I am exploring the idea of loneliness, an idea that is increasingly more present in my thoughts. It seems to permeate in everybody’s, or at least in most people’s, lives. What is the cause? Is loneliness due to the decrease of social capital in American society or is it a global phenomenon? Did the digital age cause an increase in loneliness, or does it mainly serve to reveal our true selves? Why is there more loneliness in New York City? Is it because New York City is the city of disconnection or the city of diaspora? Does New York City actually have more loneliness than other cities do? Is it New York City's size and and anonymity that causes New York City to appear lonelier? Will loneliness become definitive of what it means to be human? The idea of loneliness evokes many questions, but it seems as if the answers are too difficult to find.
This week, I read a book called Jeff, One Lonely Guy, a nonfiction book about an actor and stand-up comedian who posts a flyer with his phone number in Lower Manhattan in October 2011 after a harsh break-up, telling people that they could talk to him about anything. The flyer went viral on the internet and Jeff eventually received thousands of calls from around the world by people who just wanted to connect to somebody. Although the book was not one of my favorite books, I feel like it accurately revealed the condition of this current society. In a way, the book served as an illumination.
The first step to reducing loneliness is to start with the individual psyche. Read, write, meditate, listen to music, do anything that evokes passion but encourages relaxation. The second step involves a focus on the collective rather than the individual. Volunteering in a community as a way to give back to others and joining clubs and organizations are perfect ways not to be alone or to feel alone. Although these two steps will not completely eliminate loneliness in our society, they will reduce instances of loneliness among many people, which is a good way to start.
- Jacqueline Retalis