As millennials, we are one of the loneliest and yet overtly, most connected demographics.
The internet has created a place for our generation to feel linked… to feel valued through the actions of others. Why is it that we only find value in the eyes of others and not in our own eyes? Through high school friendship dramas, unrequited teenage crushes and late night existential crises, I began to understand just how important it was to come to terms with one of life’s biggest challenges, and yet one of its greatest gifts: loneliness.
I’ve had close friends and family members confess to me how incredibly alone they feel, people who I envied for their social prowess and popularity. We spend so much time posting and liking, trying to prove to each other how connected we are, that we’ve created a palpable distance between each other. We can begin to believe in the chimerical constructions that people create, and forget the real and complex person behind them.
Social media has allowed us simulated connection and closeness, however, it has also lulled us into thinking that we are isolated in our loneliness. In Kindergarten it was easy; take your Nintendo to school or bake cupcakes for the class on your birthday and you had three new friends by lunchtime. However, now it’s a lot more complicated. I often found that in trying to seek validation online, I missed out on the appreciation of those around me. I was trying hard to be someone ‘they’ liked and ended up not really enjoying my own company.
We spend hours scrolling Facebook feeds, replaying Instagram stories and screenshotting Snapchats of people we mightn’t even know; Images of European holidays, blurry nights at hipster bars and idealistic family gatherings. It seems, our social media posts can become less about sharing memories and more about creating envy through a social media smoke screen.
In a weird way, it’s almost as if we are scared of just being and yet not being enough.
In its purest form, social media is about making people like the version of yourself that you construct. Not only can it mean we lose others, but we can sometimes start to lose ourselves.
Trust me, there’s enough criticism coming from all directions about millennials and their online habits and there’s nothing wrong with a well-thought-out caption or a great Instagram aesthetic. However, it has largely created a generation that doesn’t know how to be alone.
It’s important to understand that life as humans is an inherently lonely experience. We are self-contained and singular beings each with a unique disposition. On some level, it’s almost impossible to have complete connection or complete understanding with anyone and we have to learn to be okay with that.
We find our connections; sharing lit memes and witty puns, and I love how much social media has allowed our generation to have a voice and a sense of community. But we move in and out of certain phases and groups, and learning to love your loneliness can allow you to better equip yourself for the inevitable upheaval.
As the famous Russian proverb says: he who is lonely is at home everywhere.
If you think about it, love and closeness is not the absence of loneliness and isolation; it’s the ability to be alone together. It’s the sharing of loneliness that creates the connection. Think about when you’ve connected with a person most. It’s often not over transient things like what you bought yesterday or how many likes you got on your profile picture. It’s often those moments when someone says something that draws you out. You have that shared moment of realization where you awkwardly point at each other, laugh and say “Sammeeee…”. We’ve all had moments like this where you’re at your most exposed and yet you feel the most loved. Its that sharing of our perceived singularities that really creates closeness.
So take a seat at that table alone with a good book or a cup of coffee from that trendy hipster café. And just sit. Enjoy the silence and the noise. Yeah, you might be lonely, but you can never be alone.