When we think about loneliness in our communities and society, most people will think of an older citizen. Whilst this is natural, it is something that I will always find heart-breaking. Teenagers, of course in a much different sense, still have a very difficult day to day life. Through my experience- and I wish not to distract your thoughts from old age loneliness, but just to give you an insight and an understanding of what younger people who go through this have to deal with- the impact of loneliness on a teenager’s life is something you may not be aware of.
Firstly, I would like to rid the misconceptions that may be beginning to form in your mind. Loneliness does not mean that an individual is without people in their lives. Friends and family may be in abundance for that person, but loneliness can manifest in many different ways and I believe everyone who suffers from it would describe a completely different experience to the next.
During lockdown "I took comfort in knowing that for the first time in years, a weekend could pass and I knew that I wasn’t missing out."
What does my loneliness look like? Well, I always feel lucky knowing that my loneliness is nowhere near what some young people have to deal with. However, it’s still there in my everyday life; an unwanted constant of which I would love nothing more to leave me. I say the word lucky because I’m lucky enough to have a wide range of friends, from those who I attended college with to those who I have met through various social media platforms and through charitable endeavours. So where does the loneliness part come in? For me, I see my loneliness as being lucky enough to have friends but not being part of a social group, and as such essentially floating about like an island.
This means my social activities are fairly limited and I always treasure those I do have. From the age of thirteen I’m pretty certain that I must have been the only child in the country to have dreaded the summer holidays; the highlight of the majority years. But it was easier then because social media wasn’t as present in my life as it is now, making it impossible to escape the loneliness.
I can be enjoying my evening, but then log onto any social media and see post after post of people out with friends and doing all the things which young people should be doing. In truth, that’s why I believe I managed to cope so well in the lockdowns of the previous 18 months. I took comfort in knowing that for the first time in years, a weekend could pass and I knew that I wasn’t missing out.
There is also the mental health side of it. I don’t really know how best to describe my experience in this sense, but sadness has always been a key component. I took no joy as a fourteen year old lying to my parents that my friends were away or working when they questioned my lack of social activity. Looking back, it was deeply upsetting. Social media has only, unintentionally, made lonely young people feel even more lonely.
"Never underestimate how a small gesture can help an individual and make their day a better one."
I appreciate this read may not come across as hopeful, but I do believe in solutions, simple solutions, that can make a huge difference to young people affected by these issues. For example, asking a person suffering from loneliness if they would like to grab a coffee or go for a walk may seem a small thing to do, but it can make a huge difference to their lives.
The government must also play its part in helping young people with this issue by funding youth services which give young people the chance to talk to professionals and to meet and make new friends; this has the potential to improve their lives so much and prevent mental health issues further down the line.
Now I don’t expect everyone who has read this to suddenly become advocates for loneliness in young people, but just by playing a small part such as supporting young people, dedicated charities which can help young people affected by this issue, and taking a moment to talk to someone who may not speak to many, can make a huge difference. As I said previously, everyone’s experience of loneliness is different. Never underestimate how a small gesture can help an individual and make their day a better one.
Jack Thurlow is an active and vocal member of the Labour party, who also has a huge interest in modern history, specialising in Russian history and the Holocaust.
Disclaimer: All views expressed in this piece belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of Demographica as a company.