Picture this: You have been stuck in your house for days, no phone calls, no texts, no emails, no social media. Your house is dark. You stare blankly and longingly out the window into what is probably blistering cold outside. The days crawl by and before you realize it, you haven’t had human contact in days.
Does that sound like loneliness? Sure does! Unfortunately, there is a much more common situation in which people are likely to experience loneliness. Something like this …
You’re sitting in a crowded restaurant, and seated around you are some of your closest friends. You’ve been looking forward to this dinner for some time, but now that you are here, the experience is not necessarily living up to your expectations. Everyone is on their phones, and even worse, no one seems to be bothered by this. You all struggle to find meaningful conversation topics because you have been in constant contact with each other for several years, and quite frankly, what else is there to say? You have seen all the Facebook statuses, vacation pictures, and workout/yoga routines. The conversation is superficial. Your friends seem to be more concerned about what they look like, what their weekend plans are, and gossip about other people’s lives than making a true personal connection. You realize that even together, everyone is preoccupied with their own lives.
With constant opportunities for connection through cell phones and social media, it’s easy to think that loneliness is – or should be – a thing of the past. But do these types of interactions really fill a void that loneliness creates?
I venture to say that every Facebook post, Instagram pic, or Snapchat story is really a call for connection. It’s our way of standing in front of all of our family and friends, both hands waving, crying out, “Hey! Over here! I need to talk to someone!”
And for a short while, it almost works! When the likes and hearts and reassuring comments come flying in, we feel good. In a sense, it’s much like a “high” or a “fix” to our loneliness. This is the pseudo-connection we were looking for.
But then, the high wears off. Other people start to wave their hands in the air and soon enough, your post is buried by others that are looking for the same connection. And you’re left with the old, familiar feeling that you started out with – loneliness.
Or maybe it’s not so familiar after all. Sometimes “lonely” feels like “hungry”. (Cue food addiction!) And the cycle continues. Check out my previous post Holiday Appetites for more on this topic.
And social media isn’t all bad. It can connect families that live far away. It can keep you up-to-date with companies and causes that you’re interested in. But it’s important to know its boundaries and what it cannot do, like be a substitution for real inter-personal connection. This concept is so important to be aware of because even though we are ever-connected (and ever-medicated) rates of depression and anxiety in this country are still increasing! More on this topic to follow in future posts.
So, I have a call to action for you. Next time you find yourself posting/calling/texting for “connection,” call someone instead. Or schedule a phone-free, face-to-face get-together. Pick one person, a trusted person, and be up front by acknowledging how you are feeling. You may be surprised that just a quick 10 minutes of validation by one person can cure your hunger/anger/frustration/confusion/lonely/whatever feeling.
Thanks for reading!