Researchers Confront an Epidemic of Loneliness By KATIE HAFNER, NYT

From the comments under the article:

My experience, at age 61, is that you are better to develop an inner life and self-sufficiency. It is not a good idea to depend on others for your sense of self-worth. There are too many users, leeches, hypocrites, and other types whose company you are better off without, and whom you may not see through until they’ve sucked the marrow out of you and tossed you away. Books, TV, productive work, hobbies, companion animals – far better. I can go days, even weeks, without having a conversation with other people beyond the kind of light chat one makes with a supermarket cashier or librarian. On those rare occasions I am lonely, it is for one or another of the few close friends I made over the years, who either drifted away due to life changes or who have died.

But you can’t have a conversation with books or the TV. Humans need other humans. We not only need to talk to each other, so our voices aren’t simply our own opinions, our own fears and desire. When our thoughts are given a literal “voice”we understand what we are feeling within a social construct. And it’s not just talking that we need; we need to listen, to learn from others, to touch, to see, to feel the yearnings of the heart. And in this case, I don’t mean sexual yearnings. I mean the yearning to know someone else, to be there for them, to find solace and comfort.

You most certainly can have a ‘conversation’ with books and literature, if you make it a point to read a wide range. And ‘listen’ to them, and interact with them, and learn from them, and know them, as well. Whereas quite a few people’s social lives involve surrounding themselves with an echo chamber made up of like-minded friends. (I often wonder, reading comments to NYT political articles, how many commenters have friends outside their own sphere of opinion, party, or ‘identity politics’ label. My guess is, few.)
I honestly don’t understand your reply.I am a bit unusual, I think, in that I do not like to be touched physically; a friend (yes, I have had real friends, as you will find if you read my original comment carefully) once gave me a spontaneous hug, withdrew, and said I cringed like a mimosa.

Unfortunately you can’t have much of a conversation with many people these days. Real time interaction is too frequently interrupted by a cursed cell phone ringing or that critical text which can’t go unanswered. And “conversation” all to often means listening to whining or gossip, political rants by people who don’t really get politics, or the same story you’ve already heard 3 times but since they’ve told the story 100’s of times they can’t remember to whom.. Real conversation has become a lost art, and as some have said or implied it’s hard to strike a balance between the need for human interaction, and what too often becomes human annoyance. To strike that balance it’s so important to develop hobbies and activities that are rich and rewarding whether you engage in them with others or alone. Reading, writing, cooking, playing a musical instrument, gardening, woodwork, restoring an old car, walking the dogs (if you still can), whatever…doing these things keeps loneliness at bay and enables opportunities to engage in a meaningful way with others who share those pastimes.

@ Gary “the same story you’ve already heard 3 times but since they’ve told the story 100’s of times they can’t remember to whom” Heaven forbid we’re forced to listen to someone who doesn’t live up to our entertainment standards! Before the days of television and radio, do you think the 3 generations of the extended family, sitting around the fire place in the evening or on the porch while waiting for the house to cool off, were able to tell one another entirely original stories every day?

The point of conversation is not just entertainment or the passing of information, much of it is simply social bonding. We’re bombarded with information and entertainment all day long. The social bonding, which may well include stories you’re heard before (OMG!), is what’s missing.

People can be terribly overrated.

I share your sense of disappointment with those false, disposable ‘friends’ who are nothing but borderline sociopaths through their mercenary ways. I have lost my faith in stable relationships : hence the necessity to develop early in life a certain level of emotional and intellectual autonomy to weather the many years, even decades of solitude which we may have to experience for reasons often beyond our control. Oliver Sacks’ revelation in his posthumous autobiography regarding the long dry spell in his intimate life (four decades) speaks volumes for the need to remain resilient and engaged in an activity which transcends any need for social recognition.

 

hey there fella,

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