In a world where we are connected more than ever, so many of us are also feeling more disconnected than ever before. Social Media portrays often a life where everyone seems to edit and filter their lives to perfection. It’s a place where we seem to be chasing followers, likes and compliments of how amazing we are and showing off our latest purchases, holiday snaps or images of crazy nights out with a zillion ‘real’ friends! Yep, I have been and still am from time to time guilty too! Especially when I was at my loneliest. I was chasing being acknowledged, in the hope my self-worth would be restored and I would feel understood and not feel so damned isolated. You know what! The sad truth? The more followers, the more likes, the more comments, the lonelier I felt in the real world. Not that I am complaining here about all those lovely reactions on my Social Media posts. Far from, I am truly thankful for all the love and support I have received online then and at present. However no one really talks about what really happens offline. When you are on your own with your thoughts and feelings. No one talks about those moments when you are in the shower sobbing quietly hoping the warm water will wash away the feelings of hopelessness and anxiety that can characterise true loneliness. I totally understand no one really likes to express their sadness of having no one to talk to, struggling to socialise and that feeling of rejection online for every Tom, Dick and Harry to read. I for certain didn’t want to come across as that middle aged woman feeling totally lost and scared, whinging about how I could turn my life around and feel understood, valued and truly loved again. Then again why would people have believed me anyway when I had been posting pictures and post after post of how high I was flying and smashing life. Surely people would only think it’s just a sad attempt for a bit of attention.
Recalling my own loneliness in the last 4 years or so in my marriage I know too well how depressing, hurtful and saddening the phenomenon loneliness can consume you all day long. You wake up with it and lie awake at night with it. It is a constant reminder. I used to describe my loneliness as an empty feeling deep inside my gut that was aching all the time. A dull discomfort leaving me feeling cold. Especially, in a room full of people that empty achy feeling inside seemed to feel even worse. However I always desperately tried to hide it, like it was some dirty little secret, with a smile, a joke or with my masking technique asking others about their lives and listing attentively trying not to concentrate on that dull ache and hoping people wouldn’t ask me too many personal questions. ‘Cause trying to cover up your feelings of loneliness and isolation is pretty hard and a very tiring job. Loneliness really hurts and is also linked to heart disease, depression and insomnia. I can identify with the latter as Social Media also taught me that it’s the lonely people who can’t sleep at night. Those ones that are eager for a little chit chat to fill up that empty space. To find fellow lonely people craving a deep connection and a meaningful conversation. Sometimes I wanted to pack my bag and disappear and see if anyone would truly miss my absence. I used to come back from photo shoots and close the front door behind me and burst out in tears as I knew nobody realized how unhappy I really was. Followed up to be uploading perfectly edited images later that night, awaiting a dozen or so likes and comments and hopefully a late night chat of an online friend to try and fill up that empty feeling deep inside me. As a consequence a vicious circle did arise.
A close friend recently described my period of lonliness as season of isolation where a caterpillar gets its wings. And that’s exactly how I look back at that period in my life now. The positive of my bout of loneliness defiantly is that it has helped me to discover who I really am, even my dark side and my weaknesses. It made me realise to stop looking outside me for my self-worth. It taught me never to search for happiness in others, but be totally responsible for my own happiness. I am so grateful I feel content now even when I am left alone. I have learnt to like my own company. In fact I crave it from time to time and that feeling is so freeing and empowering. I can now enjoy free time and being by myself without that empty horrid feeling. I learnt that standing alone is better than being around people that don’t value you. I am still learning and truly understanding that a meaningful silence is way better than meaningless words. I have learnt that loneliness is a sign you are in desperate need of nurturing yourself. Not others. Just you.
Why am I suddenly opening up now you might wonder? Why not let sleeping dogs lie and all that. Did you know around a million older people in the UK feel lonely all or most of the time, according to a new report. Did you know there is scientific evidence that suggest the use social media is bad for your psychological health? Did you know results have shown that people feel lonelier and experience a drop in self-esteem after using Facebook? Of course when you have good social skills, feel super duper in your own skin, you might find Facebook a useful tool for keeping in touch with family and friends. Or a great tool for your business. Social Media can definitely also enrich our lives. It’s all about a healthy balance. However if you find yourself endlessly scrolling through your Social Media news feed to take your mind of feeling lonely you might have to ask yourself if you are not falling into that same vicious circle I did fell into. Child line has revealed that the NSPCC supported service has delivered 4,636 counselling sessions for loneliness in 2017/2018. Another report did reveal that nearly 80 per cent of these counselling sessions went to girls. Many claiming that the harmful effects of Social Media and comparing themselves to others online made them feel increasingly more isolated.
If you are feeling lonely right now I can assure you are not alone and there is help out there. Especially now the darker winter days are coming and the festive season it can be hard to cope if you are feeling lonely or have lost a loved one or work from home. The Samaritans are there for you to talk. The offer a safe place for you to talk any time you like, in your own way – about whatever is getting to you. You can contact the Samaritans 24/7 on 08457909090. I understand it can be hard to find ways to get out there and meet new people but the NHS is beginning to develop schemes for ‘social prescribing’, which will focus on your well being. It’s only running in a few areas at the moment but you could always ask your GP to refer you to social groups, community events and peer befriending projects.
And why not try the following to feel less isolated and lonely. You have nothing to lose yet news doors to open which might give you a fresh goals to get up for in the morning, new friends and a feeling of belonging and contentment.
- Take up a new hobby for example learn how to play the guitar or go on a course to learn a new language.
- Research local groups or join a local meetup.com.
- Volunteer for a good cause.
- Get into books and join a book club – getting lost in a good book is a perfect distraction.
- Borrow a dog or consider getting pet and go for a long walk to get the happy endorphins flowing.
- Team sports and keep fit at the same time.
- Learn to enjoy your time alone and daydream. What you think you become after all.
- Busy yourself with those jobs you have been putting off.
- See a councillor.
- Have a massage or a facial. Touch is a very powerful way to connect with someone.
I think it would be lovely if we could turn our mobiles off from time to time and start a conversation with a stranger whilst queuing up to pay for your groceries, smile at a stranger passing by, or use that time to have a coffee with a friend. Why not check if that elderly lady/man who recently lost her/his partner in your neighbourhood would like to join you and your family for a meal. Or why not organise a games night and invite some of the friends you haven’t seen in donkey years cause you are all so busy working. There are so many ways to prevent you but also others from feeling lonely. Why not ask how someone is truly feeling and just sit there and listen. You would be surprised how it might help someone battling loneliness in silence.