For you are not alone, for I am here with you...
…and though we’re far apart, you’re always in my heart – or at least I hope someone close to you is.
Last week I wrote about Alone vs Lonely – you can read it here – and this week I continue on that theme as we are only a couple of weeks away from the festive season which generally is a time of uniting joy, but, for some, can also magnify feelings of loneliness and isolation.
In a recent Pew Research Survey, in excess of 25% of people aged 60 or more lived by themselves, with 43% of this age bracket reported feeling lonely – even pre-Covid – and it’s not just the aged. In a 2018 survey of 20,000 Americans, people between 18-22 years old ranked highest on the Cigna US loneliness index. Some even suggest that the damaging health effects of loneliness and social isolation can equate to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and other studies link numerous associated health problems such as dementia, depression and obesity.
The loneliness epidemic is not going away, if anything, it is getting worse.
It’s as important now as it’s ever been, perhaps more so, that we pay attention to our fellow man (and woman). In the words of INXS, “I send a message, hope it gets through.”, and sometimes a message is all it takes to check in with a family member or friend or neighbour or work colleague.
A bit more effort and timing is required for a phone call or visit or catchup somewhere, but it is a far greater thing to do in terms of emotional and psychological care for someone. I get life is busy. I get people have more immediate priorities. I get people are really tired after work. I get people wished someone would care more for them so why should they keep bothering.
Believe me, you have plenty of reasons (excuses?) for not making the effort, but ask yourself this, how much are your family and friends worth to you?
I don’t know about you, but I believe people have, in a sense, fundamentally changed over the past decade. What I mean more specifically is that “change” is particularly noticeable in the way we communicate and interact with one another. The advances in technology and the arrival of social media has drastically altered the means of communication and warped our sense and understanding of what human connection is, its value, purpose and the intended outcomes.
This is no small joke and the reasons are complicated, and, as usual, we don’t understand the effects until years later – sometimes not at all! Pandemic aside, more and more people are congregating in online communities rather than physical ones. Now, there are pros and cons to this. I know it can be difficult finding likeminded people where you live and the internet has helped overcome that geographical shortcoming and opened people up to the world, quite literally. The downside, so to speak, is that we are now closer to and have more in common with Hans from Germany (it’s Christmas, Theo, it’s the time of miracles) than our next door neighbour, local community and possible even some of our local friends and family.
Now, where’s the problem with that I hear some of you ask? Isn’t this just a part of the modernising of society and breaking down previous restrictions? Don’t you want people to find others who they resonate with? And if that person is in another country, so be it?
No matter how good an online interaction is, it will still never beat nor substitute face-to-face human contact. However, a good online friendship/relationship is better than a substandard in-person one.
I’ve always believed that people are deluding themselves if they think they can just talk to people online and everything will be fine. However, this is where I feel a significant portion of people are fundamentally changing in that they are sublimating real world contact for online world contact, primarily out of need for connection and its convenience, even though what they crave is real world, real person interaction.
The snowball effect to this is that people start spending more and more time online interacting and less and less time offline, to the point where it becomes jarring and awkward talking to people face-to-face – and almost like you’re interacting with a fundamentally different human being. I swear if you gave some people in retail or hospitality the option to text you “how’s your day?” etc. instead of verbally asking you, they would take it up!
So, please, do not cut yourself off and hide yourself away online – there are positives, but I still believe it to be a bit “fool’s gold” in the end, a kind of false promise of utopia let’s say, one in which you will never reach, leaving you ultimately dissatisfied. Try and make the effort with loved ones and even regulars and randoms you encounter throughout your week. A moment of sincere interest in another human being’s life goes a long way.
It's worth repeating, a moment of sincere interest in another human being's life goes a long way.
Let us not forget how to be civil to our fellow man (and woman). Let us not surround ourselves completely with those all too similar that we become unaware and intolerable of the differences of others. Let us remember many a man, woman and child are struggling towards a better existence, to heal the world, to make it a better place for you and for me. Let us engage our heads and hearts so that when someone asks, “will you be there?”, we can respond positively, opening up the opportunity for reciprocity and bringing a little more love into the world.
Don’t forget about those who matter. Show people that they matter. Do things...