If You’re Too Lonely to Sleep

I can’t sleep.

It’s like I have this need, like I can’t rest until I feel connected. I’ve spent all day looking at words and pictures on screens. I have engaged with people. I’ve had conversations about birth control and drug addiction; I’ve considered love and how we know it’s right; I’ve seen and heard about my friends’ days. All of this has happened via screens. And at the end of it, here I am in bed, wide-eyed and staring into the dark wondering why I feel so alone.

I just listened to a Ted Talk that mentioned how we are living in some of the loneliest times in human history. It’s so true: we have so many specific ways to communicate- updates, messages, photos that disappear- but how often do we have real conversations? I’m sure I’m not the only person who has friends scattered across the state or the country, and it simply isn’t possible to keep up with all of them. So every couple of days I send somebody a picture or an article or sometimes just a message to ask how it’s going. But all of these fragmented moments of engagement do not add up to fulfilling relationships. Granted, with the lifestyle I live today, sometimes it’s the best I can do. But it isn’t enough.

My whole life, I’ve wanted to live in the 1960s. It started from music as a kid, but as I’ve grown I still feel the same way. What I yearn for is the idea of coming across a person and, without fear, forming a connection. Today most people will do anything we can to avoid in-person interpersonal connection (we’ve all looked at our phone or put in our headphones to avoid a conversation at some point). But there was a time when talking to strangers, or even un-strange new people like neighbors, happened. People couldn’t use a screen to stay connected with friends; they simply had to do it with their faces. Turns out, that restriction was their gain.

But we have so many ways to make “friends.” If I really want people to read my blog, I can open about a bagillion different social media accounts and connect with people not because I would ever want to talk to them in person but because I want them to see what I’m writing. We all push content out at each other and we get the occasional response via a “like” or a “favorite.” There’s nothing wrong with this, until it begins to replace in-person communication. My life right now is a lot of reading books, watching movies and TV shows, and writing for my blog. Tons of really interesting things to think about, plenty of ways to stay connected via the internet. And yet I am so lonely that I can’t sleep.

All I can come up with is that humans just need other humans. Not little notifications that another human thought of us for a moment, although that’s great. We actually need each other. We need to learn how to have real conversations again: how to sit with a person and forge a connection where once there was nothing. How to talk about ourselves or the world or whatever- it doesn’t matter, because talking about it gives us something to share with each other, and that’s what we desperately need. To share.

So what do we do? All this talk about how the world should be the way it was in the ’60s (minus racism and sexism, ideally), how we should share things and be face to face and not just communicate via the screen, it’s great. But it’s not all that realistic for a girl who lives in Texas and is using those screens in order to try to forget that fact. I’m sure a lot of us have had that feeling that our life is somewhere else. So what can we possibly do to bring it here, to actually experience a person-to-person relationship with another human being?

The positive part of me, the part that ends every blog post with hope, wants to say we just need to get out there and start walking the walk instead of just talking the talk. You know, create the life we envision for ourselves. But loneliness can be paralyzing. It can make us feel like we can’t walk that walk because our legs won’t move; we can’t start a conversation because our mouths won’t open; we don’t have the energy to try because we just can’t get to sleep. It’s a horrible cycle. Loneliness leads to more screen time leads to more loneliness, and at the moment I’m just not sure how that ends. Tonight there will be no solution for the loss of connection in a world of screens. For now all I can do is chalk this all up to food for thought and get on with my TV shows, because right now those characters are the only connection I have.

I guess I won’t be sleeping tonight.

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One comment

  1. Patience Oliver · April 1, 2016

    Powerful. I struggle too with how often we hide or distract with our screens. I crave and prefer that undivided attention, with technology left behind.

    Like

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