"I have so many friends...but I feel so alone"

Texting and social media have become one of our primary means of connecting with others. The problem is, all emojis aside, there is no real human emotion behind our texts, and the images we present of ourselves on social media don’t tell the truth about who we are or what our lives are really like. 

Studies have shown that increased time on social media is related to an increased sense of loneliness. Wait a second...isn’t it called social media? Are we missing out on all that our friends have to offer?Why is this?

Maybe it’s because we rarely take pictures of our messy bedrooms, our messy breakups, or our messy lives. What people see of us is usually the perfect image we want to portray. But what is missing in that is vulnerability. We are missing the human part. It creates a divide that seems almost impossible to bridge. 

Who wants to be friends with perfect? You might have thousands of Facebook friends and Instagram followers so you’d never expect to be lonely. But you may be very lonely—because everyone thinks that you have a beautiful and perfect life too, and no one really knows you. And because no one truly knows you, you feel isolated. Luckily, there are ways to connect and feel less alone—it just takes a little effort. 

Call someone every day.
It has been shown that hearing a cheerful voice can physically improve your mood. Humans were made to communicate with our voices. It is how we’ve connected since the beginning of language. Make a goal to place one phone call a day. According to author Laurie Wolk, screens are entertaining, but we need to “make sure we are making connections in our real lives too.” 

Stand out from the crowd.
If you’ve noticed that social media doesn’t make you feel good, ignore the pressure to be on it. People are much more likely to be rude online than in person. It can be a very unfriendly place. And not only that, the rules we create for ourselves can be exhausting. Don’t be a victim of FOMO—fear of missing out. If you were at the party, you enjoyed it—try letting that be enough.

Disconnect from the news.
Taking a break from all the negative news might just make the world look a little more friendly. Wolk observes that disconnecting from the world sometimes can be a huge relief. 

Make plans with someone twice a week.
Connecting one-on-one with a live human is irreplaceable. Share your thoughts with them, and remember to listen to theirs as well. Opening up to someone puts them on your team.

When you’re with someone, put your phone away.
Many families have a “check your phone at the door” policy, and restaurants are popping up all over the country that are doing the same thing. Our phones are distractions that keep us from interacting from the living being in front of us. How can we connect if we don’t disconnect? Wolk suggests “agreeing to hide each other's’ phones somewhere (but don't forget where you put them) and then set a plan to spend two or more hours without your phones just hanging around old school.” 

Change the way you use social media.
The unfollow button is magical. Unfollow people who don’t lift you up, are consistently negative or passive-aggressive or otherwise upset you. Perhaps try deleting the app off of your phone and only check in when you are on a computer. Turn off notifications if you leave it on your phone. Wolk points out that part of growing up is taking responsibility for how you feel and that “includes choosing to step away from those that don’t make you feel good” on social media.

If you are lonely, find someone you trust.
There are too many stories of people who take their own lives because they felt isolated and alone. Many younger people just need to connect with their parents more. If this relationship is unhealthy, try reaching out to an aunt or uncle that you trust.

If your loneliness has gotten to be too much for you and you can’t open up to someone you know, there are strangers on the other end of the phone you can talk to. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is open 24 hours a day. Phone calls can be anonymous. That number is 1-800-273-8255.

by Hilary Thompson | 10/12/2017
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