I am lonely / I don’t have friends / I am always single

The Wandering Engineer
9 min readJan 6, 2024

--

Okay, in the past year, I’ve talked a lot about young people’s dating struggles and the lack of social life. I get it. You are lonely. You don’t have friends or a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner. People are selfish and everyone is addicted to electronics and dopamine, and nobody wants to put effort into friendships or relationships anymore.

Yes, life is hard, but you can’t just sit around and wait for friendships and relationships to come to you. You need to do something about it. Sitting at home and complaining will do nothing to change that. Scrolling on your phone or playing video games all day won’t do you any good either.

This post is going to sound cynical but this is what I’ve observed from my social interactions over the years.

You don’t get quality friendships or relationships by chasing or approaching people. You have to have something that people want — you attract them instead. I know it looks like other people are just having fun, but it usually starts with people trying to get things from others. It’s an exchange of value.

  • Be attractive. And don’t be unattractive. People want to hang around with attractive people, men or women. The halo effect is real. If you aren’t attractive, people generally won’t come to you. If you have unattractive or creepy behaviors people will stay away from you. Rule number one and number two. Read my dating advice if you want to know more.
  • Be interesting. I know you don’t like to hear it but it’s still the reality even as adults. You need to have an interesting life — friends, parties, events, hobbies, and networking. People want to have a good time and they want to feel cool. If you can’t offer people that experience they aren’t going to come to you. Also, I know social media sucks, but put some effort into your online profiles. You need to advertise yourself.
  • Be talented/useful. If you can help others, impress others, or teach others, they will reach out to you for those skills and utilities. If you’re just an average Joe and you have nothing outstanding (or don’t advertise your talents), no one will come to you. You need to be useful and have something to offer.
  • Body language. Most communication is non-verbal and people pick up on this stuff unconsciously. Are you slouching, leaning, or hunched? Are your hands in your pockets or are your arms/legs crossed? Are you leering around the room? Can you smile and make eye contact? Can you express yourself? Are you stiff and rigid? A lot of people reek of low confidence and desperation you can see it.
  • First impressions and associations. When you first meet someone, you really only get one chance. If you blow it, it can take a while for them to reform their opinion about you. How do you dress, how do you talk and present yourself, and who do you associate with? As harsh as it sounds, the world is superficial (even well into adulthood), and people will judge you by your appearance and associations. Make yourself presentable.
  • Your energy/personality. Finally, are you leaving people happy, energized, or upbeat? Or do they feel exhausted and bad after talking to you? I used to have a friend who initiates conversations all the time, but she is intolerable and the only good part is when it’s over. You need to learn how to emit positive energy and tell a good story — watch some standup comedy.

Remember, the basis of socialization is one person seeking something from the other. If you have nothing they seek, they won’t come around. As much as people don’t like to admit it, human relationships are mostly transactional. You are valued by what you can provide. Your attractiveness to others is a byproduct of your value.

Also, consider that most people already have friends or a significant other that meets their social needs. They often don’t need another friend so they won’t go out of their way looking for one. People also have school, work, family, hobbies, and other things to keep them busy.

The cold, hard truth is that the world is cliquey, and social circles generally solidify past college/university and become even more so once people start their own families. Simply being nice, humble, considerate, trustworthy, or loyal doesn’t really lure people in, you’re just an NPC. People won’t go out of their way to socialize with you if you’re not worth their time.

So where can you go from here? Well, you don’t have to be oozing “rizz” right away, but you can work on the above and develop yourself to be more socially attractive. Otherwise, you have to find common interests and activities, and through those you build comradeship which can turn into genuine friendship. Alternatively, you can find other lonely people who are looking for friends and create your own social groups, which will require you to initiate most of it.

Finally, you need to safeguard your social reputation like your life depends on it. It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it. People pay much more attention to your negative traits than your positive ones — it is our survival instinct. Once your reputation is tarnished in a social circle, it is hard for people to change their opinions about you. In most cases, it’s much easier to just move on and start fresh elsewhere.

Oh, but I’ve been putting myself out there and socializing a lot, but I’ve never been liked or reciprocated before, I keep getting ghosted, turned down, and other people don’t want to associate with me, blah blah blah.

Okay, it’s good that you are self-aware. If many people dislike you and don’t want to associate with you, it’s likely the way you communicate and present yourself. Others might be overly judgemental, but let’s focus on the things you can change. Here may be some reasons why:

1. You make others feel intellectually or morally inferior

Do you always try to one-up, outsmart, or out-debate others? Do you need to be proven right?

Many socially awkward people are smart — and that could be a problem. They come off too strong. Some think they can use smartness to gain friends when the opposite will happen. Nobody likes feeling inferior, weak, or wrong. You might do it thinking you’re just being funny, witty, comical, or helpful. But others might not see it that way. It’s the same thing with you passing moral judgments.

