You wake up, scroll through social media, go to work/school/wherever and interact with people. You say your hello’s and how are you’s. You always say you’re doing fine when someone asks you how you are. You go to happy hour, parties, pickup basketball games and talk about surface level things – weather, sports, and new restaurants. You go home, scroll through social media sites even when you’ve gotten in bed to go to sleep. You wake up and do it all again. You’re always surrounded by people who do their part and ask “how are you?” before you fully respond, they’re already onto the next thing. You may not have meaningful conversations, but you follow each other on social media to get to know each other. You experience each other’s lives through the lens of social media, so of course you know each other’s lives. You feel alone? You talk to people nonstop throughout the day about project deadlines or upcoming happy hours, how could you feel lonely? You’re constantly getting likes on your beach pictures and comments on your stories, you can’t be alone. You’re always plugged in, but you feel no connection. You walk into a crowded room, you’re not alone but somehow you’re lonely.
In a time where we have constant access to others, we can text, call, DM, post, tweet, poke, snap, etc., somehow we’re disconnected from one another and lonely. If you’re not alone, but lonely, you aren’t alone in feeling this way. Factors such as the means of communication we use (digital), prevalence of social media, and relationships we have in our lives impact the feelings of loneliness. While we can’t just throw our phones out a window, quit social media (okay, some people can do this, good for them), or cut off all relationships that don’t serve as a fountain in our lives, we can try to better understand how these things might cause us to feel isolated.
Where better to start with addressing loneliness, than communication. Specifically, the way many of us communicate and the failures. Millennials (back at it again) struggle with in-person communication. Wait what? Yes, the generation that utilizes all the amazing digital methods of engaging with one another, actually aren’t that great at talking face-to-face like their parents once did. On the surface, this just seems like another critique from Baby Boomers. Through the utilization of computer mediated communication methods, Millennials then have the opportunity to edit what they share. This means, one can edit how vulnerable they’re willing to be when communicating via (insert digital communication method here). A prime example of this “editing” can be seen with social media. Even if someone isn’t editing what they’re saying in a one-to-one scenario, they’re still editing themselves for the world to see a perfectly curated version of themselves. Social media, the double edged sword that slices people more often than not. While we all use social media for the perceived good of communicating and keeping up with others, negative impacts on mental health are still felt.
Sorry to say, but mental health maintenance isn’t just deciding you’re in a good spot mentally one day and then never revisiting maintaining that level of wellness. Mental health is like physical or financial health, you’re constantly working to be as well as possible. If that means meditating (mental), eating a vegetable (physical), or learning what is actually happening with your 401k (financial), you do what you need to do to be the human version of the German national soccer team (a well-oiled machine). Loneliness can disrupt that well-oiled machine that is your mental health, and can lead to depression and anxiety. Unlike the flu, the cause of loneliness might not be as easy to trace to an origin. You may have been going along living your life and then one day woke up and realized you’ve not had a deep interaction with another human in a year. You might have realized you spend a lot of time comparing your pictures to the pictures of someone you follow on social media, and it makes you feel bad and isolated. You might just be going through something, because life happens and everyone is going through something, that doesn’t mean you should have to feel lonely in addition to all the other feelings. Especially when we’re constantly surround by people and ways to connect with them. We’re not meant to carry the weight of our struggles alone. Humans are social creatures, despite how you might feel towards other humans during rush hour traffic.