Loneliness is nothing new. Verbalization of it, particularly in counselling, over the past decades is. I hear it talked about directly or obliquely in counselling more often. Common sense suggests the topic has always been there in some form. Perhaps there is less inhibition about talking about it. Perhaps social demographics and disintegration of families make it a stronger social reality and it has wider currency and plausibility as an issue. Perhaps its symptomatic of geographic and social mobility. Perhaps in sociological terms it’s a post-modern condition. In a life where all authority and structures are uncertain, relationships are the one feature that promises permanency and predictability. Loneliness encapsulates the essence of the loss of both these features.
I notice that people across age groups allude to it or voice their fear of being lonely. Old and young people facing the reality of a relationship or marriage collapsing. Individuals cemented in relationships, staying because the fear of loneliness, is greater than the pain of staying. Individuals making dangerous decisions and being manacled impatiently to incompatible strangers because they fear loneliness. Decisions made to be single mothers to virtually unknown or unknowable donors. For fear of loneliness. People being conned for large amounts of money in lonely heart scams.
Social media emphasizes the world-wide connectivity of people. On the other hand, it leaves people totally barren and alone in terms of real relationships. You can be befriended on a screen with total strangers. You can be befriended by people just collecting the largest list of followers. Facebook loneliness is avoided by forever being vigilant to promoting yourself and tapping away in the pursuit of your own news coverage.
Virtual relationships seem to offer the hope of real face to face relationship. At its worst it leaves people suspended and fantasizing about unreal possibilities and futures. Social media is a virtual world. The translation of that is that it is not real. Its a fantasy world. People will even believe the lies and fantasy because it offers some escape from the present.
Impatience goes with loneliness. We want and demand to be fulfilled now. We must not be bored for that is the new Millennial sin. That is our 21st Century expectation. Its our new Millennial entitlement. We want to have friendship and relationship instantly. We want the entertainment and stimulation and recognition now. Friendship and relationship doesn’t occur with the ticking of a Like box on a screen or a meme. Friendship and relationship doesn’t occur instantly, and we can’t buy it or subscribe to it or down load it.