Loneliness in the Age of Social Media
I have more friends than I’ve ever had in my life. I have people reaching out to me all day every day. My days are chocked full of connections with other people, coupled with very honest, loving, and beautifully intimate conversations.
Yet, somehow I’m ridiculously lonely. Maybe it’s because the majority of my social interaction is via social media. No wait... that’s definitely the reason.
A couple of weeks ago, our family had to deal with something shitty. A situation that was somewhat out of our control, and one that had me all fucked up emotionally. I don’t like uncontrollable or unpredictable situations. I don’t function well within or around them, and I know it. It most likely definitely has to do with the trauma of my past, but I dig control and manageability. I feel safe there.
So this thing happened; and my mind started to spin in all sorts of crazy directions – I lost my footing. It doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but it happens, and when it does I have the tendency to shut down and turn myself inside out. I then tell myself that no one wants to be around me all broken and guts hanging all over the place, and I isolate. I even feel sorry for my husband for having to be married to someone so fucking busted in half all the time.
It’s pretty awesome.
Anyway, this thing – this situation – was something I wanted to talk about, but I couldn’t bring myself to do more than give details. I wanted someone who knew me to call me out and say, “WTF, Dude? This is clearly messing with you. Talk to me,” but no one did. No one called me out because I have a ton of friends who don’t know me. I connect with other women on the daily; about life and really intense, meaningful shit. I cherish each and every one of these relationships and the trust these women put in me. I have found a sense of sisterhood online that has in many ways saved me from myself. My gratitude is beyond words.
Then I shut my phone off or close my laptop, and they’re gone. Shortly after, reality kicks in – I don’t really have many friends.
It’s not for lack of trying, really. I do reach out to my “in real life” friends, and ask them to hang out, but they’re often busy being awesome and saving the world. When we do make plans, life inevitably happens and one or both of us forget or has to reschedule.
Even when I do meet up with people, it often feels stressed and awkward. I’m sure it’s me. I feel out of practice or something; and there’s often the matter of my guts hanging out. Lately, in between the awkward silences, I’m met with comments about all of my success online and innocent banter about my “internet celebrity.”
These interactions leave me wanting to scream and also hide. They make me want to run home and send out emails apologizing for any disappointment I may have caused by just being me.
I have always been driven by human connection and service. Even before I got sober, I was the drunk girl at the party “helping” other people with their problems. I’m that woman. If you come to me holding something broken, I make it my mission to help you fix it. The problem is, I often put my own broken shit down in order to free up my hands to help you. The other problem is that I have legit ADHD and often see something shiny and forget about my broken thing – that thing I needed to do – and it makes its way to the very bottom of my “TO DO” list.
It is while helping others through incredibly painful, traumatizing, and extraordinary shit that I have made peace with much of my own. I am convinced that when I meet someone suffering through something I’ve experienced, it makes whatever pain I endured during that thing make sense.
This gift has allowed me the opportunity to help so many women and in turn help myself. I am eternally grateful for all of these moments, whether online or in person, and I know in my heart I was born with this purpose. Everything I have ever been through has prepared me for this role, and most of the time I wouldn’t change any of it.
Today though, I’m lonely. I feel empty, like I have nothing to offer anyone, and therefore useless. I’m tired of reaching out to real life connections who don’t call me when they say they will, and I don’t feel like chasing or begging people to be my friend anymore. I just wish this shit was easier, and I kinda want a hug from someone who isn’t contractually obligated.
I don’t know how to find balance between the safety of my online friendships, self-care, and the realities of real life. Because those relationships feel like real life. Then I shut off my phone or close my laptop, and they’re gone.