Loneliness is a very modern trauma that causes slow, cold, suffering around the world. Gay and queer men suffer substantially more than other groups. We’re more likely to live alone, be single or to have less of a close family network.
Our friends are often our family, and in the 21st century, it can be harder to make ‘real’ connections with them than in the past. Our loved ones live further away from us, and our smartphones and apps often leave us feeling more disconnected than ever.
In the age of iPhones and social media, we may have 5000 ‘friends’ online but only a few people we can call for a chat. We spread ourselves too thinly, scrolling through Facebook updates of people we barely know, instead of spending our time talking to real friends. Apart from my Mum, there are few people I talk to more than a few times a week on the phone.
The problem with apps
I’ve got friends with up to 10 dating and hookup apps. The ability to hold multiple conversations at the same time, with guys we’d never have the courage to talk to, or perhaps luck to meet in real life, is one of the best things about this new technology, right? Perhaps not.
Although I’ve met some great guys online, the amount of time I’ve wasted on dead-end conversations and emotionless, empty exchanges probably adds up into the months. These apps just make us feel lonelier. They can never replace the feeling of real human contact.
Big city blues
Living in a big city? Then you might be even lonelier, with the mixture of our busy lives, tiredness and distances needed to travel to see friends all combining to mean we end up spending more time isolated from the people we care about.
Although we’re not physically isolated – we may be surrounded by people in the office, train or club – we’re often emotionally isolated, unable to properly connect with those around us. This lack of emotional connection is why so many of us feel so lonely.
Living in London for close to 15 years, I was often lonely. My friends lived on the other side of town, so once we’d made it home from work, had some dinner and finished a few chores, it was time for bed. If we could squeeze in a coffee and a chat on the weekend, it’d feel like a massive win.
So what can we do to combat loneliness?
Tell people you’re lonely. We’re all so good at painting a shiny picture of our lives on social media, we probably don’t look lonely. Call your friends. Actually speak to them. Tell them you’re feeling isolated and you want to see them more. Be the first person to suggest meeting up or doing something after work. If you sit at home waiting for an invite, you may be waiting for a long time.
Look up from your phone when you’re out in a bar, club or anywhere else for that matter. Say ‘hi’ to the person next to you on the train, bus or dance floor. You’re more likely to make a real connection here, than if you spend another few swipes on Tinder.
Being lonely is nothing to be ashamed of. Being able to admit it, shows courage, and will be the first step to a more connected and loving life.