Loneliness in a World of Mass Connection

CELL-PHONE calls, text messages, e-mails, online social networks, chat rooms​—there has never been a time when the means of communicating were so numerous and easy to come by. Yet, in this world of mass connection, many people​—young and old—​feel very lonely. Why?

In their book Loneliness​—Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, researchers John T. Cacioppo and William Patrick thoroughly address the subject of loneliness. They refer to a study that says that “increased Internet use can increase social isolation as well as depression when it replaces more tangible forms of human contact.”

The hectic pace of life imposed by modern society is hardly conducive to warm human contact. A smile and the affection that can be seen in a person’s eyes cannot generally be conveyed over the phone or through a message on a computer screen.

The above can be true in the workplace but even more so within the family circle. In many homes family members come and go without sharing meals or conversation. Adolescent children have their own computer and live virtually isolated from the rest of the family. Ironically, in spite of their electronic communication gadgets, many youngsters feel lonely.

These days, even the bonds of marriage can be threatened by feelings of loneliness. Lack of communication between marriage partners can bring about a situation in which the two lead parallel lives, moving in lines that seldom meet. A feeling of being alone while living with a marriage mate is one of the most distressing forms of loneliness.

Single parents in particular may have to contend with feelings of loneliness. The world of mass connection, among many other things, can cut off companionship with their children, causing feelings of aloneness to increase. Also, many single people long to have a companion, but their emotional needs remain unfulfilled.

Loneliness has become a social evil that can contribute to alcoholism, overeating, drug abuse, promiscuous sexual behavior, and even suicide. It is therefore important to identify the causes of loneliness. Taking this first step can lead to success in coping with the problem.