If we are so social, why are we so alone? Some people around the world spend hours “socializing” on Facebook. Others attempt to include peers in various aspects of their daily lives. Photographs of the meal they’ve ordered at a restaurant; a photo of themselves taking a mouthful. Selfies, selfies, selfies. Do we really feel that the numerous “friends” one has on Facebook are really friends? Are they really that interested? Sam Blumenfeld quoted Mark Zuckerberg in an article in the New American 2011:
“We’re trying to map out what exists in the world. In the world there’s trust. I think, as humans, we fundamentally parse the world through the people and relationships we have around us. So at its core, what we’re trying to do is map out all of those trust relationships, which you can call, colloquially, most of the time, friendships.” Even if this was the original intent of Facebook or social media in general, is this what it is today?
In a world in which we can connect with people everywhere at any time, we are becoming even lonelier, more distant and absorbed in ourselves. We are connected but is it for the right reasons? Is it in a healthy and altruistic way?
Studies published by the global health service company Cigna found that 46 percent of U.S. adults report sometimes or always feeling lonely and 47 percent report feeling left out. Cigna calls those “epidemic” levels.
The European Commission’s science and knowledge service say that: 7% of adults in Europe feel lonely according to this analysis, that is around 30 million European adults frequently lack the joy of human connection.
This number goes up to 10% in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, France, and Greece. 17% of adults in Europe are socially isolated. If only 7% of adults in Europe feel lonely, the analysis shows that many more adults in Europe (18% or around 75 million people) are in reality socially isolated.
This confirms that before this current crisis of the Covid -19 virus there was already another epidemic, loneliness.
Is it possible that at a time like this it’s the right moment to connect? By being in isolation, we might turn to and have a need for more than a chatbox? Photos of your meal? Not now; restaurants are closed. Photos of your vacation, where are you going? No flights! Maybe it’s a time to reflect on and tend to what is of real importance. While we are inside and unable to meet each other, gather some friends, family, and colleagues on an online conference platform, sit down with a cup of tea and have an online tea party. Long-distance grandparents read stories to your grandchildren on skype. There are ways for us to be together and alleviate the solitude and encourage and comfort each other. The relationships you might not have had a lot of time for when you were so busy can be cultivated now.
I am concerned about the psychological effects of this necessary seclusion in a world where many are already very isolated. We can help others to get through this together with distant kindness and care. Across countries, cultures, traditions and the Covid-19, Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
We can’t touch physically but try to touch someone’s heart. Behind the mask, that shields your mouth make sure your eyes are smiling.