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Y so lonely?

Are you lonely?

It sounds like a question that Joey would ask Pacey, right? So much has the idea of ‘loneliness’ been hijacked by mass media, asking if a friend feels alone might seem tacky or eye roll-worthy. But apparently, Gen Y is one of the loneliest groups in society.

Over the past few weeks the results of this Relationships Australia survey have been circulating online and in print media. The most quotable result of the study is that young people who use multiple forms of media to socialise with friends are likely to be much more lonely than those who use good ol’ fashioned face to face communication.

The idea that the more connected we are, the more lonely we become, is not a new one. The results of the study are interesting though, because of the manner in which the mass press have insisted on talking about social media
and loneliness in youth, despite it clearly not being that simple.

Loneliness and ‘burn out’ are not at all uncommon in students and youth generally. This week, a Summit on Mental Health in Tertiary Students is meeting in Melbourne to talk about the broad range of factors that have lead to increased depression, anxiety and loneliness in youths. The online world may be one of these factors, but it is not the only one. That old ‘uni bludger’ commentary is still going strong. Despite this, the Summit claims that there is ‘a growing incidence of mental health difficulties and mental illness on campus[es].’

We’ve heard the ad campaigns and probably received pamphlets in high school about looking out for mates. What’s worth keeping in mind though is just how complex and varied loneliness and other issues are. Keeping an open mind about the factors in your own emotions, as well as that of your friends, can help you deal with them more calmly.

Think about how many things you are expected to do in your life at the moment. Work? Study? Exercise? Socialise? Communicate? Budget? Extra curriculars? Career prep? Facebook? It’s remarkably easy these days to feel like you’re ticking boxes towards perfection. Your diary might be overflowing with events. Or it might not be, and that’s totally fine. But the emphasis that is placed on doing things can be a factor in feeling lonely or completely overwhelmed.

It’s not enough to just study these days, or be at work full time. Many people judge how ‘together’ someone is by their list of day to day accomplishments. Not working while you’re studying is considering free-loading. Having a variety of hobbies can make you appear ‘more together’ than someone who just sticks to the one.

Feeling like there’s no way out of all the commitments you’ve signed up for can be an incredibly lonely time. This is made more tricky by the fact that we all say we are coping. Claiming tiredness can still be considered whining, although so much work has been done to emphasise mental illness as genuine and acceptable.

No claims to expert opinion are being made here, but online resources such as Headspace emphasise that we should talk confidently and broadly about mental health issues. It probably isn’t just a case of social media that is cutting Gen Y off from the world. There are always a variety of causes.

Maybe we can use these articles about our generation as an opportunity to continue talking about mental health openly. Perhaps ask someone if they are feeling lonely, without worrying that it’ll sound cheesy. Or simply remind each other that it’s okay to take a break from ticking boxes; this doesn’t mean you can’t cope with life.

But if things are feeling a bit difficult, remember that there are resources that might help you, and people who will listen. Kids Help Line is a counselling service for children and young people aged 5 to 25, and can be reached on 1800 55 1800. Lifeline also has a 24 hour crisis line on 13 11 44.

(Image credit: 1.)

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