Why Millennials Are Lonely: Loneliness has gone viral.

Why Millennials Are Lonely: Loneliness has gone viral. By Caroline Beaton.

First, incredibly, loneliness is contagious. … People who aren’t lonely tend to … become lonelier if they’re around people who are.

Why? Lonely people are less able to pick up on positive social stimuli, like others’ attention and commitment signals, so they withdraw prematurely – in many cases before they’re actually socially isolated. Their inexplicable withdrawal may, in turn, make their close connections feel lonely too. … One lonely person can “destabilize an entire social network,” like a single thread unraveling a sweater …

The second reason for millennial loneliness is the Internet makes it viral. … Ironically, we use the Internet to alleviate our loneliness. Social connection no longer requires a car, phone call, or plan – just a click. …

The breakdown of community and civic society has almost certainly gotten worse. Today, going to a bowling alley alone, Putnam’s central symbol of “social capital deficit,” would actually be definitively social. Instead, we’re “bowling” — and a host of other pseudo-social acts — online.

One reason the Internet makes us lonely is we attempt to substitute real relationships with online relationships. Though we temporarily feel better when we engage others virtually, these connections tend to be superficial and ultimately dissatisfying. Online social contacts are “not an effective alternative for offline social interactions,” sums one study. …

The more isolated we feel, the more we retreat online, forging a virtual escape from loneliness. This is particularly true for my generation, who learned to self-soothe with technology from a young age. It will only become more true as we flock to freelancing and other means of working alone.

hat-tip Scott of the Pacific