• Patrick McAndrew

The Coziness of Loneliness

The Rise of Loneliness

Akon released the song “Lonely” in 2005. Little did he know that that word, “lonely,” would become a common describer of the population in 2019.

Earlier this year, Ravi Chandra wrote on Psychology Today about loneliness, and how social media, the Internet, and smartphones are playing their part in the increase in loneliness. Chandra writes, “Researchers point to the 30% spike in loneliness, depression, anxiety and suicidality amongst 15-19 year olds after the smartphone became ubiquitous in 2010.” A 30% spike is huge!

There are several skeptics out there who deny these claims, who state that the advancement of technology isn’t to blame for the rise in loneliness. These tend to be the technophiles, the ones who cling to the newest gadgets as if they were their own child and praise technology as a new found religion.

I’m all for technology. It provides us with some great conveniences. I like that it is an easy tool to keep in touch with friends and keep up with the latest happenings in peoples’ lives. But that doesn’t mean I feel more connected to them. Social media and online conversation are no replacement for real, face-to-face interaction.

The Uncomfortable Problem

And that’s where our problem is. Many of us, especially teenagers, are replacing face-to-face interaction with online communication. Friends text each other when they are standing right next to one another. Co-workers email one another when they are sitting just a few feet away. The convenience and comfortability of technology has made us uncomfortable with what used to be standard practice.

It takes some gusto and a bit of courage to have difficult conversations. It requires the same to spark a conversation with someone who you don’t know. These things take effort, but many of us are hesitant to make the effort. We don’t want to embarrass ourselves so we text our friends who aren’t present. While we want to connect, we are afraid to take that first step. The ironic thing is the other people around us are thinking the exact same thing. They are afraid to reach out and, instead, cower towards comfortability. We’re all guilty of this. But if we practice stepping outside our comfort zone, we expand our comfort zone and more opportunities present themselves.

The Coziness of Loneliness

It is comfortable retreating to loneliness. Though we are sad and depressed, we are at least familiar with our misery. We know what we are getting ourselves into. Even though we yearn to find our soulmate or even just a friend to have a great conversation with, we aren’t keen on expending our energy and would rather sit at home. The short-term gratification of this can be satisfying. That’s the trap. In the long term, we will not feel very fulfilled, connected, or part of a larger community.

While I have my complaints about the school system, allow students to step outside their comfort zone is something that they do rather well, perhaps without even realizing it. They group a bunch of people the same age into the same room and, in most cases, force them to interact with one another. Friendships are formed, even if accidentally, and the class can bond on a mutual enjoyment (or dislike) of the class.

Work in our adult-life can do this to a degree, but only if we are willing. Because we are adults, we have more leeway over how we spend our time. We can choose to go to that after work happy hour, or go home, get in our pajamas, eat delicious food, and watch Netflix. The latter, I think all would agree, is much more enticing and much more enjoyable. But that’s because it’s comfortable. What’s uncomfortable about that? Remember, if we don’t step outside our comfort zone, we don’t expand our comfort zone.

Take The Step

I’m pretty confident that stepping outside our comfort zone helps prevent loneliness. It allows us to meet interesting people and relish in unique experiences. That isn’t too say that we should live in uncomfortable situations 24/7. That would be awful! But we need a balance.

Many of us are not balanced right now. We tend to stay in the comfortable and, because of this, we are terribly lonely. We must adopt a balanced mentality. Even if we don’t feel like doing something in that exact moment, we need to slap ourselves and realize the long-term benefits that could come if we stepped outside our comfort zone. In the short term, it will be weird, uncomfortable, and annoying. In the long term, we can be happy, live our dreams, and never have to worry about loneliness again.

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