Now that we’ve started to get our own act together and have begun to not only be more comfortable in our own skin, but to actually enjoy our own company, the time has come to take our battle (and our new found love for our own awesomeness) “to the streets.” It’s time to meet our adversary (loneliness) head-on in a world that, regrettably, is growing increasingly more impersonal and less intimate by the minute, particularly, but not exclusively, where those most in need of true intimacy are concerned – our young people. Believe me, time is of the essence.
What once was an after-school knock on the door asking if a friend or neighbor could “come out to play” has long since been replaced by text and instant messaging, “tweeting” and endless hours on social networking sites. In fact, these forms of “communication” have fundamentally altered the way all of us interact with each other and have become not only the principal, but the preferred means by which children, adolescents and young adults communicate with each another. They also are a common method of communicating for adults, for business people, for spouses, for friends, for next door neighbors and even, in too many instances, for parents and their children.
Along the way, words, indeed entire sentences, have been replaced by acronyms, thoughts and feelings have been reduced to what can be expressed in 140 characters or less, and “symbols” have been substituted, in the name of expediency, for the warmth of an in-person touch or the smile of a friend or lover. Cell phones, the Pad du jour, and laptops are our new lifeline to the outside world, a world we don’t even have to leave the security of our bedrooms to explore. It’s all right there at our fingertips, a few key strokes away – everything, that is, except true friendship and physical companionship, the most fundamental needs of the human heart.
Don’t get me wrong, properly utilized, all of the technologies that have been (and are being) developed with an eye towards enhancing our ability to “stay connected” with one another have the potential to be valuable weapons in our battle to rid the world of loneliness. Too often, however, they facilitate the spread of the disease. Their users begin isolating, allowing the technologies to serve as a substitute for true relationship- building, for genuine human contact (e.g., face-to-face time, actually speaking with one another, etc.) either out of insecurity, fear of the prospect of presenting themselves to the “outside” world, convenience or, dare I say it, laziness.
It’s a recipe for loneliness. Inevitably, those who fall into the trap feel fundamentally (and quite understandably) unsatisfied and unfulfilled. They long, as all of us do, for physical companionship, for the sound of a friend’s voice, to feel wanted and needed in ways that even the “likings” of 1,000 Facebook friends of a clever or heartfelt “post” can never provide. In short, they long for a knock on their bedroom, an invitation to “come out and play.” All of us have a human, indeed, I would argue moral obligation to extend that “invitation” to one another, particularly to those who are (or who we may want) to call our friend – and we need to do that sooner, rather than later, and with regularity.
If I’m right on this (and I believe I am), then stepping away from the multiple keyboards that exist in all of our lives and allowing ourselves to be fully present in the lives of others (e.g., calling each other from time to time, rather than texting, to simply check-in with one another or, better yet, to arrange to actually meet to share a cup of coffee, a walk in the park, a visit to the local dog park, a day or evening out (or in) to just hang out, see a movie, listen to music, etc.) could make all the difference in the world. It certainly will make an important difference in our quest to rid our and others’ lives of loneliness. Take a chance!