| Three sto­ries of mod­ern lone­li­ness

Today we have more op­tions for con­nect­ing to peo­ple than ever be­fore, yet feel­ings of iso­la­tion and lone­li­ness are at an all time high.

Living Now - - Contents - by Jess Wal­ter

Today, lone­li­ness is caused and ex­ac­er­bated by more fac­tors than ever. How­ever, the so­lu­tion re­mains the same as it al­ways has been – mak­ing real hu­man con­nec­tions and un­der­stand­ing peo­ple's dif­fer­ences. Re­cently, I wit­nessed lone­li­ness from the per­spec­tive of three dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions of my fam­ily and friends.

TECH­NO­LOG­I­CAL DISCONNECTIVITY

My daugh­ter sends a text mes­sage. I can see her typ­ing it, delet­ing, and re­typ­ing from the arm­chair across the liv­ing room. She has over 500 friends on Face­book and numer­ous friends on var­i­ous chat apps on her phone. No doubt, I imag­ined, she was typ­ing some­thing to one of them. Im­me­di­ately my thoughts turned to hop­ing she was not do­ing or say­ing any­thing she’d re­gret. How­ever, within a few sec­onds of her send­ing the mes­sage, I read it. She was ask­ing me when din­ner would be ready.

It made me feel lonely and I re­alised that my daugh­ter stayed in the house most of the time. She did not go out, did not hang out, did not con­nect with peo­ple ex­cept to share pho­tos on Snapchat and to ex­change text mes­sages. When not typ­ing mes­sages she watched videos. Yet she com­plained of al­ways be­ing stressed, alone, bored, and of not be­ing able to re­lax or sleep prop­erly.

LONE­LI­NESS IS NOT JUST FOR THE YOUNG

My mother is also strug­gling with lone­li­ness. Hers is a very dif­fer­ent type. In her 70s now, her friends have be­come dis­tant in a lit­eral sense with many hav­ing moved away or sadly, passed away. As a child she dreamed of hav­ing her own place with a gar­den, but in do­ing so she, like many oth­ers, ended up far away from friends. That was not so much of a prob­lem when my fa­ther was alive or when we chil­dren lived at home, but now she is alone and it’s be­com­ing a real prob­lem. The neigh­bours are younger and rarely speak to her. She could go to a home or to a se­nior-friendly ac­com­mo­da­tion, but she val­ues her in­de­pen­dence and wants to make the best of her home. How­ever she can go many days with­out see­ing any­one and it is mak­ing her de­pressed.

NOT AC­CEPT­ING NEURODIVERSITY

A friend of mine re­cently opened up about life with Asperger’s, and his fre­quent lone­li­ness, which has led to times where he’s felt sui­ci­dal. Sadly, neurodiversity is one of the least ac­cepted forms of dif­fer­ence in today’s world and one of the least spo­ken about. As a child, my friend was bul­lied and never ac­cepted by peo­ple who thought dif­fer­ently. He strug­gled to get a job, not be­cause he was not hard­work­ing or tal­ented, but be­cause he was just dif­fer­ent and could not sell him­self well enough. Iso­la­tion can be a hall­mark of peo­ple on the autism spec­trum, when they are ei­ther pushed away by other peo­ple or pull away to avoid more pain.

HU­MAN CON­NEC­TIV­ITY

Hu­mans need to con­nect. Those of us who pull away from so­ci­ety of­ten do so be­cause we feel that so­ci­ety re­jects us, be­cause cir­cum­stances leave us high and dry, or be­cause we know no bet­ter. Re­cently, I met my re­flec­tion in these three peo­ple who’d dis­con­nected for dif­fer­ent rea­sons and in dif­fer­ent ways. They taught me how I had ac­tu­ally kind of dis­con­nected too; I sent phone mes­sages in­stead of call­ing peo­ple or meet­ing them face-to-face and spent more time in­doors watch­ing Net­flix than so­cial­is­ing.

And the so­lu­tion was sim­ple: I brought my peo­ple to­gether. My friend with Asperger’s and I meet once a week now at a set time. He’s also come over to help cook lunch for my mother. My daugh­ter also vis­its her and helps with the gar­den­ing. Now she’s planted cut­tings in our gar­den too and ac­tu­ally asks me if she can help with din­ner in­stead of tex­ting me about it. It’s small progress, but if we see lone­li­ness in our­selves or in those we love, we can step in and make a dif­fer­ence with­out hav­ing to lec­ture, just con­nect. n Con­nect with other read­ers & com­ment on this ar­ti­cle at www.liv­ing­now.com.au Jess Wal­ter is a free­lance writer and mother. She loves the free­dom that comes with free­lance life and the ad­di­tional time it means she gets to spend with her fam­ily and pets.

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