Ms. Reinhardt said her Facebook feed helped her maintain connections with old friends but left her with mixed emotions. “It’s a link to people you haven’t talked to in ages. I can see their lives, but I’m not part of them,” she said. “Social media has made me feel less isolated, but more lonely.”
She moved to Georgia from Texas five years ago for her husband’s job and hasn’t forged deep connections like the ones she had before relocating. “By the time your kids are in high school, most women have their own little group of parent friends,” she said.
Ms. Martin said she appreciated being able to connect on social media with far-flung friends and relatives during the lockdown phase of the pandemic but felt the connections were superficial.
“I like knowing what they’re doing, but it doesn’t solve my loneliness problem,” she said.
“Less isolated, but more lonely” starts to scratch at something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. We really need a word to describe this sensation. It’s not quite “disconnected”, or “isolated”, and it’s not quite “lonely” either.
This line of thinking pops up in almost every subreddit I follow. I don’t know what that says about me, but even in otherwise banal men’s or LGBT groups, people are grasping for meaningful relationships. For now, that’s the best term I can put on it: “meaningful relationships”.
What makes meaningful relationships differ from social media networking is stark. At no point in human evolution have we ever had discussions with people you can’t see, do things with, or experience. Even when pioneers wrote letters to people, the physical act of putting pen to paper and having it delivered by another person was at least a show of effort. The sort of low-effort, low-value “friendships” people maintain today are killing us.
COVID or not, we’ve engineered out high-touch activities ranging from basketball to golf, dancing to reading in book clubs. About the only thing most people have left are their gyms, a trivia night and their marriages. And even those are falling out favor with many people.