What I find interesting about this, beyond the obvious take that many people out there are not doing well, is that if you asked this same question to many of your friends, coworkers, and acquaintances, you probably wouldn’t see the same thing. There’s something about trauma-dumping to a fictional character that allows us to be honest without fear that we are too much for people to deal with. I worry about it all the time. If you asked me how I am on any given day, 99% of the time, I’d say something like “Not bad.” I might admit to struggling the other one percent of the time, but also probably downplay it.
Let me tell you a secret. I struggle much more than one percent of the time. I also don’t want people to worry about me, and I don’t want my struggles to be too much for the people in my life. I make my emotions small to protect other people. I know I’m not the only one.
The original news story is from 2013, and I admit I was unaware of it. On the other hand, there is something positive in seeing that something as tragic as this can spur activity and solutions in the Netherlands to deal with loneliness and the lack of social connection:
When we rush to do something for the children, there’s a long history of implementing changes that do not help children. Running out to block teens from using social media might also cut them off from the only source of support they have, especially kids who do not have support at home from their parents. Creating age verification requirements threatens our privacy and creates unlimited risks for identity theft. Rushing to do something because a few studies show a possible mental health risk is dangerous.
Connection matters more than small behaviors. Loneliness is more damaging to our mental and physical health than small vices, despite the amount of digital space spent talking about what we should and shouldn’t eat, drink, or do with our time. Yet, so many of us make our friendships one of the lowest priorities.
We’re hurting ourselves and each other.
For myself, and all of you, remember that feeling of loneliness is there for a reason, because we are meant to be connected to other people. Generally speaking, all those people we know and should connect with, also need the same thing. Many of them might even be struggling with their own internal negative thoughts too, and could use someone to reach out to them. If we all sit around convinced that no one wants to connect with us, eventually we’ll all be lonely, which seems like something we are headed toward. The solution is for each of us to take a step toward connection when we can.