Sam looked longingly out of the window into the expansive horizon. He was, as Elvis Presley wrote, ‘Searchin’ for something he can’t find’. Staring into empty spaces had become a part of this 35-year-old balding architect’s life, since his divorce two years ago. Even his job didn’t satisfy him anymore. He felt lonely amidst his colleagues and that same loneliness gnawed at him when he returned to his empty nest every day.
Sam is not alone. Almost, half of the entire population of the United States suffers from loneliness. In May 2018, Cigna, a Health insurer company, conducted a nationwide survey of 20,000 adults. In their research, they found over 54 percent of the people complain of loneliness. Whereas, 56 percent of respondents said, when they are around people “they are not necessarily with them”, and over 40 percent said they “lack companionship,” their “relationships aren’t meaningful,” and that they feel “isolated from others.”
In Britain, amidst the rising number of people complaining about isolation, Prime Minister Theresa May has appointed politician Tracey Crouch as their first-ever “minister of loneliness,” to help people suffering from isolation, separation, and segregation. The crisis has attained such heights of national emergency that Switzerland, Germany and some Asian countries are looking to enact a similar solution to tackle desolation.
With countless people around the world lamenting loneliness, even in the presence of others, it seems the Oscar-nominated screenwriter and director Joss Whedon was right when he said, “Loneliness is about the scariest thing out there.”
In Sputnik Sweetheart, Haruki Murakami asks important questions on loneliness—which are often treated as an elephant in the room by many. He writes: “Why do people have to be this lonely? What’s the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the earth put here just to nourish human loneliness?” Answers to these questions can be found in John Donn’s poem that speaks about why we can’t survive loneliness because of one simple truth: No man’s an island. Living in isolation, perhaps, could have been true for the medieval era, when the world was drifting in fragmentation. But in today’s connected world where you can reach anyone, at any time, the issue of loneliness is not only ironic but has become critical as well.
So, why do people feel isolated and where does it stem from? According to Dr. Roger Patulny, from the University of Wollongong Australia, feeling social isolation is a part of human nature. And it is something, which people themselves create. Dr. Patulny says, “Everyone feels lonely and everyone is capable of being lonely. We all need human contact on a regular basis.” By contact, the doctor who is also a sociologist doesn’t mean having multiple ‘friends’ on Facebook or over 1000 ‘followers’ on Instagram or Twitter, but having real connections in life that yield the feeling of belongingness and comfort.