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.

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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23 thoughts on “Loneliness

  1. When I came back from the Gulf War, I had a streak of PTSD a mile wide. During the course of my counseling, I remember we got to talking about being alone, and I commented that being alone was something that didn’t bother me one bit. It kind of surprised my counselor, but I explained that I’d spent weeks in the mountains and never seen another human being (the nearest human being was at least 10 miles away, and that entirely put me on my own), worked long nights as a police officer when it was just me and everyone else in town was asleep, and in those situations, you had better be comfortable being alone. It wasn’t that I didn’t need human interaction, or that I wanted to be alone, it was just that I was comfortable being alone if circumstances demanded it.
    As I told him, being alone built self reliance and there were enormous reservoirs of strength to be found.
    Modern networking makes you think being alone is a bad thing, a God forbid I miss someones post.
    As for saying what I mean, I learned a long time ago to be honest. If they disagree, argue it out, and move on. What I have learned is how to be diplomatic. One of my first Police Supervisors told me that being diplomatic was the key to interactions. In short, there’s an art to telling a person to go to hell, but do it in a way they ask you for directions on how to get there. I think that’s what people lose with a social interaction. You’re hiding behind the mask, and that can allow you to be a jerk, a nice guy, whatever it takes.
    I prefer people who are real.

    Liked by 3 people

    • “I’ve never been lonely. I’ve been in a room — I’ve felt suicidal. I’ve been depressed. I’ve felt awful — awful beyond all — but I never felt that one other person could enter that room and cure what was bothering me…or that any number of people could enter that room. In other words, loneliness is something I’ve never been bothered with because I’ve always had this terrible itch for solitude. It’s being at a party, or at a stadium full of people cheering for something, that I might feel loneliness. I’ll quote Ibsen, “The strongest men are the most alone.” – I’ve always identified with this quote by Bukowski.

      I’m rarely bothered by loneliness, but it does scare me. It scares me how many things I can do by myself. Maybe I am like this because I am a writer, and the ability to be alone is necessary in order to write, or maybe I am a writer because I can be alone for long periods of time.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Cheers to this discussion. Being alone causes people discomfort. I had to learn the skill and power of it myself. Then, I had to learn how to handle people (who honestly cared about me) viewing my seclusion as a selfish tendency or a sign of depression. This becomes tricky. They do not see the inside being rebuilt into something better.

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        • Also, I’d say that most people hate so much being lonely they do anything to spend time with someone else. Once you get used to being alone, you can see that more clearly in others. It’s like they are addicted to other people (or activities) that take their minds off the fact that we are utterly and inexorably alone.

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  2. I love this post. It was funny to me that I stumbled across it because I just wrote about the loneliness that stems from our excessive reliance on social media as well. It’s incredibly ironic to me that we have become so connected yet exponentially more disconnected at the same time. I loved this post. Very interesting perspective and read. 🙂 Happy 4th to you! Jo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s very true, what you said about how we act in person is similar to how we act online. We really don’t show our true selves, even in person, except to very few people. As the saying goes: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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  4. America has a violent desire for creating individuals, but we’ve forgotten that one of the ways an individual gains identity is through community. My parents, friends, church, and various groups around me help inform me of who I really am, you could call it accountability.

    Online interactions frequently lack true accountability or enough contact to support us emotionally. We chat and bounce to the next chat and so on…we just keep jumping from flickering screen to flickering screen. And you are right, the things we bother to talk about are vapid, meaningless fluff most of the time.

    Thanks for sharing this.

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  5. I ditched all social media (except for this blog spot) end of last year [out of the blue]. I’ve been a serious hermit raising my two kids [in my childhood I was kept indoors due to the excessive marks of abuse riddled across my body & mind –confined to indoors by the abusing guardian]. My social skills were never properly developed. After years of extreme abuse & neglect, I entered into the system at 13 yrs old as ward of the state & they allowed me to discontinue going to school [dropped out freshman year HS]. Over my years, I would hear the cries of the lonely & left behind [in writings] I guess, I always assumed …since I was “off”….the chirping in my head never leaves me feeling lonely. So, in turn…I surmised because I am “crazy” I do not experience loneliness like social beings. The reason for ditching FB [I didn’t have any other social accounts] is because of the constant EXPOSURE feeling…..never wanting to be the “star” to be gazed at & admired….I slink back into the shadows where I belong & long…… Great topic of a post & ty for sharing this!!!

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  6. I think there is s difference between being alone and loneliness. I adore being alone. I could quite happily go for days or weeks without speaking to another human. I love to meditate and lose myself in my mind. If I had enough money, I’d buy one of those sensory deprivation pods and lie in it for hours. I used to live on a farm. I’d walk to the middle of nowhere and just sit. If I ever ended up on gaol, I’d ask to be put on solitary. I’m serious. There is something about solitude, stillness, silence, and my own thoughts that makes me happy.

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    • Hi Katia,

      I think alone is a fact. It’s an objective reality. Lonely, on the other hand, is a feeling. You can feel alone among all your friends and family, or you can feel at ease all by yourself.

      And, yes, I think being alone is somehow essential. It allows us to figure out who we are, what we want, what defines us. It’s the things no one else knows about us that allow us to know ourselves.

      Like

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