Let me let you in on a little secret—very few people know my heart. Thousands of friends and followers on social media, but I still find myself lonely at times. You see, making a connection in this generation is very different than generations before us. Prior generations did not have technology and other devices to depend on to socialize. They visited each other’s homes, they went to church together, their kids played, and they were a community.
Now, relationships are built on a stranger and social media. We rely on people to give us advice to handle our day-to-day situations, in hopes of a fix. We listen to each other’s problems without being vested in each other’s hearts. We may get lucky and live close enough that we get to meet up and actually build a relationship, but this is normally not the case.
Interestingly enough, social media can’t be the only blame in this epidemic.
A study recently done by Cigna showed that 46% of Americans reported sometimes or always feeling alone. The study also showed that Generation Z “is the loneliest generation.” The problem plaguing this generation has been named the “loneliness epidemic.” Out of the 46%, 2 in 5 sometimes or always feel their relationships are not meaningful. A little more than half of Americans (53%) said they have meaningful in-person social interactions—extended conversation with a friend, quality time with family—on a daily basis. That means close to half of Americans don’t.
Loneliness negatively impacts health and mortality rates.
Since becoming a parent, I feel this loneliness has possibly become worse. I am so busy all the time with work, parenting, and life in general, I don’t have time to cultivate relationships outside the group I already have. My group gets neglected, too, but we are all in the same boat floating down the rapids without a paddle. I have also found being an older parent puts me at a slight disadvantage when I do meet other parents. While we may have littles, my place in life is vastly different than most who are 10-15 years younger than me.
How can I be lonely? I have 400 places to be!
So what is the fix? I don’t have a problem talking to people, as we all know. My husband laughs and says I could strike up a conversation with a stop sign. This type of communication skill is not natural to all of us though and like a muscle, must be flexed repeatedly in order for the skill to not atrophy. Constantly being busy doesn’t explain loneliness, but it definitely makes sense that it is a contributing factor. Do we slow down? Make it a point to schedule dates with our friends? Reach out to those we socialize with on social media to actually meet? How do we stop the epidemic?
Maybe all of this is a wake-up call for not only how we live, but how we parent.
Are we teaching our children how to be friendly? How to cultivate relationships? How to have real, heartfelt conversations with people outside our four walls? I know it’s been a wake-up call for me and hope it is for you.