Over the last couple of months, I have watched with great pleasure as a close friend has begun to let go of her feelings of loneliness. She has been plagued by deep feelings of isolation and unhappiness for many years, and I have felt helpless and unsure of how to help.
I’m a typical guy, and my default reaction to problems is to try and fix them. I would suggest endless “solutions”, but nothing worked. To be honest, I found it very difficult to understand the situation. I spend a lot of time on my own, but it’s by choice and doesn’t cause me to feel lonely. I enjoy and cherish my solitude and use it to think and explore.
I believe my friends breakthrough came when she discovered a community of people with a shared interest and passion. Not an online, virtual community but a real, local one based around her hometown. People who called her up and invited her over for food and made her feel welcome. People who lived in the streets nearby and who weren’t interested in the car she drove or what handbag she carried.
There exists this terrible taboo surrounding loneliness in our modern society. People talk about its effects on our elderly, but I believe the problem is much more widespread and is common among every age group. We are afraid to talk about it, afraid to admit we suffer and consequently it is tough to fix.
Your mobile phone gives you the illusion of connection, the illusion of friendship. On the one hand, everyone you have ever know is at your fingertips, but in most cases, it’s not a real connection. Instead of bringing you closer to others, your phone is a constant reminder of how alone you are.
As you scroll through Facebook or Instagram looking at the glowing “airbrushed lives” of the people you know, it is impossible not to feel envy at their “sorted” lives and happy smiling faces. The damage this does to your mental health and self-esteem is beyond measure.
I’m not sure this post can offer a solution to this complex problem, beyond drawing attention to the situation. I feel incredibly happy and relieved for my friend and the good place she now finds herself in.
If you too are suffering, please know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I believe the first step is to put your phone down. Stop looking at Facebook and Instagram. Stop comparing your life to others. Whatever appearance the pictures might give, their lives are never as happy or as “sorted” as they appear.
Instead, focus your attention and your time on real people and real activities that you can do with other people. Think hobbies and sports, but not gyms as these can be the most soulless places on earth, but that’s another blog post! Sure, this will push you out of your comfort zone; it is going to require you to be brave and to meet new people.
But in doing so, you will find the community that will welcome you, the people who will become your friends and the knowledge that you are loved and not alone.
Together, we climb the mountain, not in giant leaps but one small step at a time.