OnHealthy

Reaction to reading Sue Bourne’s article in The Guardian exploring loneliness.

In this fascinating article Sue Bourne writing in The Guardian explores loneliness.

I found her finishing statement particularly powerful and resonant

‘People of all ages missed someone to do nothing with. To chat idly. To sit next to. Part of me feels we have to train ourselves to enjoy solitude more. And perhaps also work harder at being kind to others and creating new support networks to replace the traditional ones, now lost.’

I’ve often found myself reading articles that explicitly place loneliness as the preserve of the elderly. The people who have had, and lost, friends and family or who are now retired and can’t get out as much. It’s clear to see how these reasons could all contribute to a feeling of loneliness however I believe that feeling of not having ‘someone to do nothing with’ can hit home to people of any age in a whole range of situations:

New single parents, carers of loved ones with dementia or other debilitating disorders, people suffering with mental health conditions, those being bullied or those who are displaced due to war, religion etc.

With the nuclear family a thing of the past and families now often spread over counties, countries and even continents is there now a role for technology in resolving loneliness? Can a gadget become the missing link? In her article Sue suggests creating new support networks and this is an area where technology can play a really vital role.

Social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and too many more to name, can all help people feel included, involved, part of something bigger. But with growing risks of cyberbullying, trolling and deception do the negatives outweigh the positives? For millions of people, being able to chat around the clock, finding and catching up with distant old friends and school chums and sharing in the good news and excitement of others is a wholly positive experience. But when it does go wrong the outcome can be tragic.

We have recently heard Rally Round being described as a ‘social network’. In some senses this is a very apt description – it does allow groups of family, friends, neighbours etc. to get together, to ‘chat’, discussing tasks and caring situations etc. However one of the biggest barriers to use currently are fears around ‘security’. We believe Rally Round offers many of the same positives – the chat, the sharing of good times and accessing help and support from others no matter how distant – but with extra layers of protection including invite only networks managed by a trusted co-ordinator. Strangers cannot ‘find you’, you only give access to people you know and trust. Plus nobody outside your network will ever be able to read what you are writing.

So we will just have to see what difference a perceived connection or similarities between Rally Round and several of the world’s biggest websites, online services etc. makes, whether it helps reduce safety concerns or heightens them. But in the meantime don’t go reading ‘1984’ or you’ll never trust anyone again.

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