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The Minimalists
The Minimalists are Emmy-nominated Netflix stars and New York Times–bestselling authors Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Alongside their podcast cohost, T.K. Coleman, this simple-living trio helps millions of people eliminate clutter and live meaningfully with less. Learn More.

A Minimalist’s Thoughts on Meaningful Relationships

For many years, I associated with people based on convenience. The people closest to me were the people, well, closest to me. That is, I spent most of my time with people whose only commonality was proximity: schoolmates, coworkers, acquaintances, executives, networking buddies.

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

My life is appreciably better now: I live more deliberately. Accordingly, my relationships are more deliberate, too. Besides a handful of friendships spawned in yesteryear, I’ve met all my most meaningful relationships online.

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

“Now that you’re a minimalist,” people often ask, “do you find that your friends and family take issue with your lifestyle?”

Why would I spend significant time with people who don’t share my values? My lifestyle is predicated on certain principles, and thus my relationships must align with my personal standards. Besides, it’s difficult to grow with someone if you’re both growing in opposite directions.

Because of the Internet, however, you and I are no longer limited to 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 person in the nearby cubicle outside of work hours. Instead, we can seek out people with similar values.

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, beliefs, or personalities—we’re human beings, not robots—but our common interests allow us to forge bonds based on something much more significant than proximity.

Worthwhile interactions make life more meaningful; 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 book, Essential.