Apr 21, 2011

Are We Turning into Lonely Islands ?

Man is by nature a social animal. Even those of us who cherish our solitude seek company from time to time. Unless you are a yogi totally immersed in the search for self realization, I don’t think anybody would like to live a totally solitary life!

I sometimes feel that in today’s world, we are slowly turning into lonely islands. We definitely live in wonderful times in terms of communication. We have the latest gizmos at our disposal that allow us to connect with each other in mere seconds. But I wonder if this is not isolating us more from each other rather than helping us! I was travelling in the metro a few days back and the train was full of Delhi University students. You would expect them to create a ruckus talking and laughing together right? Dead wrong! All of them were either busy texting, browsing the net on their mobiles or had earphones stuck in their ears. There was no interaction at all! We have hundreds of friends on facebook and we buzz each other constantly. I wonder exactly how many of our numerous facebook friends can actually be called when we are in trouble. 1, may be 2?

Nowadays, most of us live and work alone. And I don’t mean just the single people, even young couples living alone in a new city feel isolated because they are away from their families. Earlier, at least in India tension and stress could be diffused easily because we had so many people to talk to- parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. Now most of us live away from our parents and are hardly in touch with our cousins and childhood friends who themselves have flown the nest in search of their dreams.

Lack of a solid support system and the hectic lives that we lead are the main reasons for the increase in loneliness and stress. This makes it even more important for us to make extra efforts to be friendly with the people around us. But we are so busy and involved in our own selves that we don’t even have time to say hello or give a little smile to others. We don’t know who our next door neighbor is and in some cases we don’t even know who the guy sitting in the next cubicle at work is.

We live isolated lives, feeling alone and uncared for, worrying over the issues and problems in our lives, not able to share them with anyone. And this makes the problems seem much much worse than they actually are!

I remember a colleague telling me that she saw another girl crying in the washroom at work. When I asked her if she asked the girl what was wrong, my colleague replied that she was running late for a meeting and had no time to get involved in others problems! In our race to earn more money, live in a bigger house, get that promotion, meet that deadline we are forgetting small things such as empathy and compassion. And believe me, in the long run these things matter more than all the materialistic things put together.

Now you might ask how a smile or even a few words of greeting can make a difference in the life of a person who is facing an extremely difficult situation in life. I read a story once in Chicken soup for the soul in which a young girl recounts how she had decided to kill herself because of an abusive stepfather. That day in school, her creative writing teacher complimented her about her writing skills and told her she could be a great writer one day. Just because of those few words of praise the girl felt her life was worth living and she dropped the idea of suicide. Sometimes just the feeling that people care enough about us to smile at us is enough. All we need is someone to listen to us and sympathize with us. We don’t need people to find solutions to our problems; we just need a few kind words!

Whenever I am down in the dumps I read a message I got from my friend in which she thanked me for her friendship and told me what a wonderful human being and friend I am. It never fails to cheer me up!
So let’s make a beginning today. Smile at colleagues, talk to the lady you sit next to in the bus every day, compliment your team mates about the good work they are doing. You will not only make their day, but believe me; this will also make you feel really happy!

Preeti of Just a mother of two has also blogged about the growing “urban apathy”. She writes about Free Love Day, an event that is happening worldwide on 25th April to promote awareness about suicide and depression, as well as a Lifestyle to promote unconditional love. Why not join in and spread the word!

It’s time we build bridges across those lonely islands!


  1. Sounds horrible Ruchira. Living as I live surrounded by family, I can't understand it. Your post reminded me of a news item I once read, about a man who would buy birthday gifts for his car ... he had no one else to gift things to

  2. I so agree with your post....

    The young generation these days is getting nuclear everyday because of the shift in the social system. I remember reading in today's newspaper that how an IBM employee committed suicide because of some marital tension. I mean a life could have been saved if he could have talked to someone or open himself up.

  3. @PhoenixRitu – You won’t believe how many people there are out there leading lonely lives ! You are really blessed to be surrounded by family!

    @Prats – Exactly! If only he had a chance to speak to someone ! I think joint family did have one great advantage and that was so many people one cld talk to !

  4. so true so very true, we are all living in our own family , immediate family ways , I means i remmeber when i was yiung all the uncles and aunts meeting up, us going to others in our summer holidays ..

    these days sometimes i dont get to meet friends for weeks , each one is busy in there own house ..

    each time i talk to friend in india on phone it cheers me upo for sure .. I guess this will become a norm all busy in the nucleus of there own family ...

    I do hope things change though..


  5. @Bikram - yes hope things change! and we can begin the change ourselves !

  6. We absolutely lead lonely lives,and it takes a HUGE deal of effort to bridge the gaps that happen in a relationship (that we take for granted). With blackberries and ipads invading our lives, we have little time for the real-life person seated in front of us!!!! And that reminds me, I need to go now, and read my brat a bedtime story :-)
    Great post, Ruchira.

  7. Also, I used to wonder if our socialising has shifted to our work places instead?

    And there is another side to it -

    I had bought chocolates for my neighbour to wish her on her birthday - she never seems to be home. Long working hours, frequent trips, and then whenever there is a break, she goes on a holiday. So now I plan to find her on facebook so I can stay in touch :)

    Two of my school friends and I lost all contact, but now chat on cellphone, one is a principal in a school and calls the moment she is free, another one calls during her break in office - ( we got back in touch through facebook after a decade of trying.) My sister calls from her Bank in Texas - (again whenever there is some free time) - now it might look like they are not socialsing with their colleagues, as much as they should?

  8. People prefer I Pods to human company, social networking to socializing and blame lack of time for it.

    We need the warmth of a shared smile, a reassuring pat on the back to make us feel alive. We need love, not gizmos.

    Loved reading your write-up, sharing it with my friends.

  9. this small little few things make a big happy life.. atleast satisfied with oneself.. loved reading this and would be back for more soon.. this a beautiful and soothing place to be here... by heart.

  10. Just when I thought how effective social networking is, it brought my besties closer to me; my thought stumbled upon the very next thing – it has reduced our verbal communication. I almost forgot how they sounded.
    We are always occupied with our own thoughts that we barely get “time” to share the things.
    I have saved some of the most amazing texts by them (not forwarded messages) which always consoles me during my lows.

  11. More so in metros where millions of people are lonesome together!

  12. @Purba – Welcome to my blog and thanks for sharing this post with others !
    You said it ! Gizmos help us in passing time – they don’t give us love and affection – we need real people for that !

    @Deepika – Welcome here ! and thanks for the lovely comments !

    @Prateek – Welcome here ! I save all the mails and msgs from my friends too – specially the ones that cheer me up ! We do too much of FB and texting these days and too less fo talking face to face !

    @Alka – Exactly ! lonely even in a crowd !

  13. Well put. You've condensed the reasons for being 'lonely islands'very well. Sadly, it seems people are becoming more and more comfortable in being such islands. Me included :S

  14. @Vinitha - I am an introvert by nature and as time passes I am also turning into such a island :(

  15. Lot of truth in what you say. But I love solitude, so it does not matter so much. Lol, aren't we introverts??
    But I find blogs/facebook etc actually help in keeping touch with people. Due to them we end up meeting/chatting etc.
    Imagine someone like me. I stay in a city with a small town mentality. It is difficult for me to go around looking for people who think like me. If it comes to that it is near impossible with the hours my husband keeps at the office and his disinclination to socialize (though a very sociable person).
    I cannot imagine what life would have been without the net, blogs and friends got thereby!
    I know even if I had daily meeting with friends and relatives in real life, I'd be the most lonely person on Earth. But here in my blogs and among my blog friends, I don't feel an island :)



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