Loneliness in the Modern World – Part One
Part One – Why We Need to GO TO the Grocery Store!
There is a short story that has haunted me ever since I read it in a literature class in college almost twenty years ago. In “The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury, the Hadley family live in a house that does everything for them. The Happylife House cooks their meals, does their cleaning, and even has a nursery that entertains the children by bringing to life whatever the children are imagining. George and Lydia, the parents, are debating the value of letting the house keep doing its job versus turning the house off to spend some time doing everyday tasks for themselves when Lydia makes this profound statement to her husband:
“You look as if you didn’t know what to do with yourself in this house either. You smoke a little more every morning and drink a little more every afternoon and need a little more sedative every night. You’re beginning to feel unnecessary too.”
You are beginning to feel unnecessary too. That is quite the statement. I wonder if Ray Bradbury was having a prophetic moment when he penned this story in 1950 because we seem to have landed ourselves in a similar story. Technology allows us to create homes that do a lot for us as well as have just about everything we need, and so much more, shipped right to our doorsteps. It is possible in today’s world to never leave our house and still live a pretty satisfactory existence. We can connect with each other through screens. Pay our bills online. And, yes, just like in the story, we can put our kids in front of technology to entertain them and keep them quiet. However, I am proposing we go to the grocery instead before it’s too late.
When we actually leave our homes and interact with other humans, we are less likely to be lonely or feel unnecessary. Outside of our homes, we can see and touch other human beings and while this can be frightening, it is also empowering. Interacting with one another face-to-face reminds us of all that is good and right in our worlds. A smile, a touch, a warm word make us feel seen, valued, and yes, necessary. It isn’t that we can’t gain that same effect through a screen; it is that it doesn’t have the same impact.
Think about it. If I receive a hundred birthday messages on Facebook, I feel good, but I know deep down it only took a few seconds for each person to click on the message reminding them it is my birthday and to write a few words of celebration. If I open my snail mailbox on my birthday to find several cards with hand-written messages, my heart swells a bit and I feel a surge of joy because I know someone took the time to find a card that fit me, write a personal message in the card, and mail the card to me. If a group of friends and family gather around a meal and bring gifts to celebrate my birthday, I will leave feeling connected, loved, valued, and definitely not alone because we spent time laughing together, telling stories, hugging each other, and most importantly stepping into face-to-face interaction with one another.
It is obvious how loneliness forms so quickly in the modern world where we depend so heavily on our technology devices to connect us. The simple act of shopping at an actual store where we interact with actual people is essential because not every day can be a birthday gathering. Every small interaction with other physically present human beings is a step towards connection and away from loneliness.
Go to the grocery store at least once a week. Use the lines that have an actual person to pay for your items. Smile at a minimum of three people while you are at the store and converse with at least one person. If you don’t, you might find yourself eaten by the lions (read “The Veldt” to understand what I mean).
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