Disclaimer: this is a way of exploring loneliness and how I’ve experienced it. This is not a one-dimensional view of it but maybe just a piece in the ever-growing puzzle.
everyone seems to be feeling the same way but connection and intimacy doesn’t seem to be a priority
Loneliness is our perceived difference between the kind of human connection we want and the kind of human connection we receive. It is kind of tailored to our experiences so no manner of semantics can truly describe it.
However, Cacioppo describes loneliness as the pain we feel when our need for connection isn’t met. I’ve felt this pain and honestly it hardly ever feels like there’ll be light at the end of the tunnel.
Studies have shown that social pain or rejection recruits a network of brain regions that is similar to that has been found in animal research on physical pain. Recent findings also suggest that when intense, social pain recruits brain regions involved in both the affective and sensory components of physical pain.
The pain of loneliness is so intense that it has been categorised with physical pain. Pain seems to be a recurring theme for me recently, episode after episode and perceived isolation only intensified it. I looked for somebody, anybody. I looked at fictional friendships like my favourites from the Bold Type and I wonder when I’ll ever have that kind of close-knit friendship.
Cacciopo notices this: “Television and films have brought celebrities into our homes and we the viewers respond by forming parasocial relationships with the characters we emulate by, in some cases creating the kind of surrogate families we see on screen.”
We are fundamentally social organisms, the idiosyncrasy of our species is our brain’s ability to communicate, remember, plan and work together. Our survival depends on our collective abilities. There’s an innate desire in us for intimacy, connecction and to be part of a tribe. I guess that explains the loneliness.
We all want that one thing but it seems rarer than ever. Deep connection. We might verbalize this but our actions do not always coincide with what we’re saying.
Everyone seems to be feeling the same thing but connection and intimacy doesn’t seem to be our priority. And honestly that ‘s the truth. No matter how innately our souls crave , we all have different priorities. More often than not, we meet people that don’t want the same thing that we do especially in terms of depth, intimacy and quality.
The Casual Nature of Friendships
Along with the rise in surface-level media, I think there has been an equal rise in surface-level relationships. Our social pace can leave us feeling at a loss of any meaningful human connection. I’ve tried forcing relationships or even planning out memories but everything has felt empty because of the obvious lack of meaning and quality.
About a quarter a century ago, when Americans in a national survey were asked the number of confidants they had, the most frequent response was three. This question was asked again a few years ago, and the most frequent response is zero.
It seems we’ve all settled for surface level relationships even though our soul yearns for more. Everyone has recognized that they’re alone but that hasn’t fueled our efforts to change it. Intimacy has become less popular and we’ve all kinda settled for surface-level friendships. I get it. But no matter how casual relationships seem to become because of an array of reasons from busyness to the hecticness of life, humans are a meaning-making species.
We can stack up casual relationships but it is the quality of our relationships not the quantity that are essential to good health and happiness.
We Might Be Perpetuating Loneliness; Rugged Individualism
From the 20th century, the importance and relevance of social connections have visibly been supplanted by this individualist school of thought which at its extreme has made us ignore how outside factors affect our first emotional well being. With a strong focus on self pursuit, content on self-help has increasedly become popular.
We’ve unknowingly perpetuated oursleves into a state of loneliness with our extreme focus on independence and what not.
The valuation of mobility and personal freedom, the individual search for satisfaction, the vicarious participation in the lives of others and the fluidity of social identity resuts in a weakening of social bonds. – Cacciopo
Popular in today’s culture is the promotion of cancel culture, setting boundaries and utmost self-reliance which are sometimes good things but we should not get to a state that we now do things alone and even believe that doing things alone is the natural state of being human. Because it’s not.
Our human drive for social connection is so strong that Anthropologist Mark Fleisher found that in tougher neighbourhoods , disaffected members of dysfunctional families try to fight alienation by joining gangs.
Do We Really Want Intimacy?
Surrounded by all the data and proof of what we should want why does it seem like a lot of us do not want it. During my friendship journey, I find it hard to find simple reciprocity not to talk of the other things that produce a quality relationship.
But maybe that’s just to my own experience.
However, Ellaine talked about being selfless in her relationships to the point that it became toxic. She was naturally sacrificial and considerate forsaking her own happiness. They began to think they had the upper-hand and were the main character in a relationship that was meant to be equal. She experienced it too.
Intentionality Is The Game
With the current mobility of modern life, we have to double down on intention. Everything is just extremely mobilised from increased immigration to the digital nomad lifestyle, people are moving further and further. Epidemiologist David Bradley tracked the lifetime movement of four generations in his family. His great-grandfather’s entire life took place in a square of only 40 kilometres, his grandfather’s took place over 400, 4,000 for his father, and his own extended to every corner of the globe across 40,000 square kilometers.
Personally, my social circle is scattered over about seven countries which I’m sure will increase as I meet more people. That’s just how the world is now. I’ve noticed most of my friendships slowly died out without the constant proximity and lack of intention.
I’m still developing my philosophy of friendship and intention is a huge part of it.
It Takes Time
I’ve found that direction is better than speed. Recently, I began a new friendship and it seemed like everything I wanted but I had to remind myself that somethings take time especially vulnerability. We seemed squared of on everyother thing but we hadn’t got to the stage of opening up and I wanted it so bad.
But quality requires patience. In a piece I wrote on friendships, almost everyone I interviewed said it took about three years before they reached that stage. And it’s a reminder.
Staying the course and embracing the flow friendships can be a course for us to take when these relationships seem unsatisfactory.