We inevitably find ourselves here.
You would think that in a world more digitally connected than we've ever been, people would experience loneliness less than they ever have, but the opposite is true. New outlets such as the New York Times, medical communities like Harvard Medical School, and studies across Universities have come to a conclusion loneliness is an epidemic. Particularly in America.
While millennials are often the subject of critique for being narcissistic, phone addicted savages, a new study according to Pew Research suggests that as problematic as that is for millennials, it's not getting any better for the generation rising underneath them. The study shows that nearly half of Generation Z (those born in 1996 or after) says they are "constantly" on their phones. There were a handful of teens from Gen-Z interviewed for the article, and while many of them testified to the connectedness they feel while on their phones through social media use, those feelings are not reciprocated in their answers on the study.
I bring that up because the newest wave of freshmen attending college were born in 1999-2000. I know... Wild.
Loneliness is an epidemic, and it's taking the current generation of college students hostage. Some of you may think, "Well, Luke. My phone isn't killing me and social media isn't killing me, it's not a big deal." But you would be mistaken. This loneliness we feel from trying connect to a fake version of people, by presenting a fake version of ourselves, through a digital means of communication is killing us. The loneliness we feel as a result of our habits is increasingly linked to diabetes, heart disease, depression, and early death.
Hear me when I say this, I am not bashing the use of a cell phone or social media. I have a phone, I use social media. Honestly, Twitter is my newspaper. All I'm saying is that balance is required. The more time you spend seeking connectedness outside of real conversations with real people, the more lonely you feel. At this point, it's science.
It seems to be of paramount importance that people would put their phone away, look one another in the eyes, and be genuinely interested in each other's lives. You may think conversations online are real conversations, but you will say things online that you would never say in person. It's much harder to watch someone react to something hurtful than to say whatever you want with no repercussions. It's much harder to feel like you're living the same life as others when you see filtered photos, but in person you see the pimples on their face and the scars on their nose.
It's amazing how technology has advanced.
When I was a freshman in college in 2011, I didn't have Instagram. I think I had Twitter but I never used it, I didn't have Facebook, I didn't even have an iPhone! But that year was still the loneliest I have ever been in my life, why? Because I didn't have community. I had opportunities to find solace in different communities, but I knew that if I joined certain organizations or groups of people, they would take me places that I was never meant to go.
As a result of my decision to wait for God to reveal the right community, I had to spend time alone with Him. I wanted my time of feeling lonely to still be a time where I learned something. Loneliness is defining or destructive. I wanted it to be a defining point in my life, and I want that for you. I don't want you to become one of the statistics that I listed above. You will find yourself in moments where you feel alone, but you can know definitively that you are never truly alone.
Jesus said in Matthew 28:20, "I am with you always."
What a life-changing truth. I notice how in Scripture, it always mentions that Jesus would go off alone to pray, not that He would be isolated. There is a difference between being alone and being isolated. Being alone is often healthy, but being isolated is terrifying. If you're alone, you are in a season where there is purpose to the loneliness you feel, it can draw you into deeper intimacy with God, but you're still open to surrounding yourself with the right community. Isolation is a conscious decision to never be around people. You go off on your own, you don't want to be seen or known by others.
We were never meant to do life alone. Scripture reveals it, statistics support it, and Jesus promise to see us through it. Don't let a season of loneliness destroy you, let it be a defining moment in your life. I'm praying it will be.
He is with you, always.
Catch up with Luke on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook: @lukelezon