Are you lonesome tonight?

Elvis

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.

 Elvis

 

Author: Daniela

Reader, Writer, Mother, Freethinker, Habitual Day Dreamer, Blogger - Sharing Ideas, Poetry, Prose, and Conversations on the Lantern Post!

40 thoughts on “Are you lonesome tonight?”

  1. Hi Daniela!
    Oh yes it has sparked many fond memories of the Elvis years, a time when I felt life could not be better🙂 Mostly though I think it is your awesome writing that is so thought provoking, entertaining and inspiring that makes reading your Blog so enjoyable.

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    1. Hi -:)!

      So lovely to find your comment under the Lantern! Thank you so very much for your kind and generous words … it means a lot to me!

      And of course Elvis years were the best … we were young and so was our world!

      Many thanks,
      Daniela

      Like

  2. totally agree… very good points there. Especially for the elderly who can find themselves very lonely in this modern days society, especially in big city like London, where I live, where nobody looks at you, nobody asks you anything. It can be an advantage sometimes (I don’t particularly want to talk and meet every neighbour) but it can get lonesome for older people who just get ignored by others passers by.

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    1. Hi -:)!

      Always such a pleasure to find your comment under the Lantern, thank you very much. I can’t agree more; big cities such as London, and many others around the world, while they provide anonymity, also render many vulnerable people, such as elderly; invisible.

      Take Care,
      Daniela

      Like

  3. We have this social media campaign in Christchurch http://www.allright.org.nz/ which is supposed to help remind us to keep connected and take care of ourselves. It’s quite cute but I don’t know how the health authorities will evaluate its success or otherwise. By a drop in mental health appointments???? You raise important issues about loneliness. Fixing it is not easy especially when we live in the kind of formless cities we have in NZ with people behind ever higher fences in suburbs and retirement homes.

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    1. Hi -:)!

      So nice to find your comment under the Lantern … it makes me feel still connected to Christchurch! You raised very valid point about ability to measure success of such initiative as allright.org. Similar initiatives seems to pop up from time to time like a bright, colorful balloons, only to pale into obliteration once novelty washes off and nobody is any wiser what was their impact (if any).

      Loneliness, and social isolation are set to increase in those parts of the world (such as NZ) with aging population. As you pointed out; the way our cities are arranged does not help at all. Hopefully, as the problem presents itself more and more acutely, proactive and meaningful solutions will have to be found.

      Many thanks for reading and commenting,
      Daniela

      Like

  4. In addition to the excellent points you raise in the post, there is also the issue that our children are continually pressured to avoid solitude which they mistake for loneliness (sheep are lonely, the shepherd is not). In solitude we learn who we are so we are better able to come together and socialize with others.

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    1. Hi Malcolm,

      As always your comments is thoughtful and speaks true. I agree completely; solitude is necessary for our inner-growth, loneliness however is state of isolation from others which has detrimental effects on our well-being.

      Many thanks,
      Daniela

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  5. It is undoubtedly technology that is a major cause of loneliness in today’s world. Perhaps the answer is regression to the good old days when people talked instead of texting. Great post Daniela!

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    1. Hi Dor,

      Thank you very much! I prefer talk to technology any day, nothing can replace face to face interactions. While technology has provided us with many benefits, I think time is fast approaching when we will need to consciously curb our usage of technology in order to increase real life interactions.

      Many thanks,
      Daniela

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  6. Hi Daniela – I just came back from connecting with family, also the “extended” one like aunts, uncles and cousins. It felt so good to be totally off the grid and immersed in these interactions. Talk, hug, talk, hug kind of way. I worry about the isolation of many elderly but also the young generation that interacts so much more virtually than what we ever did. Thanks for this important post!

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    1. Hi my dear,

      So lovely to find you comment under the Lantern, thank you so much -:)!

      You are so right about being ‘off the grid’ and interacting with people in a good old ‘talk, hug, talk’ way … nothing can replace that and I can all but hope that today’s kids will not be deprived of it!

