportunity lists the skills needed, time commitment, and any special requirements, so you can find the perfect match.
This website connects the idealists of the world with opportunities for action, be it a volunteer position, internship, or full-time gig. The founders of Idealist knew that too many ideas with the potential to change the world never get off the ground because of a lack of support and resources. The site remedies that by connecting people with organizations that need their specific skills.
Drawing from the traditions of Shabbat dinner, OneTable connects 20- and 30-somethings looking to share a Friday night meal. Simply search the site for someone hosting a dinner nearby. Despite the Jewish association, meals are non-denominational, and they’re a super easy way to meet new friends at the end of a long week. Shabbat shalom!
The good news: Romance is not dead. And that’s thanks in part to Scripted, a site where anyone can hire freelance writers for cheap. Fork over $10 and a few details about your relationship, and you’ll receive a custom 150-word love letter guaranteed to satisfy. Well, the prose isn’t guaranteed to help your relationship, but it will be well written.
Developed by marriage therapist Gary Chapman, Ph.D., The Five Love Languages is a tool that helps you discover what you need from a partner and what your partner needs from you. Understanding which one of the five languages (acts of service, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, physical touch, or quality time) tops their list is a shortcut to connecting with them in a more meaningful way. But it’s not just for romantic relationships. Send the quiz to your closest friends to deepen those connections too. ($15.99; Amazon).
If we’re always tied to our devices, why do we intentionally wait three hours before responding to texts from a potential suitor? As anyone who has used Tinder can attest, dating in the modern world is full of weird rules. That’s what makes this book by Aziz Ansari so good. It includes plenty of his signature wit, plus a surprising amount of sociological and psychological evidence that explains the crazy things we do when dating. ($28.95; Amazon).
Here’s one thing no one tells you about adulthood: Making friendships in the real world is hard. Marla Paul examines why forging these kinds of connections is so difficult and takes a scientific approach to determine the best ways to make and maintain friendships throughout the many chapters of adult life. ($12.95; Amazon)
Crowd funding wiz, musician, and TED speaker Amanda Palmer knows you rarely get the things you don’t ask for. In her book The Art of Asking, Palmer takes a fearless look at what it means to ask for help and examines the incredible communities you find when you do. ($15.99; Amazon)
If you spend any time looking for advice online, you’re bound to find a quote about being the average of the five people you spend the most time with. The message: Choose your connections wisely. Similarly, in Friendfluence, Carlin Flora examines the ways our friendships shape the person we are—for better or worse. This book gives you the tools to dive into your friendship history and cut loose any negative connections. ($16.95; Amazon).
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