Why are we so lonely?

Amal Chatterjee
11 min readFeb 2, 2020

Source : Google photo of lonely people

Synopsis : Loneliness is not reserved just for the old age. It may affect anyone in any age group for various reasons. We now live in the age of competition and stress, fast life and fast food . No one really has any time for you because each person is struggling with his own struggle of life and has numerous issues to deal with. It leaves many people who are introverts or shy and live in isolation that may make them feel lonely. The blog looks at how you can learn to cope with loneliness by reaching out to people who are like-minded. Loneliness should not be confused with mental depression that some people suffer from.

I often think about this topic but always hesitated to write about it because it is a sensitive topic for many people who are lonely but do not like to admit it due to pride or for other social reasons. The loneliness is spreading all over the world like a virus that has no easy cure so people do not know how to fight it. It may have devastating psychological, mental and physical effect on a person but now some scientific studies show what actually happens in your body when you are lonely.

Watch this video that explains why we are so lonely

Source : U Tube video on loneliness.

We are told that humans are social animals . We love to mix with others, spend time with them, share a cup of tea with them and listen to music together. We invite people to our home and cook special food for them, we watch favorite TV shows together or just have a beer together. This social connection create bonds over shared values, interests and topics of discussion. It creates friendship that may last a life time.

In the distant past, people lived together in small communities with a shared courtyard where people sat together to have a smoke or drink tea and exchange news while women washed their clothes or drew water from a common well. Children played in the common courtyard where the adults kept an eye on them.

The dogs sat near them wagging their tails in hope for some tidbits from them but also kept a watch and barked at intruders they were not familiar with while chickens and ducks scratched the dirt hoping to find some thing to eat. The yard was shaded by fruit trees under which people sat and talked about weather or their hopes and aspirations.The farmers talked about the delayed rain or the price of seeds and fertilizer. They talked about the price of their farm produce and need to get farm loans to pay for the irrigation or labor.

Mostly they asked each other about their health and were quick to offer home remedies for anything or everything. They exchanged gossip about the local news or national news. They greeted each other on their birthdays and always gave their shoulder to the bier to carry their dead friends to their last place of repose and mourned them collectively. They collected money to pay for the expenses.

So living in a community with close contact with each other gave them assurance in case of need which gave them comfort to know that they could count on their neighbors. They invited each other during festivals, marriage, special occasions like naming ceremony or when their children passed tough exams so they celebrated together.

Here I am trying to paint a picture that has started to fade in the modern world where people no longer live the way they used to so now they live isolated lives in apartments or tenement buildings that are huge, ugly and uninviting. They do not know their neighbors although they know that they exist because the noise they make that can be heard through their thin walls that separate them creating animosity.

Their wives and children also feel isolated because the nearest park may be quite far and they may have to cross busy roads to get there which may be quite dangerous. There is no longer a common courtyard and a well where they meet other housewives so they have washing machines and dryers. They buy their one or two kids a lot of toys, cell phones and video games but the kids have no playmates. They watch endless TV cartoons and violent movies munching junk food that makes them obese and introverts.

If you live in any city anywhere, you probably live in such an apartment that you may own or rent and move to suburbia if you can afford a house there that has to be paid for in 20 to 30 years to do it. The suburbia living does not really change the isolation because people living there are too busy to earn a living so they leave early in the morning and come home very late depending on the commute they have to make to their place of working. The weekends are reserved for some football game or church so they remain unaware of others in the community where they live.

The modern living that most countries imitate from the western world has given rise to this isolation so people become mean and self centered and will ask you bluntly what do you want if you drop by their gate to say hello neighbor. They are wary of door to door sales people because some of them are into fraud of all sorts and try to target you so you ask what they really want. There is less tolerance towards each other in a modern community that is causing isolation and loneliness because the isolation is self imposed and enduring.

Have you ever sat next to old women in a plane , a bus or train and listened to their endless chatter? They will pull out photos of their endless children and grandchildren and tell you their life story even if you are a total stranger and not really interested to know about them but you keep quiet out of politeness. It is because they are lonely and need someone to talk to who will listen to their monologues.

Some people join some groups that may be religious or non religious just so that they can get out of their joyless homes where they just watch TV or wait endlessly for someone to call or show up at their doors but all they get is robocalls that are a real nuisance or the postman once in a while who drops a lot of junk mail at your door and no real letters from your loved ones. But these groups demand a price from you particularly if it is a religious group . They may ask you to bake the pumpkin pies or set up a session of catechism at your home or other favors like spreading their brand of fanaticism.

In the United States , there are now some groups where elderly and very lonely people may join just so that they can talk to someone over a glass of beer so that is a change but in many countries there are millions of old people who live alone after their children have left and the spouse is dead.

