Contemporary loneliness

According to several sociologists, we live an era in which social life and human interaction has been deeply modified. For instance, Zygmunt Bauman, a Polish sociologist, depicts our era as one in which existence is focused on what’s transitory rather than permanent, the immediate rather than the long term, and the value we pose on utility. Actuality emphasizes the value of possessions that lead us to consume incessantly. Certainly, the diversity of contemporary gadgets has replaced human contact. We are alone… with our gadgets. What kind of solitude do we live in? It is definitely not the loneliness that maybe our grandparents felt. Being alone today isn’t the same as it used to be decades ago.

Interpersonal encounters that entail a present body, as opposed to virtual encounters are more rare. Screens have replaced the contact between two bodies. However, it is not about nostalgia of the past but it is about how we experiment, individually, our solitude. It is not a surprise that even accompanied by gadgets, some people still complain of feeling lonely.

Some clever businesses have picked up on it and developed a few years ago, a booming “rent-a-friend-“ industry. In a chronicle of such an experience in Tokyo, a customer reveals her experience of renting a friend in a foreign country. She says: “It’s muggy and I’m confused. I don’t understand where I am, though it was only a short walk from my Airbnb studio to this little curry place. I don’t understand the lunch menu, or even if it is a lunch menu. I’m new in Tokyo, and sweaty, and jet-lagged. But I am entirely at ease. I owe this to my friend Miyabi. She’s one of those reassuring presences, warm and eternally nodding and unfailingly loyal, like she will never leave my side. At least not for another 90 minutes, which is how much of her friendship I’ve paid for”. And she continues: “So why does she do it? Miyabi puts down her chopsticks and explains: It helps people — real and lonesome people in need of, well, whatever ineffable thing friendship means to our species. So many people are good at life online or life at work, but not real life, she says, pantomiming someone staring at a phone. For such clients, a dollop of emotional contact with a friendly person is powerful, she adds, even with a price tag attached”

Interestingly, friendship has become a merchandise that can be bought without much effort. Despite the fact that for some, renting a friend might be a solution to loneliness, not everyone fill the void with such resources. In this scenario, navigating relationships can be confusing, anxiety provoking and thus, leading to isolation. Therapy can offer a unique relationship with someone who could help people better understand relationships and support them in the attempt to briefly give up the screen in order to open the possibility of an interpersonal encounter.