Why do we talk about loneliness on a planet where 7,8 billion people live?
It looks weird but the statistics and our mental state tell the opposite.
Today loneliness is a major issue around every corner of the world.
No matter how much we interact with each other in school and work, or like our social media sharings intensely, that cannot be a remedy to our loneliness.
Okay but why?
The Loneliness Issue
Is loneliness an evil phenomenon that should be strictly avoided?
Or maybe we forgot how to be alone and enjoy our own company?
Firstly, being in a crowd cannot eliminate loneliness because it’s possible to feel lonely around people. If you are not on the same wavelength with others, alienation is a natural choice.
Franz Kafka produced his fascinating work in the middle of a chaotic and disordered environment. So we are also capable of building our loneliness like spinning a cocoon.
At any moment, all of a sudden, we can decide to live in seclusion.
We are in the age of “self-improvement”, or “personal growth”. Even the words we use, “self” and “personal”, tell a lot about the concept we are dealing with.
Human beings cannot exclude being social by definition. Our happiness, mental health, how we think about ourselves are all wired to building meaningful relationships.
Using the term “self-improvement” instead of “social improvement” illustrates the point of the modern age. What’s the meaning of it? It says, “You shall not have a role in social growth, go and save yourself.”
We are all secretly told, “You just need to grow in person, the society will take care of itself”. That makes absolute sense up to some point because the development of societies is like getting blood from a stone.
On the flip side, individual efforts are more likely and fruitful after all.
If you are not capable of cleaning your dirt, how can you do it for others? It will only be some sort of a masturbation to clean up your conscience.
This is the era that we are forced to think individually by disregarding collectivity, so this is the main reason why the end of the road is always loneliness. We came to earth alone and we will leave alone, so let every tub stand on its own bottom but…
Here’s the conundrum.
A highly developed individual is also in need of a highly developed community.
In other words, if you have an enlightened mind, you need other enlightened minds that will appreciate your existence and make it meaningful. As long as this healthy environment is not found, you become a flawed couch grass bleeding in the middle of a sick society.
Human nature always requires a sense of belonging, and this need is fulfilled when you become a part of something bigger than yourself. Like all other life forms, human beings can only live with herds.
This blog is a herd. Internet forums, social media groups, associations, companies are all herds. If you fall into carelessness and become a part of a shitty group, they also make you shitty.
Why many youngsters become gang members at an early age? They fill the gap of their family needs through wrong social environments. Look at the motorcycle groups and see how they work in a hierarchy like a family unit. People have a sense of belonging and meaning when they become a part of a great purpose.
So to gang up is a survival mechanism where we feel more secure and loved. That’s why people freak out to be alone. This is not how we were evolved in wild nature. We always became part of a community to increase our survival chance.
Individualism firstly has developed as a philosophical trend during the renaissance period, until then humanity only existed as nations and groups.
However, the rise of the enlightenment era triggered the cult of being existent as an individual. This change is observable in several intellectual and physical works of art.
Protestant ethic also brought individualism into the forefront by highlighting the responsibilities of individuals. So people started to prioritize thinking for themselves first as a result.
They became more crystalized and refined by disassociating from each other. They defined their characteristic through differences rather than common points. From religions to sports fans, they all include denominational differences.
There are an estimated 10,000 distinct religions worldwide, and they all have different cults. Sports clubs have different types of fans based on their political, religious, or ideological differences.
Technology and Loneliness
When TVs were starting to become popular, it was a device that we used all together because it was not possible to watch it anytime and anywhere.
Right now, the options and preferences are limitless. We can decide the time, speed, or quality of the material we will consume.
We became compartmentalized
Back then the TV show “X” was on Wednesday at 9 pm, and there was no replay. So people used to come together in a room for it. Later, each room started to have its own TV and owner.
Even the concept of separate rooms in a house is an entirely different process. Indigenous people used to, and some of them still live in one-room tiny houses.
Pic: Stilted houses in Embera Village
For example, the transition from heating stove to central heating has changed the dynamics of our homes.
And lastly, the internet and smartphones took everything to another level.
Shortly, all technological advancements inevitably planted the seeds of loneliness even it’s totally against our nature.
In research conducted in 2017, 22% of the teenagers in the USA have no friends at all. Can you imagine how crazy that is? These teens need human interaction more than ever, but they have nobody to share their thoughts.
Ecuador has the ministry of happiness and is one of the happiest countries in the world. England has the ministry of loneliness because it’s one of the loneliest countries in the world.
200 000 old individuals who live in the UK have declared they did not talk to anybody for the last month.
What a ruthless torture is this?
Solitary confinement is just as bad as the death penalty, if not worse.
What’s the worst punishment in criminal law? You go to prison as isolation but they also put you in solitary confinement where you interact with nobody as the ultimate penalty.
When you leave a person in a dark room alone for a long time, he starts having conversational with illusional characters. The brain is capable of creating illusional personas to suppress such a pain.
