Loneliness, how do you fight it?

Last week, after 15 days of self-imposed quarantine (with a covid-test at the beginning of it), we had a Thanksgiving dinner with a colleague of my wife and her roommate.

It was the first time we were inside a closed space with other humans since March: it was surreal, natural, and a lot of good food and laugh.
It was also tiring and stressful, in a strange new-old way.

During the dinner we asked ourselves a lot of questions (I like to design games about it) and one thing that I shared was a discovery that I did in the last months: I learned to name my loneliness and to accept it as a companion of this times.

The day after I found myself face down in my bed, miserably considering my existence in the absence of humans.

source

-.-‘

I’m an extrovert and I had forgotten how good it was to enjoy a dinner (interactionss!!) and how much I was missing it, - I guess this also speaks to the resilience that everyone can develop - I think it was just a natural reaction but it made me realize that I haven’t develop strategies to not feel lonely.

I can see the wave coming, name it, but fighting back I’m still at loss.

Loneliness used to be an existential threat for our species, being social was key to survive in an environment that require high specialization when we don’t have none. We don’t smell scents like a dog, we don’t ear sounds like a bat and we are not suited with claws, venom, teeth or quills to attack or defend ourselves, we can just count on each other.

Back in the day being alone, an outcast, it means a death sentence.

This is not my case right now, but the primitive me is still very scared.

So here is a question for you all, lonely hearts our there, what is one technique, one thing that you do, to fight back or simply not feel lonely?
Is there a strategy that you’ve developed and crafted?

I would love to learn more and see if they work for me too!

Thanks for the help!

(by the way, writing this post - and knowing that someone will read and maybe relate - had already a very good influence on my day :))

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Oh I totally relate. I’m too am quite extroverted with a big family and a long history of living with others. So, yeah man, it’s tough, even when knowing that this too shall pass.

What do I do? A lot of Zoom, Facetime, calls, texts, watch streaming media. etc etc - so media based. When I get over saturated with that, then I have a pile of print to catch up on. And long walks in nature, and the various outdoor chores and improvements I need to make.

But last week I went a couple of hours away to visit my son and grandson, who I had not seen all year, and like you it was great but also sort of tense because of the (remote in this case) chance of undetected infection. Plus, because my wife is so much at risk, I am self-quarantining at my house on the coast until Sunday when it seems safe to join her. She stays in almost total isolation. But she is much more comfortable with that…she works on her art projects just like she always does.

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I would be completely under without the cats. They have kept me sane because there is always an intimate presence in the room ( they always want to be physically close). And there are two of them so they play a lot, make funny noises etc. And lots of demands on my attention so I don’t have much time to think about loneliness…

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@matteo_uguzzoni, maybe bring this question of yours here as well:

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I’m not sure I’d agree completely. Humans indeed have no physical specialization, but I’d argue that we have a very specialized brain, capable of symbolic and logical thought and communication.

So following your train of thought, humans would rely on their mind (their specialization) to survive in their environment. That has two parts. One is symbolic communication, which is again a social thing and connects to your idea of “being social” as the key to survival. But the other is symbolic thought and understanding, supporting survival with results like understanding the forces of nature, complex tools, observations about plant growth, agriculture, more useful plant varieties and so on.

With a bit of a stretch, these two large areas of applying the human mind map to extroverted and introverted people. “Being social” is not so much of a priority for introverted people, as they can be quite happy for some time trying to understand, tame and utilize inanimate things or non-human living things. Those who are introverted enough to be considered geeks or “on the spectrum” tend to have one “passion activity” on which they can focus all their attention and never get bored. That can be anything – whatever humans can be interested in deeply can qualify, from playing an instrument to woodworking, metalworking, programming or sci-fi geekery. (Personally, I was quite happily busy with learning an obscure 3D CAD tool for some weeks in the last months.)

Such an activity can really help to get through lonely times, but I’m not sure how useful that advice can be for extroverted people.

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Agreed. While I maintain a balance of daily calls to folks to just kick back and talk, it’s been a stark reminder of how much of our society is geared around extroversion. I’ve been focusing on my writing and playing Dark Souls.

OP, perhaps videogames (especially MMORPGs, where social systems are part of the design) might help? I can’t begin to describe the fun I’ve had or the friendships I’ve made over a World of War raft raid with the gang on TeamSpeak / Discord and a few beers at hand.

