As society slowly starts to reopen, loneliness still hits hard.
When outdoor dining made its triumphant return earlier this month, excitement began to build. Reservations were made, outfits were selected and our WhatsApp groups began to buzz with a newfound energy.
After six months of lockdown, it felt like a sense of normality had finally returned.
But for others, that feeling never came. In fact, the high expectations around re-opening led many, myself included, to feel isolated and lonely.
We polled our readers recently and found that 48% of people have experienced FOMO as society reopens. Moreover, 53% said that seeing snaps from nights out makes them feel lonely.
Undoubtedly, social media has a role to play in post-lockdown loneliness. Over the past year, our feeds have (mostly) consisted of folks sharing insights into their own lockdown. Home-baking featured regularly, as did snaps from solitary walks.
Then, overnight, our feeds completely changed. We woke up to a sudden influx of groups of six dining out in the sunshine, happily surrounded by their friends and loved ones. As we clicked through, our FOMO intensified and pangs of loneliness started to creep in.
In my case, I’ve felt lonely in spite of having the opportunity to reconnect with friends and family. Admittedly, I’ve noticed the impact the lack of socialisation over the past year has had on my own social skills. I’m less certain of what I’m saying, and find it difficult to adjust to communicating in real life. While it’s wonderful to spend quality time with the people I love, I come away feeling tired. In a misguided attempt to recharge my batteries, I pick up my phone, scroll through my feed and the loneliness kicks in again.
It’s important to remember that this isn’t necessarily a new problem. Social media has always managed to trigger feelings of loneliness and insecurity. It’s the very nature of the beast. It’s no mystery either – a 24/7 montage of everyone else’s best bits is hardly conducive to strong mental health.
Throughout the pandemic, health authorities have reiterated the importance of addressing loneliness, and that advice still stands as reopening continues. Taking it slow helps, as does reaching out for peer support. In my case, I’ve found sharing how I feel helpful. I’ve also learnt that I’m not the only person experiencing post-lockdown loneliness.
If you have been impacted by any of the issues raised in this article, help is available. The Samaritans can be reached any time, day or night on 116 123.