SINGAPORE: If we had to point to one thing we are short of that is causing most of us to miss out on opportunities, most of us might think it is money - but that increasingly isn’t the case.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s also not motivation.
In this day and age where careers are prioritised and society moves at a fast pace, the one thing we’re lacking is time – it’s leading to most of us missing out on dinners with friends and families.
The lack of time is also making it hard for working adults to make new friends outside of their professional circles.
In fact, the National Population and Talent Division’s marriage and parenthood survey results released last year found 39 per cent of singles choose to focus on their careers or studies rather than to seek out dates, much less form new friendships. By placing priority on matters other than making friends, their social circles and existing friendships are shrinking.
Much has also been said about the difficulties in sustaining long-term friendships in modern day society. It’s so easy to get engrossed in technology, in social media and its bottomless feed and forget about those around us.
Can we still make meaningful connections in a competitive, technology-dominated world?
Compared to our parents’ generation, technology has changed the texture of human relationships.
Since the emergence of social apps, more are reaching out online as the primary way to expand their social circles.
Singapore saw an increase in percentage of singles open to online dating from 19 per cent in 2012 to 43 per cent last year. While negative perceptions of friendship and dating apps will never fully go away, the long-term trend is that more individuals are connecting through online platforms.
This interaction however might be bursts of activity rather than the long-term sustained friendships. On social networking app Paktor, users send at least 60 messages per log-in – likely, multiple messages to several profiles at once and with multiple matches.
Perhaps convenience gives an illusion of choice. Some get complacent and believe if a friendship doesn’t work out, they can always move on to the next option and “ghost” the other party.
Maybe this is the reason why friendships form fast but people run a high risk of drifting apart just as quickly.
MAKING AND MAINTAINING CONNECTIONS
Some may argue that friendships formed in school or in the army create deeper connections and last longer. People who experience hard times together are said to forge stronger bonds.
One study, led by researcher Brock Bastian of the University of New South Wales in Australia, found that shared pain can produce bonding and cooperation. It also found that shared pain can increase a sense of solidarity, and boost cooperation among those who share these experiences.
While this may be true, it does not mean that it is impossible to create meaningful connections with the people you meet online – whether you’re trying to make a friend or trying to form a romantic relationship.
A study published in the MIT Technology review found that couples who met online had higher levels of compatibility. Another study published in the journal Sociological Science in 2017 found that couples who met online made a quicker transition to marriage compared to those who met offline.
READ: Why breaking up in the Facebook era is hard to do, a commentary
The lesson isn’t that online dating will lead you to form meaningful friendships or find the one. But it is a way to meet others and try to see if there’s enough common ground for a long-term friendship, when time is not on your side.
JUST KEEP AT IT
For those trying to make new friends online, my own advice is to be clear of what you hope to achieve when you meet someone and to just keep at it.
It’s always nerve-wrecking meeting someone for the first time but what do you have to lose?
Think of it as meeting a friend’s friend for the first time. Get to know people, have polite conversations, and don’t put pressure on yourself.
The key to maintaining new friendships is to constantly communicate and make it a point to meet regularly. Showing that you are putting in effort highlights how keen you are in maintaining the friendship which will hopefully be met with reciprocity.
It sounds hard but if there is genuine chemistry and common interests, putting in the effort should come naturally. If it doesn’t, perhaps that also teaches you something about yourself, your interests and what matters to you in making a genuine connection with someone.
At the end of the day, forming long-lasting friendships or relationships isn’t rocket science. It is up to you to put in the effort into maintaining them.
Ng Jing Shen is chief executive officer of Paktor Group.