Intuitively, and given the current rhetoric around the subject, I’d forgive you for rolling your eyes and murmuring “community” as if we’ve solved the issue that’s plaguing our modern world.
But community infers that loneliness can be cured by external forces, and I don’t think that’s the case.
I think the cure to loneliness has to start with something internal.
We all know that you can be in a crowd of people who love you and still feel deeply alone.
I believe that in order to address loneliness we need to look within and ask “what are the beliefs we tell ourselves that perpetuate our loneliness?”
Loneliness is not a truth but a perception. A perception that’s shaped by our own beliefs likely shaped by trauma and life experience.
Therefore, the cure to loneliness can’t be community — it has to be something that addresses that false perception within the self, first.
Figuring out how to address that false perception is the big question. Although this is equally nothing new, I think that it has to start with some sort of vulnerability. The biggest challenge with that is — do we really expect those who are feeling the most alone will take the leap of expressing their vulnerability just because they’re told it’s good for them? No.
So I’ve started to question and explore — how might we manufacture vulnerability?
Last year I attended a tech-based immersive theater experience, Somnai (which I recommend if you get the chance to do it). One part of the experience that stuck with me as the most profound was a moment when I — in deep fear and vulnerability — asked a stranger to hold my hand. The abstraction from reality, coupled with being forced into a vulnerable state did more than “nudge” me to connection. At the end of the experience, in the “decompression” AKA bar and cocktails I was surprised at how connected I felt to the other people we had been in the experience with. I would hypothesise that the reason we felt connected was because there was a manufactured vulnerability.
I wonder how we could design those moments into the fabric of every day life to bring people closer together and if we could, would it be ethical?