How many people do you know? And how many of them are your friends? What do you do when you feel lonely? And where do you seek feelings of belongingness?
This article hopes to offer you bits of answers that somehow negate or confirm the way you look at loneliness. It is important to note that information presented in this article is not exclusively reflective of the writer, the publisher-editor and the organization.
Let’s begin when a horrifying number of mental health concerns rose as COVID 19 skyrocketed in the first quarter of 2019 (World Health Organization, 2019). It led to social isolation, physical distancing, biological hazards and sorts whereas all have one consequence in common, loneliness.Normally, we would need another human being to survive. But now, there is no better evidence than a global pandemic proving that no man is an island.
Since the Homo sapiens-sapiens, they’ve needed other humans to survive. Sharp stones, animal meat, vegetation, fruits, cave, fur, fire, are necessary to evolve as what we’re referring to as our ancestors. Aside from those skills and gears, cooperation is their biggest asset. Our ancestors did not attack other animals alone, it is with others they feel strong to stab that spear to the wild. They did not migrate alone, they moved with their families or tribes into temperate places. Their minds may be primitive, but being with others is what kept them for most occasions alive.
In fact, since the era of industrialization there has been a rising amount of loneliness due to people moving out. There had been an increase in the probability of feeling lonely after international migration (Koelet & de Valk, 2016). Nevertheless, we could not blame someone who needs to move and capitalize in the urbans to be separated from their primary group just to provide from afar. But, advancements in communication technologies offer many ways that reconnect us. Research suggests that using online messaging and social media has decreased feelings of loneliness (Hunt, et al., 2018). Yet, are we really connected? Do we fail in our quality of significant social relationships?
Moreover, loneliness and belongingness played an important role in the survival of our species. We are actually programmed to seek other people and despise feelings of loneliness. Particularly, our brain is wired to interpret physical pain as equal to the pain of social rejection or loneliness. A specific part of our brain called the secondary somatosensory cortex and the dorsal posterior insula signals us that the experience of social rejection is highly associated with various physical pain (Kross, et al., 2011). Similarly, feelings of loneliness induces distress caused by physical or psychological threat. Our sympathetic nervous system stimulates a neurotransmitter called epinephrine which is produced signaling the body to whether a fight or flight response. Thus, being alone makes you more susceptible into feeling anxious (Lim, et al., 2016). It is important to be aware that it is our body’s natural function saying to us that we aren’t meant to be alone.
Another key feature with humans than any other animals is that we can be motivated with feelings of belongingness. An isolation from a family, close knit community or the society would mean taking ourselves away from our natural habitat. Take for example a child that is separated from the mother, the child is most likely to exhibit distressed and anxious behavior (Ainsworth & Bell, 1970).
Later on when we develop into an interdependent individual, our social circle widens and it continues to widen as we grow old. Much like as long as you use your social media accounts and stay active, the more you gain followers and engagements. Quantitatively, an individual can only be able to create stable relationships in social media with greater than 100 people and less than 200 (Goncalves, Perra, & Vespignani, 2011), more specifically around 150 people (Dunbar, 1992). It is important to note that the size of social relationships has no direct relation with feelings of loneliness, such that you could be in a large group of people at a party and still feel lonely. In fact, adults are more likely to experience loneliness and continue to seek for interpersonal relationships in life (Gowen, et al, 2012) while many studies are assertive that an individual with promoted social connections has a reduced risk of premature mortality (Holt-Lunstad, et al, 2015).
During these trying times, it is important to be educated with our own feelings. It is important to remember that loneliness isn’t bad at all. Feeling lonely happens to everyone with varying effects and coping mechanisms. Someone might be better alone and someone might be better with other humans. As a human being who wants to satisfy feelings of belongingness, it is valid to seek and form a relationship with someone you need and needs you.
This inherent desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves while maintaining ourselves exclusive for ourselves; proves that no person can solve loneliness alone. Extreme loneliness might put you at risk for depression, but they are both far defined from each other. Just know that help will always be there.
On behalf of your will-power by making it this far in this article, I congratulate you! As a part of social-psychological well-being, I hope reading this helped you.