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How To Handle Loneliness And Be Happy With Yourself In This Global Era

We live in such a rushed world where getting your morning coffee involves yelling out your order of a triple-triple caramel macchiato with two shots of extra espresso at your local coffee shop (I’m a sucker for diabetes, it’s genetic, so sue me) while rushing to respond to that work email that was due the day before yesterday. When your morning coffee is this rushed, what will marriages and relationships be like? What about kids and pets? People are out there still trying to find their forever afters, but let’s be real. How many people can get into fulfilling relationships and maintain them? How many people can even maintain a friendship without losing it? The idea of what we seek in terms of companionship changes, but humans are still social animals. It might be that you’re not looking to jump into the pool with every person you encounter (that’s a metaphorical statement) but we can’t do without companionship. Whether a friendship, romance - or even professional networking, we are all looking for something.

We live in a time of great global convergence and isolation.We can tell ourselves how “connected” we are to that digital friend we made all the way over on a different continent, and we are connected mentally; indubitably, digital relationships are and can be equally gratifying as in-person ones, but how long can you go without personal interaction? I’ve had to find out the hard way, unfortunately. I’ve always prided myself on being super brave and daring; nothing could scare me, so when the time came, I packed my bags and moved to Montreal to finish a long pending post-grad degree. And it turns out, people don’t really want someone super friendly and new to hang out with. Humans aren’t the social creatures I thought they were. And so, I’ve just been watching and cooling my heels. I’ve been trying to figure out how to get people to be more social, be more outgoing, and be more friendly. And the more I observe their lives the more my expectations drop. It has now hit rock bottom. I would now be happy to meet someone who’s down to go watch an art installation and just talk, we don’t need to be best friends. Life is selective, and it feels like, despite the trauma of the pandemic, everyone has a no-strings policy for new people.

We’ve let our paranoia grow to such a point that there’s no sense of trust and no establishing new links and connections. No one has time for that. Your work runs you ragged. And romance? If you’re not in a relationship already, it’s tough to find your forever person. A few years back, I would have thought a guy asking a girl out to coffee meant he liked her and wanted a relationship. Now that I know what Tinder does, I just think the most pessimistic thing you can. For me, I see the new generation going online and maybe I’m old, but I did not know Netflix and Chill was a codeword for, well you know what it means. I just thought it meant everyone goes home and hangs out. Apparently, the guest list for Netflix and chill, is only two people. I mean if this is the new dictionary in print what hope do we have for the future? Looking back, I somehow feel like we should admire our parents. Most of them have managed to keep a marriage going, upholding the vows of for better or worse (much of it was for the worse), in sickness and in health, till death do they part (a lot of them got divorced, whether that’s good or not – you decide). And friendships? Pfft. A lot of people have had to make new friends and set up new lives in places far away from their homes. If you’re not a college or university student, I think that’s easier said than done. And honestly speaking, I don’t think people are really looking for relationships as much as they are for companionship and belonging.

The world is a complex place with difficult choices and difficult situations. What we look for in difficult times is support, especially emotional support. Most people who have given their heart and soul into working hard to succeed only look for a shoulder to lean on when they falter. The levels of loneliness and depression have been increasing over the years and hit their peak during the forced social isolation during the pandemic[1]. What a troubling thought! I would have assumed that after the horrible times during the pandemic, people would be more open, happy to make new connections and embrace the beauty of human social interactions with renewed enthusiasm and passion, but I was sorely mistaken. People are still hindered by their own closed minds. Somehow, they refuse to connect with others, even those with whom they share common ground over perceived and self-made barriers. We’re in a world that is slowly moving towards increased inter-mingling and open borders. How will people build a sense of community with closed minds?

Of course, this is not to say everyone is like this, but a large chunk of people definitely are. I find the idea of meeting new people challenging and interesting, so many new points of view, so much potential for personal growth, so much new knowledge to be gained. We are limiting ourselves by attaching importance to and magnifying insignificant differences when we could focus on the commonalities and create a more understanding world. I truly hope the world moves towards a direction where people are friendlier and connect more rather than the deliberate air of isolation we have now. We must take better steps towards establishing more human connections in real life and let go of the assumption that connections made behind a screen are more than enough. The world has changed; we live in a more interconnected space now and the world can no longer go back to the era of closed borders. If we want to move forward to a better future, the time to start connecting is now.

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