We evolved to have secure relationships with others. When these relationships are threatened, we are genetically programmed to feel the pain of loneliness. In the same way that the feelings of hunger or thirst tell us to find food and water, the feeling of loneliness tells us to find people to be with. The types of relationships we are used to today are not the same as when we were evolving, due in part to the qualities of the digital age. Loneliness is on the rise. We need new approaches to overcoming loneliness. Continue reading
It is not news to anyone that the digital age has spawned an entirely new way of being lonely. In a 2013 TED talk, “Lethality of Loneliness,” loneliness expert John Cacioppo said that in the 80s twenty percent of the U.S. population was lonely at any given time. Now that number is forty percent. In the age of social media, the normal mechanisms for combating loneliness may be breaking down.
One effect of loneliness is depression. In the past, depressed people were visible. Their body language and facial expressions were seen. Their sadness touched our natural empathy and we could reach out and help.
Now, hidden away behind an avatar or emoticon, how does a lonely and depressed person signal the need for help? Given the terrible mental and physical effects of loneliness this is something we all need to think about.
What do you think?
(Graphic “In Facebook Nobody Can Hear You Cry,” by D.E. Hardesty; photo of the young woman in graphic copyrighted to alexander trinitatov/DollarPhoto.com)