We can be well connected, with 400 friends on Facebook and still have no one to count on. Ironically, despite social media, social isolation is a growing epidemic in the United States. The National Science Foundation reported in 2014 that the number of Americans with no close friends has tripled since 1985. One out of four Americans has no one with whom they can talk about their personal troubles. An unprecedented number of Americans are living alone, particularly people over sixty (one in three seniors compared to one in five just ten years ago). Millennials and post-millennials increasingly report discomfort and avoidance with face-to-face conversations.
Social isolation can shatter our confidence. In isolating times, we’re not only lonely, but we’re ashamed of our loneliness because our society stigmatizes people who are alone without support. We don’t want anyone to know how isolated we truly are, so we do whatever it takes to appear happy and well liked, especially on social media. When we feel this vulnerable, finding new friends in person is not such a simple task. We’re hopeless at chitchat so why bother? We’re not quite ready to brave our new normal by going solo to a social meet up, taking a cooking class, joining a volleyball team, let alone asking for help in a crisis. Why not just stay home with the comfort of our cat on our lap, Netflix on the screen, and a cup of chamomile tea?