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The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff for 4 million readers. As featured on: ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, TODAY, NPR, TIME, Forbes, The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and National Post. They live in Missoula, Montana.

A Minimalist’s Thoughts on Meaningful Relationships

For many years, I associated with people based on convenience.

The people who were closest to me were the people who were, well, closest to me. That is, I spent most of my time with people whose only commonality was proximity: schoolmates, co-workers, acquaintances, networking buddies, etc.

Most of them weren’t shitty relationships, but other than location, we had very little in common. We didn’t share similar values or beliefs—the bedrocks of any worthwhile relationship. In many cases we didn’t even share any common interests.

My life is appreciably different now: I live more deliberately. Accordingly, my relationships are more deliberate, too. Besides two of my closest relationships—Nicodemus and my wonderful former spouse—and a handful of friendships spawned from yesteryear, I’ve met all my most meaningful relationships online.

That’s right: I’ve met most of my closest friends on the Internet. Although weird to read and weird to write, it’s the magnificent truth, for good reasons.

People ask me about my relationships all the time, usually with respect to dating or intimate relationships, e.g., “Now that you’re a minimalist, do you find the women you date have a problem with your lifestyle?”

My answer: Why the hell would I want to spend significant chunks of time with someone who doesn’t share similar values or interests? My lifestyle is predicated on certain principles, and thus my relationships—intimate or otherwise—must align with my personal standards. It’s hard to grow with someone if you’re both growing in opposite directions.

Because of the Internet, however, you and I are no longer relegated by proximity. We’re no longer forced to engage in pointless small talk in an effort to uncover a morsel of commonality. We no longer have to hang out with the guy in the nearby cubicle outside work hours. Instead, we can seek out people with similar values and beliefs.

Most of my newfound relationships have two things in common: we met because of the Internet, and we see the world through similar lenses. That doesn’t mean we always agree on everything, nor do we have the same tastes, opinions, or personalities—we’re human beings, not robots—but our common interests allow us to forge bonds that are predicated on something much more significant than proximity.

Worthwhile interactions make life more purposeful, they make life worth living. Without them, we’d be forced to experience the world with people who aren’t understanding, supportive, or caring—or worse, we’d be forced to encounter the world on our own, completely alone, which doesn’t sound like a pleasant proposition—even for an introvert like me.

Read this essay and 150 others in our new book, Essential.