We are more connected than ever due to technology, but studies indicate we are lonelier than ever. An increasingly high percentage of Americans feel loneliness is part of their daily lives.
In fact, an AARP study of adults ages 45 and older estimates that 42 million Americans suffer from chronic loneliness.
Chronic loneliness has been implicated in increased levels of chronic disease and worse health outcomes. In fact, mortality rates are increased in those who are chronically lonely.
However, even when among other people, many of us still feel alone.
Why is it with the expansion of interconnectedness we feel isolated and dissatisfied with relationships?
“Technology is seductive when what it offers meets our human vulnerabilities. And as it turns out, we are very vulnerable indeed. We are lonely but fearful of intimacy. Digital connections and the sociable robot may offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. Our networked life allows us to hide from each other, even as we are tethered to each other. We’d rather text than talk.” ~ Sherry Turkle, ― Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each Other
Our relationships and connections suffer from a lack of warmth and intimacy.
A text message saying “I love you” does not convey the same effect as if it’s delivered while looking at someone in the eyes.
An email does not conjure the emotion that a handwritten letter or card can relay.
In our world, we do things for convenience. We do them because they are quicker and easier than the old-fashioned way of doing things.
Relationships suffer in ways that the rest of our lives do not when we chose the way of convenience.
Good relationships develop through intimacy and physical human connection.
The technology of today is a detriment to creating and maintaining good relationships.
While seeing Aunt Susie’s photos on Facebook may be enough to sustain you, connecting with those close to your heart only through technology may leave you feeling lonely and dissatisfied.
Since the beginning of human existence, we have connected by seeing each other, looking into each other’s eyes, talking to one another, and forging friendships.
When we lose the human connection, we have but a skeleton of a relationship.
Subsequently, the relationship exists only as a structure. There is no heart to it. It is lifeless.
“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.” ~Mother Teresa, A Simple Path: Mother Teresa
The convenience of communication destroys the essence of the communication.
Humans are meant to be touched and hear each other’s voices and see each other’s expressions.
We become but extensions of faceless technology rather than living, breathing entities with real emotions and meaning.
Although it is convenient to communicate through technology, it is having a detrimental effect on our society.
We must make every effort to communicate with those we care about face to face. We must talk to them, not just by telephone or text message, but by really seeing them and listening to them.
In a world where technology is always on and someone is always talking, sometimes we need to sit back, look someone in the eyes, and listen to them.
Turn your phone off, the laptop away, and connect with sincerity.
Only when we realize that our relationships require more care than technology can deliver, can we find the answer to the crisis of loneliness in our society.
We need to stop treating relationships like a microwave dinner, some things require time and are worth savoring.
Our relationships with others cannot be treated like a convenience. They need to be real and intimate.
Being lonely is bad for our psychological and physical health. In fact, loneliness can be deadly.
How much are your health and relationships worth?
Loneliness Among Older Adults (study) by AARPhttps://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/research/surveys_statistics/general/2012/loneliness_2010.pdf
American Psychological Association press releasehttp://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2017/08/lonely-die.aspx
Loneliness Might Be a Bigger Health Risk than Smoking or Obesity in Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2017/01/18/loneliness-might-be-a-bigger-health-risk-than-smoking-or-obesity/#61ffcb1a25
Melissa Robinson Carpenter is a physician, wife, poet, and mother of boys who blogs @http://melissacarpenterwrites.com