Lonely among so many friends

Older people aren’t the only ones who are lonely.

A lot has been written about how more older people are living alone and becoming isolated.

But what’s not so frequently reported is how younger people – with multiple ‘friends’ online and seemingly endless texting – can feel just as alone.

In fact, it can be worse for them – because when you’re on social media and, whatever the reality, all your ‘friends’ appear to be having a whale of a time, your feelings of isolation, inadequacy, despair… can become overwhelming.

Come now, I hear you say, all that texting, all the video, all the chat on a mobile phone that never leaves their grasp, surely that’s indicative of being part of something, being wanted, in communication, a sense of belonging.Trouble is the digital age, for all its benefits, has brought with it scant, momentary contact, as quickly received as it’s gone – and we risk losing the deeper, sometimes more meaningful, communication that long-lost generations experienced.

It’s salutary to realise that Facebook was launched as today’s 18-year-old started primary school. Already, a whole generation of young people’s experience has become normalised by instant gratification and the burden of comparing their looks, personalities, lifestyles… to those of their peers.

Take recent research about just one lifestyle factor – sex. It says that young men are ‘hooked on porn and desperately lonely’ as socialising, dating and intimacy succumb to the digital age.

The Family Stability Network research shows that six out of 10 men aged 16-19 worry they will never find love. It shows how online porn plays a big role in shaping their views of relationships. One in three of the 500 men surveyed say they expect sex in real life to be like it is in porn. 63 per cent admit to watching porn at least once a week, and 28 per cent view it five times or more per week.

The report, Love, Lust and Loneliness, paints a picture of the fears and worries today’s young men navigate in their quest for happiness. Digital has dealt them ‘a bad hand’ resulting in low self-esteem, unrealistic expectations, higher suicide rates, non-fulfilment, social media addictions, and superficial relationships. 60 per cent worry about being alone; 61 per cent are scared they’ll be disappointed in a relationship; 55 per cent are anxious they’ll be laughed at if they are emotionally open.

Relate sex therapist Peter Saddington says:The findings reflect very much what we see. Young people are experiencing more problems with sex and their relationships, and are under pressure and anxious that either they’re not going to have a relationship or they’re not going to be able to perform sexually as they think they should do. It is a confusing and worrying time for the younger generation.”

Maybe that in part explains why younger people with whom we meet almost daily at a Bedfordshire youth centre queue up for counselling. The waiting list never gets shorter. For them, it seems, it’s a new phenomenon – having someone to talk to, in-depth, in confidence, where you can express some of your innermost feelings, without pressure, over time, without being judged.

If you know a younger person who might like to experience this do get him or her to give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350.

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