Loneliness

This video presents a number of interesting concepts about virtual interaction, social networks, and loneliness, but what I found really interesting was the idea that in a virtual environment we get to edit who we are.

In a way, I agree. In a social media world such as ours, we can delete and change who we want the world to believe we are. Information is a couple of seconds from our reach, so we can appear to be smarter, but given enough time I believe you can’t appear to be someone you’re not.

Because I think that even though most of the virtual interaction that takes place in the form of e-mails, comments, and such is not real time, we still can’t change who we are.

But this doesn’t stop us from trying, which I think only makes the feeling of loneliness worse. When wearing a mask, it’s easy to feel misunderstood. Those who like you with your mask on, you’re afraid won’t like the real you, so they do nothing to kill the feeling that you’re alone.

I believe that interaction, in a virtual environment or the real world, should be genuine, meaning that you have to be honest about who you are, what you want, and what you love and hate. But then again, we’ve been trying to make certain people like us for something we’re not for longer than we can remember.

In a way, the fact that we are social creatures also acts as a burden. We have to have friends, because that’s what people do. Sometimes we don’t feel like it, because as much as society presents us as social creatures, we are also loners. We strive for solitude in ways we rarely acknowledge.

For instance, reading a book. It shuts you off from the world. Even if you read it in the most crowded place you can find, it still acts as a barrier between you and all the other people. The same principle applies to listening to music on your headphones, watching a movie or TV, or staring at a painting in a museum.

Sometimes there’s limited interaction, such as going to see a movie with friends, but that’s not meaningful enough.

What I’m trying to say is that loneliness has always been somewhat frowned upon, and this social media world we live in exploits this. You need friends, followers, fans, likes, and comments to make you feel less lonely. Most of the times, like I said earlier, it doesn’t really work out well, because you’re presenting the world an edited version of yourself.

It’s not you people like, it’s a better version, possibly the best possible version. The best looking, the smartest, the one who is sending an optimized message.

But the same principles apply to real life interactions as well. How often do you say what you really want to say? How often you do speak your mind? How often do you make meaningful conversation?

A friend of mine once told me that he constantly feels that what he wants to say is not important, that what he wants to say doesn’t matter, or people simply wouldn’t care.

The big problem is not whether or not technology is isolating us, or whether or not real interaction is better than virtual interaction; the big problem is that we are less and less willing to be ourselves. In a world that is constantly telling us that we’re equal and the same, it’s getting harder and harder to feel as if our opinions and views really matter.

We have stopped thinking of ourselves as being different, and thus we feel lonely. This is modern man’s paradox. If we believe that there are a bunch of others who are doing the same things we do our initial reaction is to pretend to be someone else. Or to do nothing at all.

The sense that you are not unique breeds passivity.

The only way you can fight loneliness is to realize that you are different from everyone else. Yes, we’re seven or eight billion, but you are different. You are unique. You have a voice, and you have dreams and aspirations, and you have opinions and ideals, and people should listen to them. Whether they care or not, whether they like you, love you, or hate you, it doesn’t matter.

If you accept that you are different, and if you accept that being different is both a blessing and a curse, then you’ll feel less lonely simply because you can build meaningful interaction with those who either agree or disagree with what you have to say.

The biggest problem we have, as social creatures, is that we often talk just to talk, without really saying anything.

***

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40 comments on “Loneliness

  1. deanie2013 says:

    I think it’s important for everyone to realize and embrace the fact that we’re all unique. And also, I agree that we can’t pretend to be someone we’re not. Eventually, your friends will see the person who truly are.

    • The problem with wearing a mask is that it either becomes you or falls off.

    • bvitelli2002 says:

      Great points. Technology can certainly connect us but it removes us too and allows us to hide. But having one’s nose in a book, like you said is just like having headphones in and looking at a device. I guess we all have to find a balance and be happy with our real selves, not just our virtual selves.

  2. Ahn Wee says:

    “Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”
    ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

  3. openlife72 says:

    This is where unconditional love comes into play. Love without condition and we stop judging others and ourselves.

  4. suspiciouspatterns says:

    I see a difference between liking to be alone and being lonely, even though society often conflates the two. I’m very much the former but not the latter.

