The Strength Of Loneliness – & Why Social Media Isn’t Helping

“We are so far away from that sense of community and tribalism that was there hundreds of years ago."

Photo by: mikoto.raw

Loneliness is growing. 

We don’t mean the occasional emotional longing you may feel when your best friend goes on holidays for a week so you have no one to hang out with. 

We’re talking about societal loneliness, which is often normalised, and has the potential to push everyone further and further into isolation. 

Think about your routines; do you work from home so you don’t have to travel to work on public transport and make small talk with your colleagues around the office? Do you order all of your shopping online because it’s just easier? Do you wear earphones when you’re at the gym so people won’t interrupt you?

These habits may seem inconsequential but really by making these choices, we can sometimes be missing out on the casual and deeper human connections that make the difficult days that bit easier. 

The Strength of Loneliness 

A Health at a Glance Report states that Ireland has the third highest rate of mental health illness in Europe, with the main disorders being insomnia, anxiety and depression.

Mia Doring, MIACP psychotherapist and author of Any Girl, says that a “lack of a sense of social inclusion and not having a sense of belonging,” is often considered to be one of the main contributing factors to people being depressed and anxious. 

Photo by; Alex Green

Obviously loneliness is not the only reason why we can feel depressed or anxious. A whole host of issues can lead to such experiences, including sudden life changes, fears of the future, other underlying mental health problems, and more.

But the effects of loneliness shouldn’t be ignored either. In fact, according to the National Institute of Ageing, loneliness can be as damaging to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. 

Noreena Hertz wrote in her bestselling book The Lonely Century, that loneliness triggers a lingering stress response in the body, slowing our immune systems, increasing our risk of heart disease, stroke and dementia, and even increasing our chances of dying prematurely.

Unfortunately, loneliness is widespread across Ireland with an average of one in three Irish adults feeling lonely regularly, according to a survey by AXA in September 2022.

“We are sharing online but not to each other” 

Mia believes that this mass loneliness can be, at least partially, attributed to our dependence on technology. 

“The way we’re all online now is for sure contributing towards people feeling alone,” she says. 

As we know, people often use social media to self-soothe by reacting to posts, responding to DMs, or having conversations with over text.

Mia says digital forms of communication and interaction can actually often serve as a form of false external validation. However online communication can never replace physical connection. 

“By sharing online you can get that sense of love and belonging that we all need to survive without having to take the vulnerable risk,” she says, “but the vulnerable risk with a one-to-one person or friend, that’s what we actually need.”

Photo by; Kelly

“The great thing about human connection is that we don’t feel alone”

According to Mia, “one of the greatest things that helps us heal from trauma, or any sort of difficulty we’re having, is a sense of community and belonging. So if we don’t have that, then we’re isolated.

“We are so far away from that sense of community and tribalism that was there hundreds of years ago. People keep to themselves a lot more. People don’t know their neighbours.”

So, how do we combat this sense of loneliness?

Mia says that we first have to look at how communities support each other on a daily basis. In order to create these strong communities where people can rely on each other, the change has to start with ourselves. 

Photo by: Andrea Piacquadio

“Being more compassionate to ourselves means we can be more compassionate with others,” she says. “Understanding ourselves means we can understand others.”

Mia also points to education as playing a huge role in combatting mental health issues. By teaching school children about psychology and mental illness we can normalise these common human experiences. 

A Mentally Healthy Community 

This year’s European Mental Awareness Week runs from the 22nd to the 28th of May.

The theme is Mentally Healthy Communities, and aims to increase understanding and actively promote education about mental health in our communities, schools, workplaces, and at home. 

When asked what she thinks a mentally healthy community would look like Mia says: “It’s very difficult to imagine.”

“A healthy community would be one that communicates with each other and feels connected to each other, but that could look like a lot of different things.” 

If you want to mark European Mental Health Awareness Week this year, find some connections within your community.

It can be as small as smiling at someone you pass on the street, or having polite chit chat with the person at the checkout.

You never know what kind of difference it might make.

If you’re suffering with your mental health, always contact your GP. If you need someone to talk to right now, call Samaritans on 116 123, or email 

You can also visit to get access to a full directory of therapists.


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