Recently, my friend exclaimed how lonely we are today. "It's rampant", he said. And I only wondered why. Urban loneliness is not unheard of. But why is it that despite so many friends on social media, and the wider scale of communication, do young people feel lonelier now?
Hardly anyone is trying to understand us. Often, the 'older' professionals make assumptions. And there is barely any Indian epidemiological studies recording loneliness. Most focus on depression. While depression and loneliness are correlated, neither is the cause of the other.
Yet, the CSDS-KAS Report (2017), on 19 Indian states, concluded that approximately 8% of youth report feeling lonely. Perhaps, this percentage would be higher in the cities.
So, what makes us vulnerable to loneliness today?
Many theorize how social media breeds 'superficial' relationships, and that we do not engage in 'real life'. However, that is an erroneous generalization. Using social media is common, but we do not simply keep 'staring at our phones'. Youngsters do like going out for parties, to museums, to movies, and the likes.
If we delve deeper, though, one of the reasons may be our evolutionary past. Close-knitted communities instilled a strong sense of belongingness. However, with heavy migration, families today live apart. Generation gaps are accentuated through technology. Moreover, city life is lonely: we hardly know our neighbours. Hence, 'belongingness' is eroding fast.
Another reason is what Dr. Schwartz (2005) points out to - the more choices we get, the more uncertain we become. Say, the more options Netflix offers, the more we end up wasting time on selecting one program. Extending this paradox of choices, any relationship can break at any point, whenever one gets 'bored', because so many choices are 'available'. Everything is a click away. Then there is the fear of missing out (FOMO). While 'not settling' may be a preference, seeking certainty is innate to humans. Hence, we often find ourselves engulfed by loneliness.
Loneliness often paves the way for negative thoughts, and you may feel like it is a perennial battle. But there are ways to combat loneliness.
Accept that feeling lonely is not an aberration. It's okay to not be 'enjoying your life' all the time. Comparisons on social-media-based posts would only distort your perception of reality.
Look for quality friendships. Make sure you have identified (through experience) at least two people you can fall back on. Choose someone who will be there for you.
Technology is an inevitable force, and must be appreciated. However, too much anything is harmful.
Try reconnecting to your childhood hobbies (painting, gardening, etc.). Or you can look for new ones. Consciously make time for it.
Visit theatres, museums, and monuments. Exploring new places, attending events help us broaden our perspective. We realize that there is so much more to life.
Self-reflections are the only way towards our personal evolution. It is an inadequate notion that we need to keep 'doing something' all the time. Use your loneliness to learn something more about yourself. Hard times teach us a lot.
Reading books opens up our minds, and broadens our perspectives, be it fictional or non-fictional. It helps us gain newer understanding of our lives and situations.
Don’t suffer alone. Seek reviews, find a good counselor. Work with them to navigate deeper into your issues. Ask them about the therapy. Remember! It takes a few sessions for therapy to work. So, do not quit after one day. However, if you feel that the therapist is not 'right'; do seek out other counselors. Do not give up on counseling. Every counselor has a different framework. It may take time to find the perfect fit. But it is worth it.
Thus, through these steps, we can march on our way to combat our loneliness, one step at a time. Hopefully, we emerge wiser, some day.
Copyright © 2019 - All Rights Reserved