A major curiosity of our times is the co-existence of the worldâs greatest-of-all-times connectivity on one hand and the deep isolation manifesting as the loneliness people are experiencing on the other hand.
Despite being more connected than ever through technology, people are reporting higher levels of loneliness and social isolation. This paradox raises important questions about the nature of human connection and the role of technology in shaping our social interactions.
Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) writes, âHow can we feel lonelier in a world where connection to other human beings now requires only a click of a button? How can we feel isolated when linkage to the outside world is delivered via nonstop handheld stimulus? Connection is everywhere, and yet loneliness persistsâand in certain subsets of the population grows worse, leading someÂ observersÂ to call the problem an âepidemic.â They are right to do so: It is an epidemic. The true cost of American loneliness is both hidden and insidious.â
What are the âCosts of Loneliness?â
According to campaigntoendloneliness.com:
Loneliness is likely to increase your risk of death by 26 percent.
Loneliness, living alone and poor social connections are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Loneliness and social isolation are associated with an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.
Loneliness with severe depression is associated with early mortality, and loneliness is a risk factor for depression in later life.
Loneliness and social isolation put individuals at greater risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
Types of Loneliness
According to the National Institute on Aging: âLoneliness and social isolation are different but related. Loneliness is the distressing feeling of being alone or separated. Social isolation is the lack of social contacts and having few people to interact with regularly. You can live alone and not feel lonely or socially isolated, and you can feel lonely while being with other people.â
Why are People so Lonely in
Such a Connected World?
Human beings are inherently social animals, which means that we have evolved to live in groups and depend on each other for survival. Our ability to communicate, cooperate, and form relationships has been a key factor in our evolutionary success.
From an early age, humans seek out social interactions and form relationships with others. Babies, for example, prefer human faces over other objects and are comforted by human touch. As we grow and develop, we continue to seek out social interactions and form relationships with family members, friends, and romantic partners. In a world suffering from an epidemic of loneliness, we need to identify the sources of disconnection causing the problems, which ironically turn out to be our very sources of connection.
The Role of the Internet
and Social Media
While social media connects people across vast distances and provides opportunities for social interaction, it is also associated with an increase in loneliness and feelings of social isolation. Social media connections are often less meaningful and less satisfying than in-person relationships. While we may have hundreds or thousands of âfriendsâ or followers online, these connections may not provide the same level of emotional support and intimacy that in-person relationships can provide.
When we communicate through screens, we miss out on important nonverbal cues, such as tone of voice and body language, which are essential for understanding the emotional state of others. Moreover, constant exposure to negative news stories and social media posts can lead to âcompassion fatigue,â a state of emotional exhaustion that makes it difficult to feel empathy for others.
âBy putting you in contact with the many who matter little, social media diminishes your ability to connect in real time with the few who matter a lot. You begin to perceive them, with all of their time-consuming idiosyncrasies, as requiring too much effort,â according to psychologist Kendra Cherry.
That statement hit home for me when I began to enjoy the COVID isolation too much. After directing over 80 dress rehearsals in my life and teaching large classes, it was just so relaxing to be alone! It was a siren song beckoning me to stay out of the human mix. Luckily, I remembered that one can enjoy solitude, but, like all things, it needs to be balanced.
Make the Effort!
Ways to âvaccinateâ yourself against the present loneliness epidemic require a little elbow grease. Tell yourself not to be lazy! Friendship is based on shared experiences, so reach out and make in-person dates with real friends or people you would like to be friends with. Join a group or a class. Pursue a spiritual fellowship. Make a commitment to a community service organization that will bring you new friends and tie you into a community. Throw a party. Bring your family together. Nourish or start a hobby.
Volunteer for Topanga Days!
Itâs work, but, hey! Itâs spring! Time to sow! Your mental and physical health are worth it!
Vamos a ver!