Friday, 18 June 2010

All alone am I

It seems there has been a big rise in the number of people feeling lonely. Despite all the media images of happy families and wild parties, many of us often feel cut off and isolated.

In 1982, 76 per cent of those asked said they never felt lonely. But in 2010, only 32 per cent can say that. Is there something drastically wrong with society or are people just less self-sufficient, less able to enjoy their own company?

Maybe it's people in general being less friendly. We're so busy coping with the demands of modern life - with our work, our families, our hobbies - that we pay less attention to others. We don't notice if they're lonely, or even if we do, we don't give them the real affection and appreciation they're looking for.

Or maybe it's a personal failing, an inability to get so engrossed in things that the presence or absence of others is irrelevant. We've lost that knack that children have of utter absorption in what they're doing, to the exclusion of all else. We keep thinking that somehow we'd be enjoying ourselves more if someone else was around.

Or when people say they're lonely, do they really mean they feel bored, or afraid, or confused, and they just want someone to tell them what to do or make them feel better? Not so much loneliness as helplessness.

I don't often feel lonely myself, even though I spend long periods alone. I'm very happy with my own company, and I do find it easy to get totally immersed in something, be it books, music, gardening or just freewheeling ruminations. I'm seldom desperate for a chat.

For me aloneness is not a misfortune. It's something to savour.


  1. I don't often feel lonely... all I have to do is log on to the pc if I want a bit of banter.

  2. for me loneliness is the abscence of connection. so, i can be lonely while chatting or otherwise surrounded by people.
    i can also be very self sufficient and happy in my own company.
    it's like a conection tank. i get it filled up and it takes a while to empty, while i'm using it it doesnt matter so much if i'm alone, i'll be ok but once it runs out it might take a lot of connection before i can be self sufficient again.
    exactly like a tank of petrol, you go further if you fill it up, if it's always near empty you are always on edge.
    i dont know if the loneliness problem is caused by society....
    i think it is a multi factor issue

    i see scarlet just commented, i am often disappointed when i log in for company because it's not there. on the other hand it sometimes is and i'd be much lonelier if i wasnt blogging

  3. The problem Mike is one of alienation from the self. In older people, this is not so much in evidence except in the very old, in homes, but for the young, it would appear that this sense is due to unnaturally high expectations from one's self and the society and the inability to conform to expectations.

    We are all beginning to be nuts.

  4. A huge difference between solitude and loneliness, n'est pas?
    I'm one who rarely feels lonely but when I do it is extreme and very very dark.
    But I always have enough passion about things that engage me and I also find that any form of volunteerism helps considerably with the feelings of being on the outside looking in.

  5. Scarlet - Yep, blogging and facebooking are great for providing instant company.

    Kylie - Interesting idea that having company is like filling up your psychic tank for when you're alone. It doesn't really work that way for me though, either I'm enjoying my own company or I'm not.

    Ramana - Sorry, Mike's in a meeting right now, will I do, lol? Another interesting idea that the young have higher expectations both of themselves and others. I think that's definitely true, oldies like me are more philosophical about what's on offer.

    www - A very big difference. Happy solitude is fine, it's only a problem when there seems to be something missing. Passion for whatever you're doing is the key to being alone and contented.

  6. I wrote on this subject recently and at the time I said I was comfortable in my skin and in my solitude. The bright sunny weather certainly add to that feeling.

  7. I consider myself a sociable loner as I am content being alone but also enjoy other people's company sometimes. I often miss specific people without being lonely in general. As for boredom, life is far too absorbing and interesting to claim boredom because our real entertainment derives inside our own minds.

  8. Grannymar - You've obviously worked out how to enjoy your solitude without feeling there's something lacking.

    Heart - I know what you mean about missing specific people without being lonely. As you say, life is too fascinating to feel bored or lonely for very long.

  9. I think there's a vast difference between being lonely and being alone. I'm very lonely for companionship but I am never alone . Actually, I rather like this early morning catch up business when my head is in the right space, the house is quiet and I am totally alone yet definitely not lonely. Does that make sense? I do feel for some young people though who often find it hard to connect on a deeper level with their peers. Surrounded by 'friends' but still feeling very much alone. No answers from me I'm afraid.

  10. Sometimes you can be lonelier with someone than alone. I sure don't mind solitude.

  11. Baino - Oh yes, I'm often alone but not in any way lonely. But the idea of gregariousness is the norm and sometimes people feel they should be with someone else even if they don't need to be.

    Secret Agent - Indeed, you can feel lonely in a crowd. There's a 1950 sociology classic called just that, "The Lonely Crowd".

  12. I can feel lonely in ideas; the lone trumpeter trying to bring music to the rest of deaf humanity. We're in the middle of raising money for a new business, and it's never lonelier than up on stage pitching to a crowded auditorium of skeptical investors.

  13. Dave - That's a type of loneliness I hadn't thought of, but it's very common. That lonely feeling of being out on a limb and nobody connecting. But what a wonderful experience when they do....

  14. I wonder if you ever saw the serial Mind your language. As it would have been said there, a thousand apologies Nick. I am broken hearted.

  15. Ramana - Of course you're not broken hearted. And neither am I.

    I remember someone who constantly called me Nigel. I think I resembled someone she knew with that name.

  16. We're not less self sufficient, we're more self sufficient, and that's what's broken down the traditional social ties that kept us connected. We're surrounded by people we don't know, because we don't need to know our neighbors anymore. There's no need to borrow a cup of sugar when the store's open 24/7, or ask for help in an emergency with 911 and 24 service technicians. Thanks to cars and planes and the internet our closest friends and family live miles away.

    We feel lonely because we are, literally, alone in a big world of strangers instead of a part of a small community of friends, and those are the communities our social sensibilities evolved for. Without them, something's always going to feel like it's missing.

    Well, you asked. Ain't I the chatty one today!

  17. Tattytiara - That's a brilliant analysis. And it all makes a lot of sense to me. You could say we still need friends for emotional support, but I suppose even that can be provided by the Samaritans or some such helpline.

    You've missed your vocation, you should be a sociologist!

  18. I have the same feeling son being alone. I savour every single minute of it... at the same time I hope that I am aware of those who do not.

  19. Distracted - Good to know you're also a savourer! But the problem with noticing the lonely is that by definition they're usually hidden somewhere out of sight.