Millennial Voices

Dealing With Loneliness In A Disconnected World

In psychology, it is a basic tenet that human beings are social creatures who crave a sense of belonging. Common sense would seem to confirm this—regardless of introversion, much of our identity is still built on the relationships we forge and the people we care about. For many of us, our most precious memories do not begin and end with ourselves in isolation.

Even then, amidst the noise and chatter of the crowd, it is inevitable to feel the pangs of loneliness. In Singapore, the superficial hyper-exposure endowed by social media and the fast-paced movements of a career-oriented society can easily drown out opportunities for intimacy. People are now only one WhatsApp message away, and yet, they have never felt more distant in the overwhelming sea of heartless noise that all millennials swim through.

Especially if you are newly single or are constantly on the move, it is easy to fear the encroaching threat of solitude and the emptiness we commonly associate with it. To counter its onset, it seems instinctive to latch on to the closest friend at ungodly hours or hopelessly stalk a fantasy crush on Facebook. However, these approaches can lead to attachment issues, especially when our needy outbursts go unreciprocated. Personally, I can attest to the struggle of being seen as the “clingy” one in all of my relationships.

As Singapore becomes increasingly individualistic, perhaps we should embrace solitude every now and then, crafting an identity that can stand strong even in the absence of others. Here are some simple strategies that I have adopted to cope with loneliness:

GO ON SELF-DATES

It’s the weekend and you have no social plans, but you still don’t want to drown in self-pity alone in your room. The perfect solution (if you have the budget to spare, that is): go out and treat yourself to a movie, complete with over-salted popcorn and the soothing darkness of a chilly cinema house. Coming from the distant and inaccessible suburbs of the Philippines, I can attest to the fact that Singapore makes it extremely easy for such spontaneous outings late at night.

Watching a movie, having a meal at a restaurant—these activities are often reserved for “date nights” or other collective affairs. There is a certain stigma that comes with showing up to public spaces with no one to show for because it implies the lack of friends or perhaps even a snobbish attitude. But doing so doesn’t have to be depressing. Over time, confidently stepping out alone—even for casual walks down a silent neighbourhood—encourages you to appreciate yourself as someone truly worth spending time with.

TALK TO YOURSELF

This past semester, I took it upon myself to enroll in a Creative Nonfiction module. What started out as a mere venture of curiosity evolved into a new medium through which I could converse with and understand my deepest thoughts. I challenged myself to bluntly tell stories about my insecurities, even those that I have long since been terrified to outwardly confront. Writing is the perfect avenue for not only expressing yourself, but for also engaging yourself at a deep level. It enables you to organise your complex emotions, and preserves this mental struggle on a page that you are free to either share or keep to yourself for further reflection.

Of course, writing isn’t the only mode of simulating a conversation with yourself. Film yourself while in a stream of consciousness, stage a self-interview, or even talk to your reflection. At the end of the day, keeping yourself updated on your own emotions and motivations helps you find comfort in the person behind the mirror, making you less dependent on some saviour to swoop in and save the day.

FIND THE PERFECT DISTRACTION

However, these two tactics can be stressful, particularly for those unaccustomed to throwing themselves into a state of isolation. It is only human to feel the need for company when it is least available to you, and no amount of time spent getting used to yourself may be able to alleviate that desire.

In times like these, there is nothing wrong with immersing yourself in a different world as a momentary distraction. Pick up a new show on Netflix, re-read the Harry Potter series, get lost in Game of Thrones fan threads on Reddit—these sources of entertainment can give you a much-needed break from bouts of neediness and overthinking that can sometimes feel a bit too real to handle. It’s easy to condemn these one-off methods as superficial ones that merely “avoid the problem,” but let’s face it—we all need distractions every now and then to cope with pain in the moment. As an added bonus, you’re less likely to get bored!

Living in a residential college for the past few years, I’ve learned that it’s important to navigate my social life with balance in mind. College students are prone to teetering between undying devotion to their social groups and shutting themselves off for self-care. After gradually coming to terms with my inevitable solitude, I found it much easier to strike a middle ground between these two extremes. Nonetheless, it is never easy to go against the social grain in public or scribble out personal thoughts that make you uncomfortable—the art of loneliness takes practice, and contentment only comes with time.

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