Researches have shown it and during my two combined years of living in the U.S. I have witnessed it, loneliness is alarming in this country and it is surprisingly common.
Friday night, I walk by a Starbucks and it is packed with lonely customers absorbed in their tablets and smartphones. This scene is repeated in different public places, but also more and more in the privacy of the home. Then I take the train, and I can’t avoid but notice all passengers scrolling through their phones, what are they looking at? Shopping websites.
A recent Cigna study has found that nearly half of Americans feel that no one knows them well. Fifty-six percent reported they sometimes or always felt like the people around them “are not necessarily with them.” And 2 in 5 felt like “they lack companionship,” that their “relationships aren’t meaningful” and that they “are isolated from others.”
More people live (and eat) alone. More than half of all meals (57%) are eaten alone, a 2014 study by market researcher NPD Group concluded. And 34% of Americans spend dinner time alone. Nearly 30% of households in the U.S. are comprised of one person. It’s the second most common household type after married couples without children.
But why is this happening? Many could be the factors that trigger this situation. Founder of the Art of Living spiritual movement and who lives in Bangalore, India, stated that “Our consumer culture doesn’t help. When people are fed up with their routine, and life seems to have no aim and meaning, then people do get depressed, despite having so many physical comforts.”
The way people use social media determine its influence on one’s sense of isolation as well. Social media, rather than relieving the issue, has exasperated it. Being connected online has led to less prosperous offline relationships.
Lately, there have been a proliferation of applications for meeting people, from kids in elementary schools to elders, more and more people have started using these apps to decrease, somehow, feelings of loneliness and social isolation. But are these apps actually solving such a complicated issue? Is an app just enough to make you feel better?
I have also noticed some shame in admitting these feelings of isolation, this rugged individualist society may look down on opening up about such things. Aren’t they supposed to set out on their own and reach life’s fulfillment by being independent? Well, it shouldn’t be like this.
Humans are social creatures, we need to interact with the people around us, it is our nature. Isolating will only weaken our health and well-being. We shouldn’t throw all our weight against our career and then, our relationships, leaving little time for much else. The key for life is balance.