So what is it like for those of us who feel disconnected in such a digitally connected world right now? I have a pretty solid online presence. I post regularly on social media, banter back and forth with friends living around the globe yet each day I feel more and more disconnected, left out and utterly depressed. Why?
Simply put many people don’t feel a connection through online interactions. I may post a lot, comment on stories and links and you may see me as a social media butterfly but really those are words on a screen. It’s not that things don’t really make me laugh or that your meal doesn’t look absolutely delicious and I am not lying when I say these things but they are not deep or meaningful interactions. If you’re like me you need to meet someone in person, see them standing before you, to feel like you are connected with them. To actually know someone. Perhaps it’s the emotional connection I feel when I meet people that makes it so but online communications do not bring me closer to people. And the more I see this happening with others the more left out and disconnected I feel.
And this is no one’s fault, I’m not pouting in the corner like a child claiming to be purposefully left out, what I’m saying is, no matter how much you message me I will never feel a solid connection online. I am not wired like those who do. I am certainly envious of those who do. I see you talking, laughing together, I laugh with you too, but the difference is I stop my communications there because they don’t hold any deep meaning, they don’t move me like meeting someone in person for coffee and conversation moves me.
So what has this pandemic begun to do to those of us who do not connect online? If you’re alone it’s devastating. You’re left with no in person social interactions which leaves you empty and feeling as if you have no place in the world. If you’re lucky enough to be isolated with family, roommates or loved ones then perhaps you’re at least feeling like there’s someone there to fill that place inside which longs for community. I have never minded being alone, I mostly prefer it but spending weeks on end not having another human near you when you don’t connect through this digital world means isolation is digging a whole deep inside your core. Every moment you see others working together online creates pain. New found friendships blossoming around you a stark reminder of what you don’t possess. In this increasingly social media world disconnecting so you aren’t reminded of being alone is somehow better than pretending you really aren’t.
Now how does one cope? How does one survive or even thrive if you have no one in your home and are struggling to feel as if you belong? I can’t answer this for you. All I can tell you to do is the best you can moment by moment. Get up each day and force yourself to remember life outside, in crowded bars surrounded by laughter, live music playing and thoughts of past experience. Skype with friends who you’ve met personally and know you really have meaning with. Laugh when something is funny, cry when things make you sad and distract yourself in any way you feel is most healthy for you. But do not pretend, do not hide who you are or how you feel. We’re not all built to be social online and that is okay. If you find connection difficult right now know that I understand. Know that I struggle. Know that how you feel is real and valid and it is okay.
I share these words because I can not be the only person who feels this way. I know deep down that people love me, that I have friends. I just don’t know how to feel connected through my computer, an iPhone or video calls. The longer we’re in isolation the harder my days are becoming. I believe this is true for all of you out there but maybe this will also shed some light on the differences in how people feel like they’re a part of society. For me, I need interpersonal connections to feel like I matter. Not grand displays, just in person social interactions. Without them, without any of them, life becomes like a desert island. Where you know other life exists, you just don’t know how to find it.