April 10, 2019

Loneliness 101

Loneliness, defined as “the fact of being without companions, solitariness”. What does it mean to be lonely in 2019 and is it okay?

Loneliness 101

It's 2019,  here’s a recap on social media in the last decade or two.

Facebook was created in 2004, Youtube in 2005, Snapchat and Instagram almost ten years ago! Oh yea, remember Vine? Created in 2012 then shut down in 2017.

I bet you’re thinking, “ I’m not dependent, I could totally live without social media.”

How many minutes do you spend on social media while,

  • Waiting for the bus
  • Waiting for class to start
  • Waiting for friends
  • At a cafe, waiting for your meal
  • Chilling with friends
  • In-between studying

These platforms were only created a decade or two ago. Crazy to think about how dependent we are on them right?

What is Loneliness?

What is Loneliness?

Fear of Missing Out

Oxford Dictionaries defines “FOMO” as "anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media"

Every flick of the finger on social media produces a whole new stream of posts and images.

Snapshots of your dream life.

That's when loneliness seems to start creeping in; a wave of FOMO crashes over us.

Now we're swiping on Tinder, going on Instagram and Snapchat. We're hoping for a fix, alternatives to fill that empty hole in our chest - getting those matches and likes that feel so good.

How can we not feel left out? Watching people live their best lives, while we sit on a bench scuffing down lunch before rushing to our next meeting, class or tutorial. These little actions we take accumulate and feed into our insecurities. It keeps us going in the vicious cycle, making us feel lonelier and less satisfied with our own company.

We get to a point that we fear missing out so much, we can no longer stand being by ourselves.

Why Do You Feel Lonely?

1: Social Media

Ever heard of Dunbar’s Number? It's a theory that humans are able to have 150 meaningful connections at any given moment. The average number of Facebook friends users have are 338 connections. Now, combine that with our new measures of friendships; Snapstreaks and Instagram likes. It's no wonder, people are feeling less connected, lonelier, more depressed and anxious than ever.

2: The University Environment

Everyone goes through phases of loneliness in University. It’s just what happens as we shift from being in the same class, around the same people for five years, to being in different classes of hundreds each semester. Everyone's busy trying to succeed, maybe even survive - taking up part-time jobs, internships, library seats.

Somewhere in the midst of this rat race, we start to feel lonely.

What Should We Do?

1: Consider, are you happy?

We attach so many requirements to being happy,

"I'll be happy when I've finished university... I'll be happy on a LIT night out... I'll be happy travelling in Europe next semester..."

You know how you always wish the best for your friends?

I wonder, have we ever stopped and really thought "I wish the best for myself?". Have we ever considered what we want and what we need?

2: Analyse your loneliness

What kind of loneliness are you feeling? Why are you lonely? This article might help you identify which 7 types of loneliness YOU are feeling and what steps to take.

3: Ask yourself what YOU need

For example...

  • When I needed social support, I reached out to a mate. One meaningful conversation kept me going.
  • When I was itching for an adventure, I joined Auckland University Cricket Club. No regrets!
  • To get to know myself - I deleted Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat from my phone for two months.

4: Try out these steps to being alone.

  1. Be patient with yourself - It's been a while since you've spend time on your own, so being alone might feel strange.
  2. Start simple - Enjoy the organic "alone time" you already have - commutes, grabbing coffee, bathroom moments (if you're so inclined).
  3. Step outside - When you're ready, go for a walk, maybe even dine alone.
  4. Challenge yourself - A walk was fine, now try something novel; a new town, a new activity.

Key Takeaway:

Being alone can be uncomfortable, but that's because we've spent so little time with ourselves that being alone is like being stuck in a room with a stranger. It's not something to "fix", it's something to enjoy!

I Challenge You

Go back to the checklist at the top, choose ONE to "DETOX". For example, no more looking at your phone at bus stops.

Spend 10 minutes alone. No phone or computer.

How does that feel?

As always, I'd love to hear about your loneliness and any other topics you'd like to explore.