Random Scribbles: The ugly face of loneliness

[Random Scribbles are my occasional posts of half-formed thoughts, half-baked ideas, and off-the-cuff observations.] [NOTE: Updated to add additional information 1:06 p.m. EST.]

In a recent post, I discussed how a lack of privacy is not always a bad thing. What I didn’t discuss–really hadn’t gotten to yet in my thought process–is that privacy has an ugly twin.

It’s called loneliness.

People who move to the big city to become anonymous often become lonely as a result. And while Facebook can make some people feel more connected, to many, it lacks the “emotional power of connecting with people in-person.”

Writer Amy Gutman has pointed out that often we live in “a culture of private suffering and isolation, a lonely and disheartening place” where we suffer indignities rather than share our needs.

Generally speaking, people are social animals by nature. Even introverts, who have a strong need for being alone, enjoy the company of good friends and loving family. Increasingly, human health experts are realizing that many physical and mental illnesses can be linked in some way to feeling lonely. For some vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, loneliness can be death sentence.

Studies have found that monkeys and rats–also social animals–that are kept in isolation can and will dose themselves with cocaine until they pass out or even die. “If we want to understand why some people become heavy consumers of drugs,” writes psychologist Jeffrey A. Schaler, “we should ask what it is in their lives that constitutes for them the emotional equivalent of being ‘in solitary.’ ”

We should all have our privacy respected, of course. But when the isolation leads to a lack of human connection, both physical and intellectual, it takes on the bleak face of loneliness.



  1. architect of the jungle

    This is a good reminder. We live in a world that prizes and rewards acts that lead to isolation. We act as if we’re all machines, as if our need for human contact a luxury we can no longer afford. It’s messed up. As a mental health professional I see it all the time, loneliness leads to psychological breakdown and then physical breakdown.

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