You probably encounter with language learning apps where you find a partner to practice speaking from a different country. Have you ever used them?
If you have, you must see that 90% of those people are old because they have nobody to talk to in their life. They are in pursuit of fulfilling the most basic social need. What do they get? Well, at least somebody pays them attention for a while even though it’s for practicing language skills.
The rage is a symptom of loneliness
Why do you think there is an enormous amount of wordy warfare on the internet?
Why do people spread hatred and all negative emotions so easily? These are the results of suppressed emotions, and most people use the internet as a solution to express themselves because nobody cares about them in real life.
Comment sections, likes, dislikes, shares are abused by psychologically harmed individuals. Since nobody sees their faces, they can write whatever they want. This can be understood as the major method people prefer for dealing with loneliness.
It’s been 2 years since the loneliness ministry is founded in England but still, 9 million people consider themselves lonely.
Physical presence is not required for communication anymore because the online world is where everything happens. People mostly prefer web-based platforms to communicate and they believe it’s more convenient for self-expression.
Is that true?
It’s possible to offend people easily when you don’t put emojis in text messages. What happens to the vital elements of communication such as body language and tone of voice? How to tell a sarcasm or irony in a text form?
Loneliness is inevitable in this materialized world
The advancement of technology inevitably resulted in the commodification of human values.
The male population sees women as sex objects because of extreme pornography consumption and females see only what their prospective partner can give to them in terms of status and money.
Minds are covered with social interests and the eyes are glued on the material world.
The capitalist system is ruthless.
All the advertisement industry is there to encourage consumerism. They offer you products to get rid of loneliness, sexual desires, tiredness while new lacks of contentment bring into existence.
- Is your job boring and meaningless?
- Do you feel useless and exhausted?
- Does your life have no meaning at all?
Consumption culture gives promises to save you from these pains through colorful materials and exotic experiences. So whenever you deal with loneliness, they tell you to buy something for a cure.
Go buy a book and you will get all the answers, or just buy a session from a therapist, or here’s the best amazing pill or all you need is a great vocation, etc.
Do they really offer a solution? Well, you know the answer.
What’s the role of the technology here at this point? Does it make us more alone or can we find the cure for our chronic loneliness through using it? If you ask me, both arguments are true.
First of all, technology definitely destroyed provincialism.
Today we are all living in cities and everybody is informed about anything. Even if you live in a small village, it’s possible to watch a lecture from the best universities of the world for free. If there’s a fire disaster in Australia, a native of Missouri can know it in seconds. We can’t talk about loneliness in this context like being alone in a small world.
Contrarily we have hundreds or thousands of friends on social media but it still doesn’t offer a solution to loneliness because those friendships are only on the surface level, they are not deep and meaningful.
How often do we meet up with these people?
Not at all.
People used to come together to learn about the news about their life because physical presence was required to exchange new information. We don’t need it right now because we can handle everything from electrical devices.
Eventually, face-to-face communication has become meaningless. We even find our flirts on online platforms. There’s a thing called “sexting”, moreover, most people satisfy their partners through cybersex.
The movie Her (2013) covered this topic very well.
In a nutshell, there’s an artificial intelligence app just like google assistant or Apple’s Siri in the movie. When you talk to her, she responds like a human being and in course of time, she becomes specialized for you. So it turns out the leading actor falls in love with her.
Hey, don’t blame him. It must be hard to resist Scarlet Johanson’s voice.
Isn’t this similar to the communications that we have through electronic devices?
Customer services don’t have human employees anymore, so we are dealing with robots. If you tend to make complicated sentences, then they transfer your call to a human being.
Well, who can deny a friend who knows everything about you, listen to your troubles, and giving you a nice piece of advice without making no judgment at all?
The movie “Her” takes place in a world that is not very different from today’s world. The hero is one of us. He eats, goes to work, has friends, is divorced, and lives alone. This loneliness is both the cause and the result of a narcissistic personality. He does not want to be alone, but he is too selfish to bear other people, even to the spouse he shares his life with.
That’s when technology comes into play.
Technology is the ultimate tool that humanity will use to make up what’s lacking the most. However, technology ends up becoming more than just a tool when the hero sees it as an ultimate solution.
Today technology is often not used to uncover the secrets of the world by people but rather misused for self-satisfaction and overindulgence for selfish interests.
Of course, it’s not possible to overcome loneliness in this context.
On the other hand, we all define loneliness in a different way. Privacy is the most determining factor here. In times that we need to be alone, we are always forced to be in a crowd. Ironically, we feel more alone in these situations.
This is deliberately set up because the authorities freak out from people who can stand alone. It’s always harder to manipulate self-sufficient individuals.
That’s why companies, governments, power-holders do their best to eliminate loneliness from your life.
Big brother is always watching you, but why?
Because when you are alone, your mind can become divergent. Even the toilets have screens instead of walls anymore. You can see the shoes of other people from the bottom. So loneliness is an obstacle to the system and it’s independent of the crowds.