  5. Thank you for this. This resolved an issue I’ve had with myself. Your writing came to my attention at the right time.

  6. I guess this is one reason as to why you don’t bother to hide your face here, right, Mr. Mihai? I’ve tried wearing a mask in the world of social media back in the past, and boy, did that make me feel even worse during that time. And besides, our identities will be inevitably revealed one day, one way or another. And it becomes boring when we always try to go along with the crowd, anyway. I think it’s better to be honest in the world of social media. Even if your true friends, true followers, and true fans are few, what matters is that we are our true to ourselves, and that these true friends, true followers, and true fans accept us for who we are.

    • Well, I chose that picture of me as a small boy because I thought it was funny (and, well, different from what other writers use as profile pictures around the web). I do have a more recent photo on my Facebook Page.

      Anyway, I don’t think looks really define who we are. Of course, based on how we look, or how others perceive us, we tend to develop a certain personality.

  7. I really loved this entry. Social media can make a person less lonely, or it can amplify one’s loneliness, and sometimes both things are true. In some ways, I think we take to sharing and over-sharing on social media because of some level of nonacceptance we might feel in our ‘real’ lives at times.

  8. We are all special snowflakes and no one should ever tell you that that’s not true. Every brain is unique, every personality different. I agree that technology does bring about a paradox, while being able to “connect” to hundreds of people in an instant it also drives us more into isolation. We start thinking that our real friends our the ones on Facebook and not the ones you can find just outside of your house. A major problem (and I’m surprised this wasn’t mentioned) is that humans strive for perfection. In the real world there’s no such thing, but as soon as you start tweeking your profile information, or editing your pictures, we’re given the allusion that you can become perfect through the computer.
    There’s nothing wrong with being different and I think that’s something people should remember.
    “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius, and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”
    -Marilyn Monroe

  9. Great post! Social media is both a blessing and a curse – it just depends on how you use it and how true you stay to yourself via it. There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely – it just depends on your perspective and attitude.

  10. Very interesting post. I can especially relate to the idea that solitude is frowned upon. So often the concepts of being alone and loneliness seem interchangeable, like one can’t exist without the other. It is difficult but necessary to reframe this thought pattern. It is possible to be alone without feeling loneliness. Like you said solitude is inevitable and we should learn to be comfortable with it, for if we don’t find ourselves to be good company, who else will?

    Cat

  11. Rita Poynor says:

    When image overrides authenticity, fear and deception thwarts intimacy. It’s this lack of intimacy–transparency with others that is at the core of loneliness.

  12. azrn92 says:

    All too often I’ve seen people going out with their friends, yet they’re not interacting with the people they’re with. They’re busy texting or talking to someone on their cell phones. In some ways, it’s kind of amusing to see a group of people “together” yet sad in that none of them are actually communicating with each other. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but when I’m with someone, I want to be able to talk with them and share with them. I’ve been out with my boyfriend and we’ve watched people go out to a nice restaurant and the entire time, they spoke to each other for maybe a total of five minutes. All the rest of the time was spent texting to someone who wasn’t there. How does that impact on us? Granted, everyone in the group was doing the same thing, but I would find myself wondering does this person want to be with me or with the person they’re texting? Doesn’t that lead to a sense of isolation? I just want to tell these individuals to put down their cell phones and actually talk with the people they’re with. Maybe I just don’t get it.

    • Yeah, that’s kind of a common thing these days. I think that technology is an addiction, just like any other. You can become addicted to texting, addicted to Facebook, Twitter, or talking on your phone. Simply checking your phone becomes a sort of compulsive thing.

      So, in a way, you can’t help it, no matter where you are.

  13. bamauthor says:

    I know too many people who talk just to hear themselves talk and never really say anything.

  14. “We often just talk without dayig anything ” well said. I had a teacher who told the class one day her life long friend told her she actually does not know her at all dispute her love to speak, and she was shocked to find out how true it was even for someone she’s interacted with personally for so many years.

  15. bullroarin says:

    For the most part I think life is an enigma, not so much for the observer of life but perhaps more so for the person living it.

