In many ways, this sudden loneliness and subsequent lack of self-knowledge are what account for the quarter-life crisis among millennials. Without the reality check and emotional security of close friendships, many adults in their 20s and 30s feel aimless and scared. Nothing seems that meaningful or fulfilling to them, and all relationships seem transactional and shallow (because they usually are).

Hence, many people in this situation desperately seek a new scene, believing that changing circumstances somehow will solve the problem. Unfortunately, in most cases it does not; it only leaves them all the more isolated and unhappy.

Because friendship has become so rare, many now question its value. The Aristotelian ideal, of two people enjoying one another’s company for the sake of pursuing the good, the true, and the beautiful, seems naïve. Perhaps the ancients considered this the greatest kind of love; moderns consider it folly. If one is really that eager for company, he or she can just get a dog—and many do.

So, if so many people are caught in this cycle, what can they do to escape it? For most of them, it will mean addressing the thing that pushed them into it in the first place: their screens.