In a world where technology is getting more advanced and the presence of social media is increasing, why is it that social isolation and loneliness are increasing?

It's odd how the access to communication technology is becoming easier but human beings continually feel lonely. Studies show that young adults around the world are increasingly feeling lonely or disconnected. Australia is also facing this global social issue with our young adults experiencing loneliness.

A survey by the Red Cross conducted in 2017 showed that up to 5.6 millions felt loneliness. From this survey, the Red Cross determined the age group affected were males between 18 and 34 years old. This age group responded to experiencing loneliness almost daily.

This survey also determined that women whom have just given birth were the most likely to experience loneliness. This loneliness was also faced by young males and females feeling isolated at school or work.

These are a few reasons why people feel lonely:

  • death of a loved one
  • losing a job
  • experiencing an illness
  • geographical change e.g. moving overseas or interstate
  • divorce or separation
  • exclusion in a social group

This experience in loneliness usually occurs when there is a sudden change in an individual's life. This said, loneliness can also build over time.

As mentioned by Dr Lillian Nejad, a Clinical Psychologist from Omnipsych, situational loneliness is usually resolved as the individuals adjusts to their new situation or environment - this could be someone who has just changed jobs or moved to another city.

Dr Lillian Nejad also points out that there may be many factors that can influence loneliness. Such factors can include the feeling of depression and anxiety, poor social skills, low confidence, bullying in school or the workplace, and having experienced emotional abuse.

Social media can also a play role in influence of loneliness. The amount of screen time, reliance and virtual connections on social media affect an individual's feeling of loneliness. The disconnection between hundreds of connections and an individual's screen. This virtual disconnection can play full affect when an individual's has hit a low point and are unable to find a support from their hundreds of connection.

How to know if someone is lonely

As mentioned by Elisabeth Shaw, Psychologist and Chief Executive of Relationships Australia (NSW branch), take what someone posts on social media with a grain of salt. An individual can upload various posts being surrounded by friends, life quotes, at events and positive life moments; but this be in actual fact not be a representation of one's emotions, opinion or current thought. People whom are feeling emotionally lonely can use these medium and means to cover up what their true feelings.

Whilst we can usually detect if something is wrong in person, this is much harder online.

As mentioned by Shaw, it is important to look for clues and welcome the person to talk.

“Realistically, most of us want to feel invited to talk".

By giving the opportunity for the person to talk about their experiences and change can make a huge difference to the individual.

How to support someone who is feeling lonely

Letting the person who is feeling lonely that they have your support and care can make a difference to them.

  • Encourage and talk to them without judgement
  • Ask them what they are experiencing and how you can help
  • Let them know that you have a listening ear
  • Be warm and direct: Tell them what changes you have noticed about them

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