    Good write my friend. ~ Dave

  16. clouja says:

    I found what you had to say interesting, and appreciate your perspective, however, I don’t completely agree.

    I don’t feel that loneliness & desire for acceptance has increased because of it. It’s always been there an ongoing theme that’s used to connect people in books, movies, songs & social media. “I’ve been alone surrounded by friends…”- lyrics from Ave Maria-Beyonce.

    I want to inspire people, so I share even the low moments in my life with a positive twist. That’s my agenda.

    I personally like the idea of fake it until you make shared by Amy Cuddy in a TED Talk. I do it even in social media. It’s my choice to find happiness in difficulties so as to inspire. Even if I only effect one person, I will have found personal fulfillment.

  17. ladyharvey says:

    The other day I saw someone in the bathroom at work wearing the same sweater that I own. I was appalled because I love that sweater, I have a whole outfit just for it, I think I look really great and unique in that outfit. At first I felt very depressed. Then I realized that even though it might be the same sweater sold at multiple different stores that multiple people own, we wear it differently. She looks different in the sweater than I do. I think I look better to be honest. So your post came at the right time for me. Obliviously I am being told to remember that despite the sameness in our culture we are still unique beings and we wear life differently.

  18. electricbohemian says:

    I;ve had the opposite effect of Facebook, being too much me and given too much information about myself, wanting to share everything, wanting the world to see what I see – I think its different for everyone, how can we even know who we are anyway, that’s the point. All I know when I was young Facebook, email or mobile phones didn’t exist. So I have felt the change and I definitely talked on the phone more and found it easy. These days I barely talk to anyone, I send long emails many people haven’t the time to reply, I move around allot and so am extensively on my own, only get to interact at work, or with random strangers on a train say, if I’m lucky. I feel, I’m too much myself and I feel too much, I say too much and I have lost the art of conversation, something relaxed and easy its just disappeared.. I know for certain if i was back in the time of letters and telephone calls, I probably would fit right in and feel an easiness that I don’t feel know> These days people need constant instant messaging with short sentences that are meaningless.

  19. la saint says:

    Nice piece Christian, I totally understand where u coming from, was stuck in that self esteem eating circle for years…. Truth is we all wear masks and beneath that mask there’s the real us crying to be let out. If we find the courage to discard that mask and just be ourselves, our lives become mucher richer for having found that courage. Would love to reblog this piece if you don’t mind.

    • I suppose we’re afraid that people won’t like the real us. It’s okay if they hate the mask, because that’s what it’s for: protection. And, yes, of course you can reblog this post if you like.

  20. ryetzer says:

    Being unique and accepting yourself is one of the most important things in life. Thank you for this post, I can relate to it.

  21. Desert heels says:

    I saw this video with my three friends that I have been with for over 16 years a day after my birthday last month. After the clip, we all looked at each other with a sense of relief and appreciation that we chose to be in each other’s lives before the advent of social networks.

  22. Thanks for this post; it was inspiring for me

  23. Laura Hilger says:

    This entry is smokin! I love it. The more I live, the more I feel like it’s really just about peoples’ experiences that shape their perception and loneliness rather than the impact others have on people. Yes, sometimes conversation or the experience you have with another does impact your loneliness, but I could be sharing some powerful lessons learned via live conversation or social media and it won’t really matter to the other person unless it is the right time/place for that person to take it in. I know I feel like sometimes I’m just like every person on the block, but when I do have a meaningful and open conversation, that is where I’m reminded of my unique perspective and feelings; however, it ends up being for me even though they are asking me to be more open. My issue is that I’m very private. If I feel that most of the time, people really aren’t taking it in or listening or learning from my perspective because they need to experience it themselves to go there with me or because it’s difficult for them to relate, then why put the time in by sharing where I’m at with it? Even if our intentions are otherwise, it’s like we are talking to help ourselves more than the other person. And further, as you mentioned, we rarely say what’s truly on our minds so we are walking around getting halfsies of each other because that is what where we are at with vulnerability levels, etc. It’s this vicious cycle of loneliness, but different levels depending on our ability to monitor them. Have you seen the Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on vulnerability? Ahh….I’m blabbing :-). In any case, thanks for sharing, I enjoyed this entry, and how you mixed two very important concepts.

