Loneliness – and Our Deep Need to Connect

Researchers found that increased loneliness in our culture leads to an increased sense of life that is meaningless and devoid of purpose.

loneliness

Recently, our family had to quarantine again because of being exposed to Covid, and a few of our kids tested positive with covid. When Covid first started, the idea of quarantine sounded nice. Staying home, meetings on zoom. But then, once you are in it, the reality of being at home, alone, sets in. Eventually, you run out of things to read, things to watch, and things to do. You are reminded how much you crave connection with people. How much we need others and how much we enjoy the routines of life. Here’s why this matters so much: loneliness has reached epidemic proportions. Even before Covid, I think that Covid has exasperated it.

Recently, in researching a sermon, I came across these stats:

  • 1 out of every 4 Americans says they are always lonely or lacking friends.
  • 50% say no one knows them well.
  • In Japan, more than half a million people under 40 haven’t left their house in the last 6 months. That is incredible. That was before covid!
  • With social media, on-demand TV, door dash, Uber Eats, we can stay in.

In fact, researchers have found that this increased loneliness in our culture, especially among students, leads to an increased sense of life that is meaningless and devoid of purpose.

As a parent, I’ve spent a good bit of time researching relationships, social media, phones, and loneliness as I help my kids interact with others and prepare for the future. 

Do you know, the younger you are, the more likely you are to suffer from loneliness and not be truly present?

According to Sherry Turkle, a professor at MIT (so not against technology), in her book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, this happens for several reasons:

  • Studies show the rise of social media, people getting a phone younger and younger, has led to an increase in loneliness, an inability to hold a conversation and be present with others.
  • For the first time, our whole lives are seen on a screen through social media. Every embarrassing thing we’ve done will show up as a Facebook memory.
  • The typical cellphone user touches his or her phone 2,617 time every day. That’s the average. The extreme is as high as 5,000 times a day.
  • When Turkle’s research team asked teenagers and young adults why they are on their phones at mealtimes while sitting at the table with others, do you know the number one answer? My parents did it.

And what is fascinating about our culture is how we can be alone in a crowd, because of our phones. Turkle said, “Remember the power of your phone. It’s not an accessory. It’s a psychologically potent device that changes not just what you do but who you are. Don’t automatically walk into every situation with a device in hand: When going to our phones is an option, we find it hard to turn back to each other, even when efficiency or politeness would suggest we do just that. The mere presence of a phone signals that your attention is divided, even if you don’t intend it to be. It will limit the conversation in many ways: how you’ll listen, what will be discussed, the degree of connection you’ll feel. Rich conversations have difficulty competing with even a silent phone. To clear a path for conversation, set aside laptops and tablets. Put away your phone.”

So, how do we handle quarantine and our phones? While some people will throw their phones away or get off social media, and if that’s you, that is great.

But we need to set some limits. In the same way that we set screen time limits for our kids, we need to do the same.

Here are a few ideas:

  • The next time you think of texting someone, call them or Facetime them.
  • Read your Bible before you look at your phone, email, or social media.
  • Turn your phone off an hour before bed and read a book. This will help your mind to relax and prepare to sleep.
  • Take a walk without your phone.

This is a hard time but can also be a great time for connection if we are intentional about it.

 

This article on loneliness originally appeared here, and is used by permission.

 
 
Joshua Reich
Joshua Reich is the Lead Pastor at Revolution Church in Tucson, AZ. Revolution is an Acts 29 church that dreams of saturating the city of Tucson with gospel-centered church planting churches. Josh has a B.S. in Pastoral Leadership from Lancaster Bible College and an M.Div. in Organizational/Missional Leadership from Biblical Seminary. In addition to writing here, some of his writing also appears at Church Leaders. Josh’s new book, Breathing Room, comes out September 2015.