Discover more from Uncorrelated Interests
As we gradually emerged from the pandemic, much was (and continues to be) written about a “loneliness epidemic” seemingly plaguing our society. Epidemics are scientific classifications, and I disagree with how easily the term is thrown around today, devaluing actual epidemics, so I won’t use such terms here.
But I do want to discuss loneliness for a bit, as it’s a state that anecdotally I’ve witnessed much more acutely in my social circles in recent years and also something that needs to be discussed much more freely if we wish to lessen its grip and improve our social well-being.
The “simple” cure for loneliness is, pithily, socializing, but this ultimately confuses “loneliness” with “being alone” - one is a negative mental state, the other a spatial fact. The latter is “cured” by socializing, but the former is not.
My default state is alone (solo), but this is not to say that my default state is lonely (though the latter certainly gnashes its teeth more often than I’d appreciate). This is, at a certain level, a manifestation of what we colloquially call introversion.
Introversion is not one thing - it’s a constellation - but for me at least, it certainly manifests as, or at least represents, a sociability deficit.
We are social creatures after all, but the desire for sociability is unfortunately divorced from the ability to socialize well. Sociability is far from evenly distributed.
I generally abhor rooms of unfamiliar people gathered without a prequalified purpose - connective tissue that confirms we are mutually interested in chatting. I suspect more naturally sociable people have lower amplitudes in their sociability waves:
Social events trigger large responses of neither a positive nor negative valence. They just…happen.
The sociability-deficient (like myself) do not experience uncertain interactions in this manner! We whipsaw wildly between contrasting extremes:
This makes it harder to drive consistent, persistent social outings and relationships. Instead, a series of fits and starts - grand explosions of excitement that quickly retreat into dark hermitage. A “night man/day man” way of life is stressful!
But as I asserted above, socializing is necessary but insufficient for “curing” loneliness. No, loneliness requires deep, authentic connection with another person, which itself requires a vulnerability to actually express your authentic self.
What I’ve learned, and why I’m publicly holding myself accountable to with this writing, is that we are all lonely. Though our anxiety spikes at the thought of expressing such loneliness to another human, do yourself and just reach out to someone, ANYONE.
One of two things is likely to happen:
You’ll quickly confirm that, at least for that moment, your loneliness is quelled.
By reaching out to solve our self-centered loneliness you may also solve that person’s (unexpressed) loneliness.
We are all lonely, perhaps more so in the past, but we are not destined for loneliness. We have agency in our mental states, and I assure you, you may feel lonely in this moment but you are not alone in that feeling.