There’s a Reason You Miss Your Barista
Your microfriendships mean more than you think
My husband works in a city two hours away. Though he joins our four-year-old and me on weekends, I’m effectively in single-parent mode during the week.
My son and I had fallen into a weekly rhythm of outings: trips to the coffee shop for an afternoon hot chocolate or to the hippie grocery store to buy kombucha and organic lollipops. I made loose plans with other moms for Thursday mornings at the playground, the library, or the YMCA, and if we didn’t connect, it wasn’t a big deal, because there would be other parents or librarians to chat with whenever we arrived. The point was getting out of the house, getting to see people, and enjoying a change of scenery. Relief from it being just the two of us.
Enter Covid-19, pursued by a bear.
In the time of pandemic, our usual haunts are closed for public health reasons. The friends I have there and the wonderful program staff are gone from our lives for the next three weeks, maybe longer. It’s just you and me, kid.
Why does it make me feel so crazy that I can’t just nip out to my local coffee shop or smoothie joint? With all the yoga available on YouTube, why do I miss my YMCA class so much? In the age of unlimited long-distance minutes, FaceTime, and group chats, why is social distancing so hard?
It turns out regular friendly interactions aren’t just part of the scenery. Microdosing on socialization is good for us.
These “weak ties” are actually vital to well-being, writer Allie Volpe argues in the New York Times. Volpe cites a bevy of research, including work by sociologist Mark Granovetter that directly links microfriendships to a sense of belonging. “Not only can these connections affect our job prospects, they also can have a positive impact on our well-being by helping us feel more connected to other social groups,” Volpe writes.
From where I stand, Granovetter’s theory checks out. Seeing the same faces over and over again, whether at circle time or behind the cash register, makes me feel like I’m moored to something bigger than myself: Call it community, maybe.