This Is Why People Are Getting Lonelier Nowadays


This Is Why People Are Getting Lonelier Nowadays

It's true that nowadays people have become lonelier.

As the General Social Survey discovered, the number of Americans with no real close friends has tripled since 1985. It's devastating, but, as a quarter of those surveyed reported, the most common number of confidants is 'zero'. Likewise, the average number of people most Americans feel they can speak to about "serious matters" has declined from three to two.

Mysteriously enough, loneliness appears most prevalent amongst millennials. But what could be the reason why?

One possible explanation is that loneliness is contagious. A 2009 study used data collected from around 5,000 people and their offspring from Framingham in Massachusetts since 1948 and discovered that participants are 52% more likely to be lonely if somebody they’re directly related to (a friend, neighbor, co-worker, or family member for instance) is lonely too. So, even people who aren’t lonely tend to start becoming lonelier if they’re surrounded people who are.

This happens because lonely people find it harder to pick up on positive social stimuli, such others' attention and commitment signals, so they tend to withdraw prematurely – in many cases before they actually become socially isolated. Their inexplicable withdrawal might, in turn, make their close connections also feel lonely. In addition, lonely people tend to become less trusting but more hostile; this might further sever social ties and cause others to feel lonely as well.

Loneliness, just like any type of contagion, is toxic. Lonely adolescents present more social stress compared to those who don't feel lonely at all. Also, individuals who feel lonely have reasonably higher Epstein-Barr virus antibodies (aka the key player in mononucleosis). Also, lonely women literally feel hungrier. Finally, people who feel lonely have a higher risk of death by 26%, while their risk of dying from heart disease is doubled.

Nevertheless, if loneliness is inherently contagious, what's the reason for the so called millennial loneliness?

Well, now the contagion is easier since the Internet makes loneliness viral. It isn't a coincidence that loneliness started to surge just two years after Apple launched its first personal computer and, also, five years before the World Wide Web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee.

The irony is that most people use the Internet to alleviate their loneliness. Nowadays, social connection only takes a simple 'click'. And, if you imagine that World of Warcraft players feel less social anxiety when online than in the real world, this 'click' seems to work pretty well.

However, we need to keep in mind that the social satisfaction the Internet enhances is temporary. The more lonely people find salvation when they go online, the more they tend to feel isolated or depressed when they're offline.

This explains how the Internet could eventually isolate us from our social circle. One reason why the Internet makes us lonelier is the fact that we try to substitute real relationships with online relationships. Although we temporarily feel better when we make 'e-friends', these contacts are mostly superficial and ultimately dissatisfying. Online social connections cannot be an effective alternative for 'real' social interactions.

One other reason why excessive Internet use increases feelings of loneliness is the fact that disconnects us from reality. According to research, lonely people use the Internet to “feel totally absorbed online”; this is a state that inevitably steals time and energy that could otherwise be used for social activities or for building more fulfilling relationships in the 'real' world.

The lonelier we feel, the more we go online, trying to find a virtual escape from loneliness. That's our generation, the people who learned to self-soothe with technology at a young age. Even the job sector now encourages people to work alone in many ways such as freelancing.

What we need to understand is that the Internet can't replace real connectivity. We need to drastically face our loneliness and make it go away, not drown in it and take other people with us as well.


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Thinking Humanity: This Is Why People Are Getting Lonelier Nowadays
This Is Why People Are Getting Lonelier Nowadays
It's true that nowadays people have become lonelier.
Thinking Humanity
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