Solution: Do not one-up, argue, debate, or prove someone wrong. 99.99% of the time, there’s nothing to gain by you mouthing off. There are no winners in an argument. Why tick someone off when there’s no advantage?

2. You’re working against someone’s interest

There’s no need to elaborate. If someone’s going for a job promotion but you’re blocking them, they’ll dislike you. If another guy likes a girl but you’re pursuing her as well, he’ll dislike you.

Solution: You need to be situationally aware. Be aware of other people’s interests and don’t try to interfere. In this competitive world, we often need to step on other people’s toes to get what we want. But don’t do it just to spite someone when there’s nothing real to gain.

3. You start needless conflicts or drama

There’s no need to elaborate here either. Some socially awkward people talk a whole lot of sh*t — Namedropping, spreading rumors, and gossiping about other people. You might think the other person deserves it — but what do you get out of a confrontation?

Sometimes, person A will purposely say something to person B just to anger person C (who can overhear). Sometimes, you say stuff about other people that sounds amusing but you are ticking people off. You are just starting drama and conflict, and most people dislike needless drama. They’ll think you also say bad things about them behind their backs.

Solution: Don’t talk down on people directly or indirectly. Never talk down about others behind their backs. Keep those thoughts to yourself. Don’t be condescending. If you say something the other person seems to take offense or disagree, don’t double down. Just STFU or say “I didn’t mean any disrespect”.

4. Monopolizing the conversation or making it about you

I see too many people making this mistake. They dominate conversations spilling everything about themselves. This is narcissistic behavior. Here, you try to monopolize the conversation or put the focus on yourself, your interests, your desires, or your problems. You’re conveying a ME ME ME attitude which makes others feel unimportant, uninteresting, or inferior.

If talking one-on-one, there’s no reason you’re speaking over 60% of the time. If in a group, there’s no reason you should be speaking noticeably more than others, unless you’re giving a talk or presentation.

Solution: Don’t keep talking about yourself, other people are not your therapists. Ask people questions and be genuinely interested in them. Ask others for input if you must. Even if the other person seems interested in what you say, often they’re just being polite when they’re actually bored and want to leave the conversation.

5. Refusing to initiate or put effort

Do you need others to approach you first?

Whether you’re making friends or trying to date, if you don’t initiate, you’ll be perceived as conceited. You might think “I’m just shy” — but others don’t know that. They can only judge you by your actions. If you always expect others to approach you first, you’re sub-communicating “I’m superior so you need to come to me” even if that’s the opposite of how you feel.

A variation of this principle is that you initiate with others but somehow skip a certain person. This makes that person feel like an outcast which creates resentment. Another variation is not putting any effort into your social circles. Some people always expect others to organize events or gatherings, and wonder why they never get invited when they do happen.

Solution: Make a point to say hello or initiate conversation first. If you’re in a group, don’t be afraid to inject yourself into the conversation. Also, don’t be afraid to lead a group of people and organize events. Be proactive in your social life. Too many people today are passive, so it gives you an easy leg up.

6. Your personality, values, and interests don’t align with theirs.

That’s pretty self-explanatory. Sometimes people don’t like you just because you don’t have much in common. In that case, it’s just better to let it go.

Don’t try to force it or change your personality, interests, or values for someone else. There are 8 billion people in this world. Just be (the best version of) yourself.

Finally, as this is an engineering blog, I have a few words for all you engineers, tech bros, geeks, and nerds reading this.

Intelligent people are generally more lonely and struggle more with friendships and relationships. It is more difficult to relate to most people and they can behave in ways or have interests that turn most people off.

I get it, I used to have the same problem either self-isolating or behaving like a smartass when I was socializing. It got me nowhere in my social life, and for a while, I was a loner and social outcast. Over time, I worked to become less socially awkward and condescending, developed more interests and skills, cleaned up my style and fashion, and became more approachable. It has made me lots of friends and landed me lots of dates.

Being socially aware and having good communication skills are as important, if not more important than having hard skills (like engineering and computer programming). These skills will get you much further in your personal and professional lives. These are the skills that truly matter when your work decides whether or not to promote you, or whether you end up dating the person you like.

Engineers always have the reputation of being introverted nerds or loners, so it is especially important for you guys to work on your social skills and change the stereotype.

Virtualization is ruining friendships and relationships. People are becoming anti-social and socially awkward from being indoors all day, glued to their electronics. It’s easier than going out and meeting people in real life.

Especially in North America, the lack of third places is also a problem. People don’t have places to meet others outside of school or work, and the stigma against approaching colleagues and strangers doesn’t help either.

Social skills are on the decline — many things I talked about here should really be common sense, but many young people today don’t seem to have it, as they never exercise these skills. Social skills are like muscles — they need to be exercised regularly, and if they are not, they atrophy.

Work on your social skills. Go out and live a life. Life is too short to be a socially awkward loner and shut-in.

--

--