Do you feel connected to the world?
I stumbled across the reddit channel the other day called r/Needafriend. It amazed me at how many people are constantly calling out into the expanse of the internet looking for friends because they are lonely. Now this was only one channel on one forum on one platform, it makes me wonder how many other places there are where thousands or millions of people are crying out, searching for friends. Quiet often some of these people say they are not alone, but are lonely.
So if you google the definition of loneliness, you get
1) sadness because one has no friends or company. “feelings of depression and loneliness”
2) (of a place) the quality of being unfrequented and remote; isolation. “the loneliness of the farm”
I believe the main issue is a mixture of both definitions made worse because of the pandemic and the isolation it has brought because of restrictions and quarantines. This global situation has only exacerbated an already growing issue more acute and prevailing in people’s lives than was first realized.
Many people on this site claim they have had conversations and made friends, but the friendships have not lasted. I believe the failure here is not in the people they are looking for or in even necessarily because of the poor quality of conversation they may receive. I believe the issue comes down to connection.
They say they are looking for friends, but in this digital world what they are really searching for is connection. A lot of western society has lost that close connection we used to have with people who live in our own neighborhoods. We can know people across the country or on the other side of the world, but don’t know the person who lives next door. Many have lost contact with friends in actual life because of a lack of opportunity to meet in person or because people have moved away. I believe that these people are looking for contact with other people and desperately want to feel connected to this world in an authentic way, not just by living in it, but by being part of it.
Let me go one step further. I believe it is not just that they want physical contact such as a hug or a fist or chest bump, some form of minor mutual affection that says I appreciate you as a person. What they really want is to know that they matter, that they really matter to somebody. That their desire to be needed is vocalized, and that there is some kind of proof that they matter in this world full of billions of people, and they aren’t just some faceless statistic.
Ok, let’s take it one step further again. I believe that people want more than just to be told that they matter, or even more than shown, because after all actions speaker louder than words. I believe people want to be loved. To know without a doubt that someone loves them, not because of what they can do, not because of what they can give, simply because of who they are. In this world of greeting cards and sappy movie scenes, being truly loved, is being truly seen, which means they truly know us. Of course, the biggest problem here is how people understand love.
We claim that because of the internet; it has brought us together, and the world is closer now than it has ever been before because we don’t have to travel great distances to talk to another person on the other side of the world, to learn their culture and see life the way they see it. But I say we are now further apart than we have ever been, disconnected not only from our own local neighbourhoods in actual life, but disconnected and distrusting of everyone on the internet. Can we really know someone online? Can we really know if the person we are talking to or are they who they claim to be or who they say they are? Unlike the real clumsy dynamic friendships in actual life, we can never fully trust those people who are merely just a username on the screen shrouded in a cloak of anonymity. Because of the many stories of those who have abused that trust and perpetrated crimes against people after moving out of cyberspace to contact in a real place, we have even less trust than we did before, even for those around us in real life, we just don’t like to admit it.
If we can’t truly trust anyone, then we can’t trust that anyone can really know us, sometimes even ourselves. So then, we wonder how can anyone truly love us for who we are if no one can truly know us. And we end up with this expectation that everyone has an ulterior motive up their sleeves. Without trust, we cannot be vulnerable and without vulnerability no one can ever get close enough to us to know the real us, our actual identity, or what makes you… You. So we end up creating a false persona of ourselves, one we think people will like. All the time denying our true nature and who we really are inside. Eventually people can lie to themselves so much that they end up believing the lie. Is it really a surprise then that so many people struggle with their own identity? And more to the point, if no one can truly know the real you, how can someone truly love you for who you are? They fall in love with the person they think you are, only to get to know the real you and find out that you are not the person they fell in love with because that personality was just a smoke screen and mirrors much like the great wizard of Oz.
People are now so afraid to be themselves and protect their heart from being hurt, that people are literally starving from a lack of love, actual love, not just the feelings and emotions that pass for love. Genuine love, and it doesn’t have to be romantic but even just between friends, is the ability to know a person. I mean really know a person, to know everything about them, the good and the bad and the ugly and yet even after all that, still love them and appreciate the difference they make in the world and in life. But genuine love is also not only about what you need, it is about the needs of others. Just like respect, if you want a true, undiluted love, then there needs to be risk, and we need to give in order to receive. How much better would the world be if everyone was more concerned with the needs of others above their own.
But I am not ignorant of the fact that as human beings we can be very selfish, self-absorbed and self-seeking. In essence, caring about another person’s needs above your own is downright abnormal. But that’s what love requires. Unfortunately, too many people put themselves out there only to get hurt by those who simply don’t care how much personal carnage or damage and emotional turmoil they cause. The world is full of lonely people attempting to connect to others while being told that they are worthless and don’t matter by people who care only about their own needs. That uniqueness is an antiquated and anti-social idea.
So what is the answer to this great dilemma we face as individuals and as a world in need? The simple answer is God. In a perfect world we would be told that we all deserve love, we all deserve to be treated with respect and that it matters that we are alive. That the strong shouldn’t overpower and torture the weak and that those who have should be willing to share with those who have not, not just because they can, but because it’s the right thing to do. That in many negative situations this adage should be true that “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”. To be told that we matter that our uniqueness makes us priceless, not worthless. That the world is a better place simply because we exist and our existence changes the world much like throwing a pebble into a pond. There may be no obvious difference, but it forever changes the pond. But unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world. Each person must do what they can in order to work together to make it a better world to live in. If we don’t understand the problem, then how do we fix it.
Ultimately, what the world needs and what it is searching for is God, the love that He offers. To know our creator, the one who created every fibre of our being and knows the number of hairs on our heads and placed that birthmark or freckle in such a place to show his attention to detail. To know that they are a masterpiece created by pure love, a love that you can get lost in, that you can never fully fathom because of its depth. A love that cared so much about you as an individual would choose to live a life of simplicity, of homelessness, of caring so much that they would not only sacrifice their own life, die in your place, but suffer the vengeful, violent, destructive manifest of sin itself, with no personal benefit to himself all in order to redeem you and free you from bondage and oppression. That they don’t need to be worried that He would return their affection, because He chooses them first, even while they were still broken and in bondage to sin and they own selfish desires.
The world searches for love, but when they are told that love exists and that it is freely offered by a person who knows the very depths of your soul and the darkest part of every room in your heart, they deny the very existence of such a person scared by the concept and nature of such a love that could be so encompassing, so real and so powerful that it could literally change their whole life. So afraid of what that love might reveal, they would rather live in darkness than step into the light.
So, in the end, the real tragedy is that the greatest answer that people search for, the need for friends, for connection, the need to matter to someone, ultimately to be loved for who they really are, is right in front of them, but they don’t believe it. Only those who are courageous enough to risk everything, release total control over their life and admit that they can’t do it by themselves and that they need help, will find out what is behind that door and are the ones who will truly find the truth and answer to what they are actually looking for.
Written by Amosathar