You’re missing a lot of fun by saying no to things just because you’re alone.
A study from the University of Maryland explored our natural tendency to assume activities will be more fun if we do them with friends. A large part of this mindset comes from a fear of negative inferences from others about our social connectedness, and that we overestimate how much of our enjoyment depends on whether we’re accompanied by a companion.
Well, as it turns out, doing things solo can be just as enjoyable as if you were in the company of others.
“People decide to not do things all the time just because they’re alone,” says one of the study’s co-authors, Rebecca Ratner. “But the thing is, they would probably be happier going out and doing something.”
The challenge lies in convincing people of this proven truth. One experiment asked participants to predict how happy they’d be attending an art gallery, and then measured their actual enjoyment following the activity. The results determined they were often wrong about how much fun they’d have solo, with a considerable majority reporting an increase in actual vs. predicted enjoyment:
A key to getting people out and about by themselves is to encourage them to see activities as accomplishments, rather than recreational experiences. Most people don’t have reservations about grocery shopping solo, for example, because shopping represented getting something done. So when subjects of the study were told they could read something at a coffee shop and be productive instead of just sitting there to enjoy a coffee, most considered this more enjoyable.
There’s a significant shift toward solo lifestyles – more than a quarter of American households are home to just one person, a figure that has tripled since 1970 – and marketers are beginning to warm consumers up to the idea of partaking in experiences alone. We’ve seen the number of restaurants with communal tables rise dramatically in past years, networking events now offer plenty of reasons to attend without a +1, and music venues are starting to feature designated spaces for individual music lovers.
One concept restaurant in Amsterdam even proudly declares itself “the first one-person restaurant of the world; the perfect place to dine in pleasant solitude.”
So stop waiting for your friend to text back and do something – you’ll probably enjoy it.