I know … no one ever crooned it like Elvis did, in his deliciously deep drawl! It remains a symbol of love, loss and longing.
If the answer to this question is ‘yes’ but you rather not talk about it – count yourself a member of a growing global phenomenon.
If you are thinking that there is nothing new about it, since we all get lonely from time to time and that was the case since the caveman’s times … think again.
Not only that cavemen’s very existence depended on living very close to other cavemen/women, but they were all frightfully busy hunting large animals and generally trying to stay alive that it took them few millenniums to build a computer!
Hunting large animals, raising children, escaping danger, trying to stay alive, and myriads of other endeavours they had to undertake just to survive, all made for not only exhilaratingly dangerous but also necessary, purposeful, meaningful living that required involvements of whole communities.
Sitting in front on flickering computer screen does not. It is a solitary, immobile activity of a solitary, immobile modern man/woman and their offspring’s who are fast forgetting how to communicate with somebody face to face.
Yes, I know … cavemen/women were dead at 30, and we now live into our eighties thanks to all advances of modern science and medicine.
While those advances are certainly undisputable, it is becoming more and more obvious that most of us spend our last years of that long living staring into empty spaces in some of those homes paradoxically named ‘rest homes’, waiting for our ever busier children and grandchildren to visit us, providing we (or our will) still features in their memory. Skinning animals or lighting fires presents itself as a far more purposeful activity.
Like all revolutions, IT revolution came with a furore and glorious promises. And like all revolutions it delivered riches and fame to many, on the behalf of most. People around the globe, at least those who have access to internet, believe they are connected to each other’s. They/We are not. The only thing they/we are connected to is computer and global companies running the show. And just like advances and benefits in science and medicine cannot be disputed, neither could those of IT revolution.
However, growing body of serious research is clearly showing that loneliness is not just making us sick, it is killing us! Loneliness is found to be a serious health risk. Studies of elderly people and social isolation concluded that those without adequate social interaction were twice as likely to die prematurely. The increased mortality risk is comparable to that from smoking. And loneliness is about twice as dangerous as obesity.
Social isolation is found to impair immune function and boosts inflammations which can lead to arthritis, type two diabetes and heart disease. And while loneliness is breaking our hearts, nobody talks about it even though figures show that loneliness had doubled since 1980. In two recent surveys 40 per cent of adults said they were lonely, compared to 20 per cent in the 1980s.
For all our internet interactions they seem not only to not be helping, but making problem worse. A recent study of Facebook users found that the amount of time a person spends on the site, is inversely related to how happy that person feels throughout day. In a society that judges you based on how expensive your social networks appear, loneliness is difficult if not impossible to fess up to. It feels shameful. After all if you are a ‘better person’, you would have more friends, right?
Most of us know what it feels to be alone in a room full of people, which is the same reason why a celebrity can be deeply lonely. One could be surrounded by hundreds of adoring fans but if there is no one who truly knows you, no one to whom you can truly trust, you will feel isolated.
In terms of human interactions, the number of people we know is not the best measure. To be socially satisfied we do not need all that many people. The key seems to be quality, not the quantity of those people. We just need people on whom we can depend and who depend on us in return.
And while there are resources and strategies to prevent obesity and to help people quit smoking, when did your doctor asked you how much meaningful social interaction you are getting? Even if you a lucky enough to have a doctor who did ask, it is not as though there is a prescription for meaningful social interaction.
Some countries such as Denmark and Britain are devoting more time and energy to find solutions and staging interventions for lonely people, particularly the elderly.
It is shown that when people are lonely, they lose impulse control and engage in what scientist call ‘social evasion’. They become less concerned with interaction and more concerned with self-preservation.
Evolutionary psychologists speculate that loneliness triggers our basic, fight versus flight survival mechanisms, and we stick to the periphery, away from people we do not know if we can trust. One of the reasons we avoid discussing loneliness is that fixing it obviously is not a simple endeavour.
While lighting fires, gathering food and skinning animals with our fellow cavemen/women is no longer an option … getting away from your computer/phone screen to find others to exchange few words with, or even better few laughs, is. Do it.