Nowadays, loneliness is being called the new cancer. It’s killing more people than ever before and that is a heartbreaking fact.
As human beings, we have been on this planet a very long time; we have survived, learned new skills, invented so many amazing things. Our brains have evolved faster than the planet has, and now we are creating a world our minds can barely keep up with.
There is a machine to do everything for us. There are self-driving cars, self-driving trucks aren’t that far behind, manual jobs in time won’t be needed any more.
We are essentially making ourselves more and more irrelevant.
We don’t even have to think about the answer to a question, we simply type or talk it into the mini-computer we carry around in our pocket and it answers any question we have. It directs us where we want to go and it feeds us endless reams of news from all over the world.
We scroll and we scroll and sometimes we don’t even register what we are looking at we are just scrolling, drip feeding unnecessary information into our brains.
I am married and have three children, so there are five human beings in my house. It is loud and noisy. This noise is life, it’s home. Recently, I had to fly back to Ireland by myself for my dads cremation ceremony. He died suddenly two years ago and had bravely made the decision to donate his body to medical science.
Now, two years later, we could finally give him the send off he deserved.
I was so nervous and emotional about this trip for many reasons. I live in New Zealand, which meant flying 18,000 kilometres on four planes, literally going to the other side of the world. My husband had been away so I had been in a bubble with my three children who are nine, six and three. I didn’t want to leave them.
But I knew it meant the world to my mom and my siblings that I be there; and for me. I needed and wanted to stand up and talk about how amazing my dad was. I would never get that opportunity again.
But first I had to get on that plane, navigate my way through Singapore airport, find my connecting flight to Heathrow and get on that last plane to Cork.
Usually there are five of us when travelling. It’s chaotic and loud. I’m always trying to keep the kids quiet, make sure they have enough snacks, are comfortable, don’t need to go to the toilet, all the usual things parents stress about.
It was such a long time since I went anywhere by myself, I could not get over how quiet it was. Just me. I could get used to this! I thought about all the interesting people I might meet along the way, young people backpacking their way around the world, people on business trips.
This time I could have an uninterrupted adult conversation if I wanted to, glass of wine in hand. With 13 hours to kill on a plane, sometimes any type of conversation will do.
As I had existed in my parental bubble, locked away in mom mode and not actively engaging in a world where only adults existed, to my surprise I realised human beings don’t talk or interact with each other any more.
I travelled 18,000 kilometres, on four planes including a transit in Singapore without speaking to another human being.
I’m not talking about a deep and meaningful conversation, I mean a simple hello would have sufficed. Having found my seat on the 13 hour flight, two women who were travelling separately occupied the seats next to me. I said hello as I put my bag in the overhead compartment. No reply.
Just a weird look, confused as to why I would even acknowledge their existence. Everyone had their head down locked away in their own bubble. Having a device means people don’t even really need to make eye contact anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, the silence for me was a nice break from the madness that is my home life, but it made me feel sad for the state the world is in. What about people who are fully alone?
People who go to work and look at a screen, then on a break look at their own smaller screen, then come home, eat alone, maybe look at a TV screen before going to bed, without any human interaction for most of the day.
No wonder loneliness is killing us.
We have the means to be more connected than ever but we have never felt so alone. Back in the day people went to their local post office or local shop just to see another person. To have a bit of small talk usually about the weather, just to interact with another human.
Looking someone in the eye and saying a simple ‘Hello’ or ‘Good morning’ can go a long way, and for some people it could be the only interaction they’ve had in days.
As a parent, I worry about the world my kids are growing up in. Where social status and ‘likes’ are what matters. A world where the reaction to an Instagram picture can dictate moods depending on how it’s received. A world where talking doesn’t really happen; I mean proper, in-depth conversations that don’t involve looking at something on a screen.
By the time I landed in Cork airport and saw my mom, my brother, my sister and my niece standing there I burst into tears.
I was so happy to see them but I was also so relieved to finally be able to have a conversation with another human being after 32 hours of travelling. And that is the thing; we are human beings.
We are emotional creatures not robots. People need other people, whether they like it or not. It’s human connection we need. Instead of endless scrolling, take a screen free stroll. Who knows, if you are lucky enough you might make a connection with someone that lasts a lifetime…