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Thanks @matthias I found your comment right on point and in line with something that I read in a book called Sapiens (Yuval Noah Harari), their thesis is that Sapiens had a large brain, but also other humans had a large brain, we were able to develop a language that was better on sharing abstract thinking and concepts.

For them, and I guess in the back of my brain as an extrovert also for me, this ability to elaborate concepts was the key to be able to cooperate in a scale that was impossible for other groups, on the scale of thousand, instead of the hundreds that a tribe could reach at its maximum before breach out.

In their words:

“The truly unique feature of our language is not its ability to transmit information about men and lions. Rather, it’s the ability to transmit information about things that do not exist at all. […] Legends, myths, gods and religions appeared for the first time with the Cognitive Revolution.[…]

You will never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven. But why is it important? […] fiction enabled us not merely to imagine things, but to do so collectively. […] Myths give Sapiens the unprecedented ability to cooperate flexibly in large numbers.”

Probably Harari is an extrovert and there are bias at work here, because I totally agree with your point that this ability of abstraction gave us also science that is doesn’t have to be social in order to evolve (or maybe yes? see the scientific method).

Another thought that your comment sparked is this: maybe I like to be with other people also because I found very helpful to ask questions as a shortcut to knowledge, point of view and stories. I can learn a lot from books as well…if I read Madame Bovary I will learn a lot and probably very deeply, but the fact that with humans I can follow up and we can have an exchange, it is much faster but probably less deep. What do you think about it, are people the vector of something that if we don’t interact we are missing?

Thank you for sharing about your technique also!

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Thanks @johncoate, this year I got more involved with the school teachers community and I have to say that having a lot of Zoom was not a problem for me, most of the time is a way to supply for social interactions although always mediated by work.
It’s interesting that you talk about walks and chores, since they seem the opposite of being social, actually they are the definition of being alone, but maybe there is something on enjoying actively the lonely time that then create a better balance? Why is that you like about these alone time?

Thanks @nadia you made me think about this electronic bug that I got from an artist/friend of mine (Lucas Yasunaga - Electronic Entomology). It’s electronic so there is no demand of attention, but the fact that is doing strange sounds, always different (it’s solar powered) created a relationship that is really soothing.

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Also, you know you can always just pick up the phone and call and we can chat about all kinds of stuff, right? I think you have my number. If not tell me and I’ll pm it

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And I mean <3

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First of all, I don’t have a choice and I need to exercise and as you know, I live in a place with beautiful walks. But, beyond that, I am going to be 70 years old in a month. I have already had, and survived, two kinds of lethal cancer. I am much closer to the end of my life than the mid-point. So, aware of that, I have felt for some years that I need to better develop my inner life so that I can better understand this life that I have been granted, and what it perhaps means. Over time I have found that I enjoy my own company.

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Well All, good morning!

In terms of the Meyers-Briggs typology I am an INTJ/eNTJ, these months likely INTJ. I miss the “e”; noticable, because I recognize much I talk when meeting people, in particular ‘strangers’. Hence, my first hypothese that ‘introverts’ cope better, at least more ‘naturally’ with confinement.
More importent, however, for the questions that @matteo_uguzzoni asked, I notice that the mind is takeing over. Being deprived from habitual inputs the mental processing of the actually sensed environement gets enriched (= ‘wetware is enriching the virtual reality’).The internal talk/story in the/my mind (for example when writing) gets an additional ‘visual support’, that is, a kind of scene is depictured, more dreamed than even fuzzily ‘seen’). Hypothese: It is the intuitive bit (of INTJ) that plays its role more prominetly because its counterweight ‘sensing’ is deprieved from input. Subsequently, along these lines of thought, the ‘thinking -judging’ part of an INTJ-profile seems to help in the given circustance: analyis what is to be done and rule-based operations. Subsequently, my ‘[reserach] question(s)’: If confined by the pandemic, does it help to be an INTJ. How do differnt Meyers-Briggs type cope with confinement?
Back to Matteo’s question; I spend many ours working (alone!) at my desk on some drafting projects. Not many video sessions. Nobody else but my wife is calling for coffee… In that (lonely / peaceful) situation, sometime, I start a video session and send a link (by WhatsApp) for it to a friend or an acquaintance. Once while he/she comes ‘into the office’ and we have a chat. Often nobody comes in, but it feels like having an open office door.If my work demands it, I close the door (= switch the room off).

best regards, Martin

p.s. eNTJ was talking here…

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I feel similarly. As an introvert, I must admit that the situation has been somewhat heavenly for the most part in terms of decreased strain. I never get the alone time that I need in the flow of normal life and feel exhausted at the end of every day from all the social interaction. I’ve gotten to do so much writing and reading because of the space, time and energy to think. I never get bored or lonely.

