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The epidemic of loneliness, and what we can do to combat it

The epidemic of loneliness, and what we can do to combat it

June 24, 2024

Human beings have a predisposition to feel alone from time to time, whatever our life may be, whether we are introverted or extroverted. This is so because we are social animals, and it is very easy that at a given moment we suffer from discomfort because we can not connect with anyone as much as we would like. It is normal.

However, the feeling of loneliness can be accentuated by social phenomena, and that is precisely what is happening in recent decades. In fact, since the 1980s, the number of Americans who say they have no close friends has tripled, and The most common answer to the question "How many true friendships do you have?" it's "zero" .

This trend has also been found in many other countries in the West that, despite having popularized the use of social networks, seems to pose serious problems to its inhabitants when it comes to finding faithful friendships. It is an authentic epidemic of loneliness .

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The scarcity of friendships and their psychological effects

The bad of paying so much attention to the number of friends added on Facebook is that it is very easy to stop paying attention to the quality of these relationships . In that sense it is not surprising that despite the fact that last year the average number of friends that each user has on their Facebook profile is around 330, most Americans report having only one confidant at most.

Why has this epidemic of loneliness appeared? Keep in mind that the criticisms that are often made about smartphones and social networks as guilty of this are not too well founded. They may contribute to make up this problem of lack of contact between people , but they are not at their root. in fact, possibly what happened has to do with the development of a way of thinking, and not so much with a habit of technological consumption.

This way of thinking that isolates us more from the rest and makes us more frequent the warm waters of loneliness is individualism and, fundamentally, the idea that we must stand out from the others. The reason for this is that it makes us enter a logic according to which personal relationships are an instrument .

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The epidemic of loneliness and individualism

Imagine that you are a person whose main goal is gain power to be able to stand out from the crowd .

Advertising ads sell you ideals of beauty that you can use to distinguish yourself from the rest. The leisure services tempt you constantly with the concept of exclusivity, whose meaning is basically that few people can access it, as if that spoke about the value of your product (and by extension of your value as a consumer of this). The business training plans talk about the importance as a team, but ultimately what they sell is the need to be your own boss and go on perfecting yourself overcoming obstacles (whatever they may be) to make a good future for you. And the dominant discourse on the Internet aimed at young people, of course, is that the important thing is to be visible, to be someone relevant.

Now ask yourself if with that mental framework you would not mix a good part of your personal and informal relationships with that project of accumulation of power. A project that, on the other hand, does not have the objective of creating good living conditions, but having the ability to control one's own life to prevent damage from the outside. In individualism, even the objective we set is part of the individualist mentality.

All these aspects of individualism lead us to the same conclusion: life can be an exciting place in the future, but in the present what you have to experience is a prudential solitude . No one watches over anyone or there are bonds of solidarity because everyone tries to squeeze their life from the resources to which they have access. Faced with this constant emergency situation, the construction of genuine friendships is something that does not make sense.

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What to do to connect better with others?

Of course, not everyone is extremely individualistic, but that does not stop us from getting infected with this philosophy when it comes to developing lifestyle habits. The simple fact of living in a world in which this way of thinking is publicized makes us imitate its precepts, even though we only create them to a certain extent. Simply, everyone does it.

Curiously, this simple fact already gives us a clue about what we can do to combat the epidemic of loneliness: lift that veil of appearances and reject the imposition of individualism in a collective and solidary way.How to do it? Although it may sound unglamorous, a good option is to show our own vulnerabilities to others .

Proving that we really believe in a philosophy of life based on bonds of friendship and solidarity, authentic shatters the idea that "life is a jungle." It may cost at the beginning (all small personal and collective revolutions do), but the fruits of this can be very sweet as we see how, little by little, others begin to look beyond the illusion of distrust.

Loneliness epidemic: Panel discusses how to combat feeling alone (June 2024).

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