Loneliness comes in many forms, and it isn’t always just to do with being physically on your own. You can feel lonelier than ever in the midst of a crowd, or finding yourself cast on the edge of something when everyone else is doing or saying something that makes you feel left out. You can feel profoundly lonely even if you live with someone else, if it’s the wrong person. I know I did. For years.
With or without a global pandemic, you can feel lonely even in company. And you can feel lonely if for whatever reason you are feeling alienated from what other people say, or other people do.
The last fifteen months have exposed searing rifts in society – the haves and have nots; the supported and the vulnerable; the marginalised, the under-represented, the jobless and the grieving.
And there is still a lot of painful uncertainty about what the future holds. But one thing is sure, and that is that the uncertainty isn’t going away anytime soon. For any of us.
This makes things even harder for everyone. But especially hard for those who feel cut off from others, or unable to share a sense of communion or togetherness with someone they want to spend time with. Even in our darkest hours, most of us take comfort if there is someone to hold our hand, or find time to listen to us. For many over the last year, this is a comfort that has simply not been possible.
When lockdowns do start lifting, many of us could feel lonelier than ever. Some of us might be feeling nervous about reconnecting with each other in person; and others will be anxious about going back to ‘real life’. A recent survey by Noon (a new platform for women in midlife) revealed 53% said that being alone was their biggest issue.
It’s really, really important that each of us takes time to feel our way through the coming weeks and months in ways that work for us. I really like the Let’s Talk Loneliness messaging on this. They’re encouraging people to help each other, and not put pressure on one another. Take your time.
We’re doing the same at BT. We’ve set up a special campaign to help with this – to try to tackle loneliness. And we’ve made sure we show how important it is as part of our Hope United work to try to combat online hate, which causes so much misery, hurt and loneliness. We ask people to check in on their teammates – if they’ve gone quiet or seem withdrawn. And take a look at this video for a lovely example of another way we’re trying to combat loneliness – our Care Home Companions scheme.
The author Herman Melville said: “We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibres connect us with our fellow men.” Connecting with each other couldn’t be more important – it infuses our lives with purpose and meaning.
At BT, our purpose is to connect for good. Those thousand fibres connecting us that Melville talks about matter deeply – for our emotional wellbeing, for education, for health, for entertainment, for life. As we mark Loneliness Awareness Week I’d urge all of us to reach out and try to check in on a ‘teammate’. Let’s all try to help each other. Let’s each of us try to ‘connect for good’.