    • Meaningful conversation requires trust, which takes time to build. Probably that’s one of our problems: we don’t have time anymore. We’re too fast, too eager, too stressed, and so on, that we rarely take the time to develop genuine relationships with people.

      And you can do that over the Internet too, but it’s all about what you choose to say. And there’s a lot of comfort in revealing your true self to a stranger who’s a thousand miles away. But that’s not something everyone can do.

      In a way, I think we’re afraid of each other. Afraid of what others might think or say or do. And trust slowly takes away this fear.

      • You’re right – it’s about time. Taking time. I’ve lived in three different countries, and for years – decades in fact – I wrote letters. Long letters on nice paper, that arrive on your doorstep in an envelope with a stamp on it. Remember? I still do occasionally, just for the pleasure. My pleasure, that is. For things have got to a point where I feel uncomfortable asking friends to read more than a few lines. It’s as though I were making unreasonable demands on their time. Worse than that, I’m now cast as the guilty party when I refuse to respond to a “quick mail” with a quick mail, preferring to take my time, think about it, and respond with a longer one.

        But it’s not only time. It’s taking time to think things through and follow up your own loose ends. It’s so much easier to type out a pat remark and hit Send. It’s the thinking that takes time, identifying exactly what it is you’re trying to say. And it’s fraught with unknown danger. You never know where your own thoughts will lead till you think them through. It’s not other people we’re afraid of, it’s ourselves. We’re shit scared of finding something unsavoury lurking within our own thoughts.

        I tend to think that the technology only reveals this symptom. It’s not the cause. The real cause, I suspect, is unbridled, ubiquitous, knee-jerk political correctness. People no longer dare to say what they think, for fear of offending someone. That’s why I’ve adopted, as a rule of thumb: if in doubt, be blunt and offensive!

  24. Uwera says:

    This post really resonates with the current times. I think people just don’t have the patience to wait for social interactions anymore. I come from an age when you would have to wait for a letter from someone to know how they were doing. I have seen people sitting near each other and texting each other instead of putting the mobile down and talking to them. This is scary. People are losing the social skills of human interaction without the intermediary of social media. I have also noticed a more people seem to be depressed. People are lonely if they lose their mobile or their lap top goes down. I make it a point in the day to stop and take a long walk, find a park and communicate with nature.

  25. earthealing says:

    the article touches in many ways, yes much to reflect here; social media can be useful but there needs to be an awareness of what we are doing and the intention behind; whether one person is with oneself or with others there is no substitution for being present and interacting in person;
    Social media is useful for sharing information but there is no ‘ social’, no ‘friends’ unfortunately we are led to believe the contrary. So more interaction with Nature, with our Self and other People is a way out of this illusion, from that perspective media remains a useful tool, nothing else.
    Thanks for sharing Susanna

  26. diditevercrossyourmind says:

    Everything you wrote was spot on. At least i relate to it perfectly. However, I like entering into virtual worlds simply because it allows me to be who I want even if its just for a while. Sometimes you need that space, no matter how contented you are with yourself, its a lot like a vacation :) we all need those.

  27. jjwalters says:

    Good essay . . . .

    I would like to be ‘real’ . . . love to project myself to others in all my realness, but I can’t because I really don’t know who the hell I am!. . . it’s that simple.

    WHAT am I? I am a lonely drop of water that has been forced out of the wave, but just for a moment . . . soon I shall return to the sea of tranquility, but for now I must fly alone . . . crazy ain’t it? :-)

  28. I argee with your points, but I believe the reason why are strive for soical inclsuion is mainly because when we are alone we often don’t know how to act. If feels like you should be doing something meaningful – spending time with yourself is hard … sometimes it feels like an uncomfortable silence .. and thus we crave to be surrounded by others

  29. shanuwater says:

    This is such a great article Cristian. I had to share the video and a quote. I am on the opposite scale. I love my alone time ninety-five percent. People only like you if they can influence their ideas upon you. I have my own opinions and will share them. If you do not agree, I am comfortable with “agreeing to disagree” and keep it moving. Basically, I agree with all that you have written here. :).

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