I have just listened to an interesting radio interview called “Noreena Hertz and Loneliness” on the BBC Website. She talks about loneliness being both a political and societal issue.
Political decisions have contributed to how a person can become lonely, for example closing libraries and youth centres, cutting public transport, shutting down day centres. Even things like closing canteens in local council buildings has had an impact on employee loneliness. There is also a political emphasis on pushing yourself forward as opposed to collectively helping each other.
As a society we have become reliant on social media and technology to connect and although digitally we are more connected than ever, emotionally we are the loneliest we have ever been. The interview talks about parents and schoolteachers who have historically been able to identify if a child is being left out or bullied because they may not be invited to things or be on their own. Now however, socialising and bullying is largely carried out online so parents may not be aware of what is going on or that their child is excluded.
Technology is fantastic and has so many positive attributes but the benefit of face to face human interaction cannot be underestimated.
The interview also discusses how many people, particularly young people, are feeling anxious about being around people and are lacking or loosing people skills because they are not using them in day to day life. Social skills such as reading body language and facial expressions, contributing to spoken conversation and doing things in person with other people are basic human functions which are getting lost in technology.
But… we are being told to distance ourselves, not meet up in person and not have physical contact so what are we supposed to do?
In this period of pandemic connection is key – however that may look. But afterwards it is up to us to try to incorporate human interaction into our lives. For some this will be tough. Some people have got used to staying in and have lost their confidence along the way. Some may find that communities groups do not reopen or there isn’t reason to go to the high street when the big shops have closed, and all these things will make getting out there that little bit harder.
Politically things are unlikely to change soon but socially we can try to join what is out there or set up our own group if we feel something is missing. Crucially if you are a bit out of practice with conversation then start practicing with shopkeepers or anyone you come into contact with and you will gradually feel more confident.
Better days are ahead and there are lots of real-life conversations to be had.
If you would like any advice about setting up your own community group (on anything you feel is needed or you would like yourself) or you would like to volunteer with us or join any of our services then get in touch with Alex on 07917586160.