Image courtesy of Signa.com
By: Kat Kaderabek
In a world in which social media and cellular technology connects everyone, it’s hard to imagine ever feeling truly disconnected from the world. However, a new type of social aloneness has been created by the advent of social media. A person can be physically alone. But modern loneliness is more about feeling mentally alone or isolated.
Famous musician Luav, who’s song “Modern Loneliness” appears on his album ~how I’m feeling~, writes about this new phenomenon. Luav’s work is a great example filled with introspective musings and relatable lyrics. His lyrics specifically regarding this modern loneliness read: “Modern loneliness, we’re never alone / But always depressed, yeah / Love my friends to death / But I never call and I never text, yeah.”
It is so simple to call a friend or send a text; yet Lauv points out that while he loves his friends, sometimes it feels meaningless. It is also so easy to connect with others through social media, but this can also hinder one’s relationship with the self. Feeling isolated, especially in the times of a global pandemic is natural; however, social media should not be the solution to feel connection.
Very Well Minds suggests strengthening one’s already existing relationships. This means calling or texting friends and unlike Lauv’s sentiment in “Modern Loneliness,” not isolating oneself from emotional connections received through texts or calls. Talking to others, especially close friends and family can help relieve anxiety and stress both physically and mentally. By building up existing relationships, trust is established more fully, and when these relationships are strengthened, it’s easier to confide in others about feeling lonely.
If being physically alone is affecting the mental state of loneliness, Psych Central emphasizes that one must “realize loneliness is a feeling, not a fact.” The article explains that the brain is designed to recognize painful or dangerous situations and feelings. Loneliness is a feeling, and the brain tries to puzzle out the feeling which then confuses the facts of the situation. Overthinking can distort reality and thus make the feeling of loneliness overwhelming and seemingly insurmountable.
Another tip to avoid internet-based loneliness is to hang up, and hang out. This is an exercise in being mindful. Mindfulness is defined by Oxford Languages as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
An example of mindfulness meditation could be taking a moment to breathe after the phone rings instead of rushing to answer it according to Mindful.org. This website also highlights the teachings of Jon Kabat-Zinn, a creator of a stress-reduction program that centers on mindfulness. His introduction video “You are Not Your Thoughts” can be found here.
WomansDay.com suggests creating a list of things you can do by yourself. This can include doing a puzzle, learning to knit, reading a book, volunteering, baking, or even journaling or writing. Finding an activity that is fun and fulfilling to do alone is key in coping with modern loneliness. It is even better if this activity, like going for a walk or taking up running, pulls one away from cell phones and technology.
In extreme situations, there is a free national helpline for all mental health services and substance abuse. SAMHSA’s National Helpline is: 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Chronic loneliness can lead to very serious diseases such as depression, sleep disorders, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and substance abuse.
Modern loneliness is something yet to be fully addressed and understood in the context of social media and technology because it is so new. However, therapists have already seen the impacts of too much social media and have begun creating techniques to cope with the feelings of loneliness it can create. If other techniques are not working, therapy should be taken into consideration. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Likewise, mental loneliness can be just as dangerous as being physically alone.