A newly commissioned study has the stats on just how much coronavirus has impacted our relationships, and offers research-led advice on how to reconnect with the people that we’re missing.
As a direct result of our newly limited lives, in which who we can see and where we can go are restricted, there has been a big rise in people reporting feelings of loneliness. Unsurprisingly, social distancing rules have caused people to lose touch with people they care about, with forms of communication like calling or texting simply not offering the same potential for closeness and comfort.
To gain a better understanding of just how much of a problem loneliness has become in recent months, Snapchat commissioned a huge piece of research, examining how coronavirus has affected peoples’ relationships and their feelings of isolation during the coronavirus crisis. Having noted that, across the world, 79% of people have reported losing touch with a close friend this year, the research aims to find ways to bridge the rifts the pandemic has opened up between people.
With analysis of interviews of 30,000 people across 16 countries, Snapchat’s “global Friendship Study” brings together the insights of seventeen experts on friendship.
Loneliness in the UK
In this new Friendship Study, it is revealed that the number of people in Britain feeling lonely has been rising steadily over the course of the year, with 68% of people reportedly experiencing loneliness as a direct result of the pandemic.
Lack of ability to see friends is cited as the main reason why, with almost half of people (48%) saying that “being unable to see their friends has made them feel lonelier”, and a similar number (49%) reporting that they don’t feel as close to their friends since lockdowns were imposed.
Of course, we do still have ways of staying in touch with people, no matter where in the country they are. In fact, more and more people have been using online forms of communication to stay in touch with people they can’t meet up with in person, with around two-thirds (64%) saying that they have been instant messaging and video calling their friends more frequently than they did prior to the pandemic. And, with this being the primary form of contact for so many people, many have also found that their online chats with friends have become more in-depth.
But still, in spite of all of the potential for maintaining friendships online communication affords us, people are still feeling lonelier. As Laavanya Kathiravelu, an expert in friendship and migration who is cited in the study, explains, “although friendships continue to be maintained through apps and phone calls, the disembodied element takes away from the full experience of friendship for many”.
Clearly, while people can still talk to their friends at the moment, not being able to see them is still taking its toll. It’s also not that easy to keep up in-depth conversations with everyone you know and love all at once; there are only so many hours in the day, and not all of them can be spent on your phone or at your laptop.
Consequently, 88% of people in the UK have reported losing touch with a friend this year, which is almost 10% higher than the global average. But friendships are more important to us now than ever, with good friendships being the best defence we have against feeling isolated and alone. So how can we reach out? And how can we make the most of our friendships when we can’t spend time with our friends in person?
The best ways to get back in touch
While many would appreciate the opportunity to reconnect with an old friend, not everyone has the confidence to do so. Whether because they feel too awkward to make the first move, or they just can’t decide how to get the conversation going, the Friendship Study found that 54% of respondents didn’t really know how to get back in touch.
As social psychology lecturer Gillian Sandstrom explains in the study, there is something called a “liking gap”, in which we assume that people like us less than they actually do. “This bias breeds insecurity about engaging in conversations”, making us far less likely to reach out, even to someone we have a close bond with. But Gillian knows that “people are more likely to like you than you think”, and so it’s important not to let that nagging insecurity get in the way of reconnecting with someone you miss.
If you’re really not sure how to start up the conversation, though, then the study has some insights that could help. For starters, it noted that the “number one thing” people would want to send to or receive from their friends to rekindle communication is a photo of them together (42%), closely followed by “a photo that reminded them of a shared memory (40%)”.
It also found that starting a conversation using humour was a great way to go, with 31% of respondents thinking that a relatable meme or funny GIF would be a good way to break the ice. So this means that you don’t need to worry about thinking of the perfect opening line, because using something that is visual and relatable might just be the ideal way to get the conversation flowing again.