Real men don’t need anyone. They’re unmoving rocks, able to solve any problem and weather any storm. They don’t need chats over coffee or late-night talks on the phone. All a real man needs is a gun, a man cave, and a 65” TV.
Or at least, that’s Hollywood’s contention.
Just think of the men that typify pop culture: James Bond, Jason Bourne, and Jack Reacher.
Real men like this don’t have time for chit-chat or socializing. They’ve got stuff to shoot and beautiful women to save. And once they’re done taking care of business, it’s back to living the life of a loner.
Maybe that’s why so many men have been fooled into believing that they don’t need to socialize. A huge percentage of Western men see their solitary tendencies as being a genuinely good thing. One recent survey of 2,000 men revealed that 30% wanted to be seen as “strong and silent”. A full quarter reported not having had a night out with friends in over two years. And an astounding 65% said that they make it a point to avoid social events.
Could It Be We Were Made This Way?
So why are men so drawn to this lonely vision of masculinity? Is it just the media we’ve consumed? Or could there be deeper underlying reasons?
A study conducted in 2007 by the University of Manchester sociologists found that men are “more fickle and calculating about who they should be friends with.” They also discovered that women tend to develop stronger, deeper relationships than men.
What if the reason for this goes back to the very beginning? And what if it’s rooted in the way we were created?
According to the Bible, God created human beings in his own image. This means that they have been created to represent him to the rest of creation. After giving this mandate to man, God zeroed in on specific ways in which he wanted them to accomplish this task. The author of Genesis writes, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15 NIV).
In other words, God created man to work. And the entire history of the world, and mankind, bears witness to this. For generations, men did work largely alone. They farmed the ground. They domesticated and cared for animals, and they worked as blacksmiths, carpenters, and masons.
When God creates woman, he says, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18 NIV). Now, it’s important to note that the Hebrew word behind “helper” here does not carry any of the inferiority connotations that our English word does. Throughout the Bible, God is called the “helper” of his people. Why? Because God helps Israel achieve what she never could have accomplished on her own. Israel couldn’t deliver herself from Egyptian slavery. And she couldn’t claim a land as her own. She needed a helper who could intervene, working with her to achieve both their goals.
So, when God calls woman a “helper”, he’s recognizing that she will work alongside the man so that both of them will live to their full potential and achieve what they never could have on their own.
However, complementing one another means that there are differences between the two. If men and women were identical, they’d merely do twice as much of the same thing. But since they complement one another, they make up for each other’s weaknesses. And this isn’t something only taught by the Bible. Modern research has confirmed the idea that men and women differ from one another in important ways.
For example, a study carried out in 2017 found that “girls outperformed boys in collaborative problem solving”. And while there’s been much debate about women’s abilities to multitask, some studies have shown that they’re better at it than men. Men, on the other hand, tend to have greater visuospatial abilities, allowing them to judge distances and aim projectiles more effectively.
Could it be that God created men and women in these different ways so that they could better complement one another? If you think about the way things have happened historically, it’s easy to see that possibility. Throughout human history, men have normally been the hunters, tracking animals and throwing the spears or shooting the arrows needed to take them down. Meanwhile, women spent more time at camp, doing more collaborative, communal work. Over the past few centuries, much of our environment and cultural situation has shifted. Today, the average American man doesn’t have to hunt buffalo to survive. But for millennia prior, he did. And God created him in such a way that he could do that well.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to let these differences drive us toward unhealthy habits. As we’ve already noted, too many men believe that a masculine approach to life is necessarily solitary. But this isn’t so. In fact, the Bible teaches that all human beings – including men and women – were created for community.
A Call to Community from the Bible
The first chapter of the Bible details God’s creation of the “heavens and the earth”. After each act of creation, God looks at what he’s made and sees that it is “good”. But in the midst of all this creating, God declares that one thing is not good. In fact, it’s the only thing in the first two chapters of Genesis that’s seen as less than good. And what is it? “It is not good for the man to be alone.”
According to the first story in the Bible, God created humans for community. And this idea isn’t just found here. It’s littered throughout the scriptures. For example, when God calls Abraham and promises to bless him, he doesn’t just focus on Abraham as an individual. He says, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3 NIV). So, God isn’t just concerned with a person here. He’s concerned with a people.
Later, when God gives Israel his law, he includes important commands like, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18 NIV). And in the Wisdom book of Ecclesiastes, God reminds his people that “two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV).
But we don’t just find this important idea in the Hebrew scriptures. The Christian New Testament repeats this same idea, including nearly 50 commands with the phrase “one another” in them. Every one of these “one another” commands implies a community of people with which to practice them.
In other words, the Bible paints a picture of men and women both needing the benefits of community and socialization. But community isn’t just vital for our spiritual health. Separating ourselves from others can have a myriad of other negative effects on our physical and mental health.
The Dangers of Loneliness
A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that loneliness is often connected to dissatisfaction with one’s family, social, and community life. But it doesn’t just impact the way people look at those around them (or their own lives). It also has the ability to damage a person’s physical and psychological health.