What I miss is the travel and daily non-intensive interactive motion, where I feel like I’m alone around people and feeling the changed vibe of new places – getting coffee at a coffeeshop, people watching, experiencing live music, wandering around a museum or art exhibition-- where I don’t have to put effort into social interaction but I can experience the flow of the world. And I do miss my one-on-ones with close friends (no small talk necessary, more of the ‘sharing abstract ideas and concepts’ that @matteo_uguzzoni talks about. I find that I can do some of this by sharing a poem or song I’ve discovered that I know a friend would like) and more low-key or ambient sociality (playing games, both sports and board games, with people around, or playing music with friends). But it’s a manageable form of missing, I don’t mind the quiet and could do this for another year if we had to.

I find that the flip of this, though, is that I have to work a lot harder to maintain social ties during the pandemic, since the zoom call is quite labour-intensive socially. So when I do want to talk or hang out with people, it’s harder in this situation than just getting coffee and going for a walk with someone, going to listen to some music (really miss live shows), having a small group of friends over for dinner and games or kicking a football around. Those forms of sociality are hard in a pandemic.

@yudhanjaya, my partner has been getting back into WoW, something he loved as a kid, and it’s been fun to watch since the world is so rich visually. I was a Neverwinter Nights kid myself :laughing: and last time I had a lot of downtime I played through some of my old favourites from when I was younger – Portal 1&2, Bioshock, Half Life 1&2. One of my friends and I love playing Towerfall together which is always super fun. I’m thinking about starting some newer ones now. I think video games are an awesome way of experiencing the feeling of being in a new world/space when you can’t travel (and even when you can). I hate the grind though so I need specific games to not get overwhelmed by frustration :sweat_smile: I’m more in it for the world and the story. I have a crew I play D&D with and that’s good imaginative fun as well – definitely a form of collective storytelling.

It’s nice in this day and age that it’s easy to connect with friends via text, so having a little check in via text is something I do fairly often, especially if I’m reminded of something one of them likes. Memes are always good form of communication :stuck_out_tongue:

@matteo_uguzzoni, I am an introvert but I like random surprise chats, particularly from you lovely chatty extroverts, so also please feel free to call :slight_smile: same goes to all of you. I always love talking to @johncoate for example because it feels totally effortless.

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The feeling is entirely mutual.

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Here is California we are going into a pretty hard lockdown period right at the holiday season. Hoping we collectively get through it. The disfunction evident in the American political world plays out on the street with no consistent response to the virus. And money being withheld for political reasons from those who most need it to get through this.

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Nice! I played NN, the Portals, and Bioshock. I’ve got a Steam library full of stuff that I really want to play and should play, but this year has been so much catch-up work that I haven’t been able to finish anything other than The Outer Worlds. Cyberpunk is downloading right now.

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Before social distancing, I was an extremely active person in the local community, participating in many events and also organizing my own creative networking. That year was a rollercoaster of emotions, but more specifically at the beginning of December, I returned to play video-games as I didn’t in many years. Mainly classics that I have never finished like Bioshock (thanks HD Remaster version) and narrative ones like The Sinking City. I feel like don’t know how to re-approximate with my friends, it’s a rusty sensation, the virtual environment seems to me very much like a work commitment, or a warning that we cannot organize ourselves together in the same environment. The thing I still miss the most is to hug the people that I love, but I’m positively looking forward it.

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ciao @matteo_uguzzoni guess what I just refound :slight_smile: The final report @amelia put ogether summarising what we learned from our 2 year of conversations around community driven care. I think you might find it relevant to revisit: An Ethnography of OpenCare: Software Demo and Research Results

Also ping @MariaEuler

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Thank you for the registration on edgeryders @ticon ! Hope our community will be useful for you for the networking and sharing your experience. What are you now working on personally? Can you give us an example of how the difficulty to organize manifests itself in your activities and how are you going about solving it?