IS LONELINESS A BAD THING?
“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”
― Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau builds a house near Walden Lake to escape from the impositions of the system. He questioned whether a solitary life is possible or not, and wrote a book about the experiences.
At the end of the day, we can say that loneliness is a loveable concept if it’s not a lifelong commitment. Just like permanent and forced social companionships, permanent loneliness would be cruel torture.
However, loneliness is an essential requirement, especially for creative works and projects. Undoubtfully, human beings can do wonders when they’re gathered under the right circumstances. Unbelievable works like going to the moon, amazing inventions, life-changing movies, songs, theaters are all the products of efficient collective work.
You can bring together 1000 chimpanzees but all you get will be chaos. So the magic does not lie behind the numbers. It’s not the quantity but the quality of the people you have.
How can you talk about quality in a crowd where nobody enjoys their own companionships?
Being social is a great way to nurture the mind but loneliness is required for absorption.
We desperately need solitude to make sure what we went through makes sense through internalizing and drawing the right conclusions.
Hence, loneliness is not something we should be afraid of but it’s a phenomenon that we need to learn how to use for our own benefit. Its cruciality particularly peaked in an era where we are bombarded with social distractions.
Humanity existed for a small period of time when the whole existence is taken into account. The earth is more than 4,5 billion years old while humanity has existed for a little less than 200 thousand years. Furthermore, we have spent our time mostly living in small groups. The rural life, solitude, living strictly with family members almost covers it all.
Our problems with crowds have surfaced in the last few centuries, especially after the industrial revolution. All of our troubles stem from a cultural shock that we have been trying to adapt for 200 years. We are actually after a longing that we can never reach.
What’s the ultimate reward in all divine religions? You come together with your beloved ones and will be in peace forever. The message is clear, “What you look for is not here”.
Everything becomes a potential problem when happiness is set as the only goal. Loneliness cannot be a problem by itself, it’s all about how we perceive it. People are having a lot of trouble because they don’t know how to live with it.
You want to be creative? Master loneliness
When you master being alone, you find an endless source of creativity.
Art, in itself, takes its main nourishment from solitude. Therefore, in an era where being creative, innovative, different is extremely valuable; loneliness is bliss when we are capable of living it to the full.
The chances are you won’t be creating anything meaningful among a sea of people vying for your attention. We are already enough stopping ourselves from creating the art, the work, the life we are capable of.
Solitude is necessary to lose yourself in your work. You can only be sure about creating something truly meaningful when you are lost in your work.
The meaning behind the words is much more important than the words itself. For example, we say “Can you leave me alone for a minute? I need to rest my head”, or we can say “I am so lonely, I am about to get crazy”.
The concept of loneliness is entirely different in these sentences. The former one means “reclusion” where we need time to contemplate and reconsider what’s going on in our lives while the second one is a painful experiment where we feel in total despair.
So loneliness is a need but not always for sure. Most people die shortly after their retirement because they lose their social environment and the human brain can’t tolerate such a stressful switch.
We can conclude that loneliness is an inevitable state of life that must be managed delicately.
What should we do about loneliness?
“There is in the world only the choice between loneliness and vulgarity. All young people should be taught now to put up with loneliness because the less man is compelled to come into contact with others, the better off he is.”
– Arthur Schopenhauer
The more you’re dependent on the masses, the more you lose from your uniqueness.
Why would loneliness cause trouble for us? Why do we desperately want people to see what we share on social media? Why likes and followers are so important for us?
“Look I’ve bought a new shirt but that’s not enough. Let me share it on Instagram so you all like, make comments, and entertain me. So I feel like my existence really means something.”
We always demand something from the crowd either their attention, interest, or time.
We expect them to do something for us, to fill a certain gap that’s lacking for us. Who’s willing to give rather than absorbing all the good around? Who’s using these platforms for encouraging, promising, enlightening others?
Why? Because the cups inside us are already empty. What’s the best way to fill them? By learning how to be alone, my friend.
Loneliness is the only way to discover our self-sufficiency.
Preferred and regularly practiced solitude is such a great privilege. If you learn to become a good company to yourself, then you feel content and complete. This is an invaluable gift that cannot be bought.
So what do you get from this article?
Next time, whenever you get in your car, you don’t need to open a song immediately. The TV in your living room does not have to make noise all the time. You don’t have to call someone when you feel bored.
There are things in life that can only be done alone, and these are essentially the most nurturing activities for human beings.
Thinking, for example, requires an internal process where you need to focus your shift on your inner world. Reading can’t be done properly in group work. Writing is also an activity that strictly requires solitude.
We don’t even think about making future plans or try to learn from our past in the crowd.
Loneliness is only there for us, as the fate for great achievements.
I owe this blog to my loneliness because without it, there wouldn’t be any writing, thinking, reading, producing anything for me.
Don’t escape, don’t be afraid, don’t put the blame on it.
Just let your loneliness teach you, make it your servant, and use it for your purpose.