Social isolation has been linked to dozens of negative health consequences such as depression, cognitive decline, decreased cardiovascular function, lowered immunity, and poor sleep quality.
But it gets worse! Consistent social isolation increases your risk of premature death by between 50 and 84%.
While some of this increased risk is likely due to the health problems that loneliness aggravates, there’s another side of loneliness that’s become an epidemic: suicide.
Consider that in 2017, men were 3.5 times more likely to commit suicide than women were. The World Health Organization (WHO) has even reported that half of all violent male deaths were the result of suicide.
In other words, the vision of lonesome masculinity popular in modern culture could be making people sick and even killing them.
If modern American men are to thrive, they’ll need to rediscover the value of community and friendship. Socializing doesn’t just benefit body and mind; it offers a host of other advantages that will help people feel better about themselves and discover a better quality of life.
The Benefits of the Bar
Maybe, deep down inside, people know they need to connect with others. They understand that they can’t live a healthy, fulfilling life by imitating James Bond. Maybe that’s why humans created the bar in the first place – to give themselves a space to establish a social connection, even if only for a moment or two. After all, if it was just about drinking, they could pick up a six-pack on the way home from work.
Whether you do it at a bar or via an online mixer, engaging in a little friendly conversation will have major benefits – physical, mental, and spiritual. Just consider the following:
Socializing Improves Your Mental Health
We’ve already looked at how socializing can prevent depression and other mental problems, but its benefits don’t stop there. No less an authority than the Mayo Clinic has noted that socializing “helps to sharpen memory and cognitive skills, increases your sense of happiness and well-being, and may even help you live longer. In-person is best but connecting via technology also works.” Since Western men are facing an epidemic of loneliness (and all the problems that come with it), this is good news for men.
Socializing Improves Your Confidence
Studies have shown that socializing and being around others boosts our self-confidence and self-esteem. Finding a place to belong in a community imparts a deeper sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. And that purpose provides a greater sense of confidence in who we are. This is important for men because self-confidence is key to many things that we care about, from getting ahead in our careers to successfully scoring a date with that attractive woman in accounting.
Socializing Improves Your Quality of Life
This is one thing about socializing that studies have found over and over. Men who regularly spend time with others consistently rate their quality of life higher than those who spend more of their time alone. So, if you want to see a marked improvement in the way you feel about life, find someone (or an entire group) to hang out with.
Socializing Improves Your Physical Health
Researchers say that engaging in regular socialization improves your physical health in a wide variety of ways. It strengthens your immune system so you’re better able to fight off colds, flus, and other diseases. And it can prevent other health problems, including heart-related ones. This is of huge significance for men since men are so much more likely to die from cardiovascular problems in middle age.
These health benefits apply across the board, to both men and women. Even though men may have needed an independent streak 10,000 years ago, today, it doesn’t give us much of an advantage at all. On the contrary, it creates more problems than anything else. In our modern world, socializing provides a far greater benefit.
But if you’re like most men, you don’t have a particularly strong record when it comes to getting together with friends or meeting new people.
So, what are the best ways to take advantage of the benefits of socializing?
Exploring Ways to Connect with Others
There are literally hundreds of ways that you can start taking advantage of the benefits that come from socializing. If you’re passionate about a cause that’s bigger than yourself, you can try volunteering or attending a local religious service. If you’d like to improve your health and quality of life, join a gym and mix exercise with good conversation. And if you’re interested in furthering your career, you could join a professional networking group like the Chamber of Commerce.
Alternatively, you could try an online mixer that focuses on any of these topics (or dozens of others). If you’ve never tried an online mixer, it’s an easy way to connect with others via an online platform like Zoom. You’re put in a virtual room with a number of others, and have the opportunity to meet people from around the world who share your interests. There’s never been a less threatening way to build meaningful connections.
If you’ve been trying to imitate your favorite loner superhero or secret agent, maybe it’s time to recognize that this view of masculinity – like most things in the movies – is fake.
Real men do need others. They need friends, community, and conversation. And whether you socialize by visiting your local bar or decide to try out one of VideoSocialize’s online mixer options, we hope that you’ll try something. Your physical and mental health will thank you.
Articles on the videosocialize.com blog are commissioned by VideoSocialize from talented writers with a variety of backgrounds. All articles copyright VideoSocialize. Would you be interested in sharing your thoughts on this article in a 4 person Zoom discussion which would be uploaded to YouTube? If so, please contact us.
Casey Fenn lives on a small farm in the foothills of Western North Carolina with his wife and four children. By day, he’s a mild-mannered small-town pastor. By night, he’s a writer that covers a variety of topics – from cryptocurrency to aquarium maintenance – for numerous blogs and small businesses. As evidence for his love of education, Casey received his B.S. in Communication from Kennesaw State University, his B.S. in Christian Ministry from Mid-America Christian University, his Master of Ministry from Mount Vernon Nazarene University, and his Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary.