Feeling lonely has little to do with how many friends you have. It’s the way you feel inside. Some people who feel lonely may rarely interact with people and others are surrounded by people, but don’t feel connected.
In general, those who feel lonely actually spend no more time alone than do those who feel more connected.
Three Factors Of Loneliness
According to Cicioppo and Patrick (2008) how lonely people feel seems to be a combination of three factors. The first is Level of Vulnerability to Social Disconnection.
Each individual has a general genetically set need for social inclusion and your level of need will be different from someone else’s. If your need for connections is high, it may be difficult to meet.
You probably know Cam. He’s one of the guys on Modern Family, a show that recently earned a second Emmy for best comedy. I find the series laugh-out-loud funny. But apparently my brain thinks the characters and I have a friendship.
That may be a not-so-good problem of these technologically rich times.
Television with images and sound that approximate reality, interactive computer games, movies, and talking phones that answer questions and make jokes may be fooling our brains into thinking we have social relationships when that isn’t the case.
The repairman came to fix the refrigerator. I offered him a glass of water, asked him questions, and soon we were chatting about his family. While we talked, I wondered a little anxiously when he would start working on my refrigerator, but I kept talking.
How long had he lived in the city? He owned a dog? Finally he checked out the fridge, but it was too late to get the needed part. He left looking happy but I wondered if my fridge might have been fixed if I’d been less talkative.
When we enter into interpersonal interactions (note this is interactions not just friendships), it’s helpful to remember what our objective is. According to Dr. Linehan, there are three main goals of interactions: relationship effectiveness, objective effectiveness, and self-respect effectiveness.
My objective with the repairman was to accomplish a task, but I didn’t even think about that. At the time I never thought about the objective of any interaction, so I reacted in my habitual way, which was to focus on the relationship. In truth he was a nice man, but I wasn’t really trying to establish a relationship, though I behaved as if that was the purpose of his being at my house. When he left I was frustrated. I’d focused on the wrong objective; if fact, an objective I didn’t even have.