Those living in large cities are suffering from loneliness emnating from lack of human interaction
Imagine a forlorn soul standing in a balcony at night, in a high-rise building, overlooking the city, thousands of stories transpiring behind closed doors and hundred thousand open windows - some darkened and some flooded with lights. Yet, in the wide assortment of stories, someone is lonely. We know that someone is disturbed inside but we never knock the door to share the pain. This is primarily an urban phenomenon. Despite the crammed spaces and surroundings teeming with people, the loneliness manifests in big cities, in absence of close connections, intimacy and kinship.
Olivia Laing, author of ‘The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone’, says - “Loneliness is a hunger for more intimacy than you have. For me—for most people, I think—it was an acutely painful state that felt very embarrassing and uncomfortable to inhabit. You can be lonely anywhere, but there’s a particular flavor to living in a city: one becomes so intensely aware of how richly populated other people’s lives are. The sense of being exposed or hyper-visible is intensified.”
It’s quite human
Man has evolved as a social animal. Back in the days, when we were hunter-gatherers, most of the human energy went into survival techniques. Staying together as a community was a win-win for everyone as it guarded the whole group against the imminent dangers. Our brains got accustomed to companionship and it became one of our fundamental traits. Circa 2017, survival has taken a backseat, yet we long for the companionship. We need the cognitive stimulus; the one we get when we interact with fellow human beings.
Unfortunately, modern urban space is developing in a way, providing little leeway for such interactions. Work times are stretching and getting clamoured with tight schedules and hard deadlines. Success is continuously shifting its benchmarks, making people multitask. Our shopping needs, right from a needle to furniture sets, are ‘digitally’ taken care of. Venturing out of homes, even in the little free time one gets, is getting rare. Anushka Banerjee, a digital content developer, confesses, “The only time I get out of my home is for office. And that’s not a joke. I feel like getting choked, yet I am not finding a breathing space”.
Till a few decades ago urban loneliness was not quite prevalent. However people have become more isolated with time. The need of privacy and unwillingness to compromise is significant factor behind. According to John Cacioppo, Professor at the University of Chicago for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, “Our culture emphasis growing from childhood dependence to adult independence, what it means to be adult in social species however is not to be independent of others but to be a member on whom others in group can depend. I think some of our society’s problems relate to that misconception of what it means to be an adult in social species.”
Cacioppo says that ‘Loneliness is like an iceberg, it goes deeper than we can see’. His statement provides the initiation point for coping up with the loneliness. First step is always to understand the root cause of loneliness. Under the garb of loneliness, our psychological barriers like ego, pride, insecurities, etc might be playing out. Once the monolithic structure of loneliness is branched out, it will be easier to bring it down. Opening up to others, socializing, getting involved in the hobbies are some other ways to tackle loneliness.
One very important aspect to understand about urban loneliness is the need of acceptance. There is a very thin line between loneliness and solitude. Being alone in itself is not bad; not accepting it leads to dissatisfaction. Solitude is a way of accepting the loneliness and being okay about it. It’s about appreciating one’s own company. As the urban centres mushroom around us, there is a growing need to target
this sociological evil on a more
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