In India the old parents live in their own homes usually with their son and daughter in law but such company often means trouble for the olds if the daughter in law is insensitive, careless and quarrelsome who has no love for the old people so they live unhappily. Those who can afford live in old age homes that are now sprouting like mushrooms everywhere but they are expensive because they provide nice rooms, good food and medical care and run as a profitable business but they do provide the company of other old people who live there.

But for the vast majority of old people who can’t afford pricey old age homes have no choice but to live in isolation in their home or in apartments. By comparison the rural people fare much better where there is still a sense of community and where people know each other but the rural folks face other problems like who will look after their farm or the poultry since the tendency is for the young people to move to cities where they find jobs and visit their rural homes may be once a year.

The community living I described earlier has almost disappeared in cities due to the way the apartments are built where they try to pack in as many tenants as possible in their pigeon holes to maximize the profit but close quarter living creates tension and unhappiness due to this isolation. People need others but they also need space for themselves so old style of houses with a common courtyard are no longer seen anywhere. Read my blog here called Soulless development here in this context.

In Africa where I have lived and worked for a while, I noticed that the rural folks are noticeably happier than their city counter parts because the community I wrote about earlier still exists while the same people moving to cities live in isolation. The African villages have their elected village chief who sorts out issues between the villagers that may be related to land or cattle or neighbor issues so peace prevails. The fact that they all know each other and belong to the same set of beliefs that makes them live in harmony while the city people are an amalgam of all sorts of people who may be of different faith, different ethnicity and different tribes.

I have seen the Amish people in Pennsylvania living in rural areas where they live the way they have always lived. They are close knit communities where their community leaders are always ready help if a neighbor needs help. They help build their barns or do other such things jointly and without charge which is hard to believe in today’s world. Read my blog on the Amish people called The admirable Amish here . Their children have very good values and are well mannered. I have explained what I admire in Amish people in it. I wish all people lived like the Amish. I have also written a blog called You can be lonely in a crowd that relates to this topic in many ways so take a look there.

I have always believed in preserving our own individuality , our own values and our own personality so it is never a good idea to give it up just to be accepted by a group where their values and faiths may be different than yours and you will be subject to their pressure to be like them. An intellectual, writer, poet , an artist or a math professor may feel completely out of place if the others are just vulgar beer drinking farmers who enjoy barn yard jokes and who are dumb as a door nail. So everyone seeks the company of like minded people to spend some time with.

To be alone does not mean that you have to suffer loneliness because being alone can make you strong and resourceful. Some writers have done their best work in isolation where no one disturbs them with their cheap talk.

The shallow people who are ignorant to boot about anything that matters in life resort to cheap talk because they have nothing else in their brain. You will know them instantly when they start talking. People who are not educated, who have never traveled, who have never eaten anything other than their bland food tend to be very loud, opinionated, and rabid fundamentalists. They may know a thousand jokes about the barn yard animals but they do not know anything about the world, other people, their culture, their history and their food. If you are the intellectual type then you will find their company utterly boring because they are at a level far below you so you can’t connect to them on anything. If beer drinking and dirty jokes are your interest then may be.

I knew of an educated and very cultured French lady who had lived in Africa for many years who went back to a small village in France to live and found that all they talked about was their pigs and chicken so she was lonely. She could not share with the vulgar villagers her incredible experience of living in many parts of Africa because they were just plain and simple people with no education who had never set foot outside France.

So people try to find others of the same intellectual level , same interest and same depth of knowledge and experience but it is not so easy. The sophisticated people can’t tolerate unsophisticated people who might snicker and say that intellectuals are high nose.

Very talented people who are very educated and have traveled all over the world may find themselves isolated if others are the common folks with no talent. In such cases it is far better to live alone than to be with people who do not understand you or do not show respect to your education, experience and talent.

Now we are in the age of Internet and quick connection with anyone anywhere so you may have hundreds of so called friends in your Facebook or other social media but are they really your friends? You may feel let down if you meet with them face to face someday. Some of these internet friends may turn out to be real rascals who are out to victimize people who live alone. Some may try to borrow money or other things from you but never return the money. This world is unfortunately full of crooks so one must choose his company very carefully and trust no one easily. The trust should be earned by proving that one can be trusted. I have been let down by people I have known for a long time and have learned my lesson the hard way.

Those people who feel lonely at times can make their life fruitful and useful if they take up something they love the most. It may be writing or gardening or doing some free community work to help those who need. Others find fulfillment in mentoring a young bright person who needs help. There are many social clubs one can join and lastly there are those religious groups if that is your cup of tea. Each group comes with a price tag so you have to know what you are getting into and if you are willing to pay the price.

So being alone does not mean that you will be lonely. I find living alone with my wonderful wife a joyful experience so you may say that I am lucky. I think everyone should try to create his or her own world where he is comfortable because that is one way to cope with loneliness in the modern world or you can move back to your native village and accept the people the way they are. The choice is yours.

Note : My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese languages at the following links as well as my biography. My blogs can be shared by anyone anytime in any social media.

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Anil’s biography in English.

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