We Need To Treat The Loneliness Epidemic

Understanding the symptoms is the first step to finding a cure.

Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde on Unsplash

All day, we can’t help but feel alone in the most connected society on earth. We’ve normalized looking down at our phones, talking to each other on a screen, and wondering if we’ll ever experience human interaction again.

It’s become an epidemic of sorts, with over half of Americans reportedly feeling isolated & lonely. Yet despite loneliness sucking the life out of each of us, we’re not treating it with the urgency it deserves.

We’ve become perpetually trapped in a machine that gets us to ignore an essential part of life: human connection.

Instead of having meaningful conversations, we stare down at our phones while hanging out with friends, desperately hoping for a “like” on our latest Instagram post to reinforce social validation.

Or while sitting down at the dinner table, our families scroll through their social media feed to see what each other has accomplished during the day.

It’s ironic how none of us are alone in being lonely. Although we’re on a planet of 7.8 billion people, many of us are struggling to find the human connection that we so desperately crave.

Loneliness is slowly attacking each of our lives, forcing us into an abyss of depression & isolation from which it’s difficult to escape. So the only way to find a cure for this global epidemic is by understanding why it exists in the first place.

Social Media Can Make Us Feel Isolated.

We’re told that social media is an excellent way of connecting with friends and keeping up with events related to those in our inner circle. But in reality, it can negatively affect your mental health due to feelings of inadequacy and isolation.

For example, you might experience FOMO (the fear of missing out) if your friends attended a party that you weren’t invited to. Or perhaps you’re feeling depressed as people aren’t messaging you frequently. So naturally, you can’t help but wonder if those relationships are genuine.

Research shows that loneliness is directly linked to negative experiences on social media. Quoting an article published in Forbes: “For every 10% rise in negative experience on social media, there was a 13% increase in loneliness.”

So if you’re already experiencing feelings of loneliness & depression, it’s probable that frequent social media use will amplify the existing negative thoughts inside your head.

One of the best decisions I’ve ever made was limiting the amount of time I spend on social media each day. After all, it meant that I was no longer spending eight hours comparing myself to other people, and wondering why my life wasn’t good enough.

I’m empathetic to the fact that you use social media regularly to communicate with friends & family etc. But it’s certainly important to realize when it’s damaging your self-esteem, so you can begin reducing the amount of time scrolling through your feed.

Although spending fewer hours on social media may seem like a small change, you’ll quickly notice that the difference in your emotional wellbeing is profound.

We’re Spending Less Time With Our Friends.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll love the concept of being on FaceTime to friends halfway around the world & being able to reach them at a moment’s notice. But like with everything in life, there are tradeoffs for convenience, which cannot be ignored.

As humans, we did not evolve for thousands of years to interact with each other via pixels on a screen. So because physical interaction is (often) no longer present, it can be easy to feel lonely, even while talking to several friends on a video call.

A study published by the University of Waterloo has shown that the average number of hours that people are spending with friends is steadily decreasing. As healthy support networks are foundational for life satisfaction and better self-esteem, it’s certainly not surprising than people around the world are feeling more lonely.

If you’re feeling lonely throughout the day, think about meeting up with friends more frequently for breakfast, lunch, or any other type of social gathering that requires a short amount of time.

Alternatively, consider attending a meetup of people that have similar interests to make new friends, and fulfill your desire to create meaningful relationships in the “real world.”

Making time in your schedule to meet other people may be inconvenient. But if you’re currently experiencing feelings of depression due to loneliness, it’ll definitely be worth it.

We Refuse To Talk About Our Mental Health.

One of the biggest reasons that we’re afraid to talk about loneliness is due to a fear of judgment from other people. Whenever we go outdoors, we put on a fake smile and pretend that everything is okay. But deep down, you know that something needs to change.

We’re afraid that we’ll drag other people into the midst of our problems, feel like a burden, and be considered an “attention seeker” by society merely for trying to confide in others.

So every day, we try to suppress our negative thoughts in the back of our minds, hoping that they’ll never resurface.

We try to put on a brave face, walk confidently, and laugh as if we’re having a good time. But no matter how hard we try to conceal our feelings, loneliness always finds a way to return into our thoughts.

Over the past few years, I’ve found that the only way to normalize discussions about mental health is by removing the stigma. Because when loneliness, depression, and anything else is frowned upon, it’s challenging for people to speak out about how they feel.

So find one person that you trust to speak about anything that’s going through your mind. Because if we’re able to remove the stigma, and discuss mental health in an open environment, the world will be a better place. In the words of Glenn Close:

“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation.”

Remember: If you want to begin removing the stigma surrounding loneliness, having open conversations is a good place to start.

I write for people who want to live a happier life in the modern world. Let’s chat: Mattlillywhitemedium@gmail.com

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