      Many thanks,
      Daniela

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  7. Hi Daniela,
    I lays loved Elvis, song and film. There was an innocence there which was beautiful. I too prefer face to face interaction, even Skype isn’t the same. It seems that the world shrinks through technology but socially we drift further apart. So very sad. I think it’s Elvis and Lonesome Tonight. Thank you.
    Ciao. Susan 😊❤

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    1. Hi Susan,

      Such a pleasure to find your comment under the Lantern … thank you so much for reading and commenting. I also love Elvis and agree that nothing can replace face to face interaction with all is subtleties.

      Take Care,
      Daniela

      Like

  8. Thanks for this thought-provoking post. I fear that our generation has seen the best of years…in schools children are no longer being taught elocution skills as they rely more on computers, and this morning I listened to a video about children growing up without empathy as a result of computer technology. To save humanity, we must say enough is enough.

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    1. Hi,

      Thank you very much for your thoughtful comment. I cannot agree more, the lack of empathy is what I see as quite a big issue. I think parents really have major role to play when comes to teaching children those skills, as well as showing (by example) how and why technology cannot replace human interactions.

      Many thanks,
      Daniela

      Like

    1. Oh my dear friend! You are most certainly NOT ‘a very sad person’ … you are funny, and witty and have friends both in real life and in cyber space … and than those from cyber space come and visit you in real life and invite you over for a visit! Sounds rather jolly to me and not a smidgen of sadness!

      Take good care,
      Daniela

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      1. I know … and as you know I live alone too since my girl went to Uni … so are both ‘sad’ -:)!
        Solution; an air ticket (either way is fine -:))
        Have a great day (must be morning in your end of the woods).

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      2. Yes. We are both sad. It is early afternoon here. Hot and sunny. A good solution the air ticket. We’ll each buy one and wave to each other as we pass over India😉 Deal ?

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      3. And so we are -:)! After 11:00 pm here, breeze early spring night … and sorry my friend, no deal – I am not buying a ticket to wave to you over India! I reckon we parachute land in India and give each other’s high five for being adventurous in our rip old age!

        Enjoy your hot and sunny weather -:)!

        Like

  9. If loneliness kills like smoking, and it has increased from 20% to 40%, then why are so many people still alive🙂 / Perhaps because smoking has equally declined from 40% to 20% LoL …
    One smoker told me last week, that smoking is often a social event, and that smokers groups outside are usually more talkative than ‘the others’ who are smart-phoning their way through a break …
    A lot of things to think about. And a very interesting article.

    Like

    1. Hi Bert,

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment, it made me laugh -:)! You have fine sense of humor and made a good point too … I think smoking had a far longer stretch of time to damage our health than loneliness had since it is only relatively recently that it became reality for many. Not so long ago families would include extended family member as well as elderly. And I agree with the smoker in your comment … I still sometimes smoke and every time there is a little ‘community’ out there of those who smoke ‘incognito’!

      Thank you very much for reading and commenting,
      Daniela

      Like

  10. For all the “progress” computers have brought us, there’s also be a hefty price. We have definitely sacrificed true communication, interaction and socializing skills to the Internet. But poor Elvis; he was already creating his own isolation before he died, and it had nothing to do with computers.
    But I do still love to hear many of his songs.

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    1. My dear Marylin,

      It always delights me to find your lovely smile under the Lantern! Thank you so much for reading and commenting. And yes, I cannot agree more … our interactions and socializing is suffering greatly courtesy of Internet which gives us all an illusion of ‘around the clock connectivity’. Still, I cannot but notice that I am typing this message also courtesy of the Internet … there are always pros and cons in everything and key I believe is in finding the right balance.

      Many thanks,
      Daniela

      Like

  11. A really thought provoking post, Daniela. You’re absolutely right of course. We do need to get out from our desks and interact with real people. There’s no substitute for human contact, and I feel really sorry for people who don’t have this in their lives.

    Like

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