There is a tendency for people to ‘big-up’ their lives when posting on social media: I recently watched a BBC programme on loneliness which was terribly sad, and in which a young student talked about how hard it is to post the truth about your life, when your life is not going well.
Loneliness is a hard thing to admit to – it seems tantamount to an admission of some sort of failure as a human being. Yet as I can testify from my own experience, it is not necessarily anything to do with you as a person. Sometimes you can just find yourself in a situation where it’s really hard to meet people. When I was living in London I found it extremely hard to make friends; you couldn’t so much as strike up a conversation at a bus stop without others thinking you were a loony, and even when you did meet someone they were quite likely to live miles away. There is little or no context for friendship – when I left London I had some friends who lived round the corner – but only for a while before they were scattered to the winds: I had one friend in Hounslow, one in Ealing, one in Twickenham, and so on. You just didn’t bump into people. whereas in Leicester we know hundreds of people and there is a context to those relationships – church or work or Quaker meeting or CND – within which those people know each other. You are part of a social framework. Just the other day we met the owners of a house we were looking at and it turned out we had several friends in common and that they lived next door to Holly’s erstwhile best friend.
Another problem which can make you feel a failure is lack of money. If you fail to earn enough for your needs, you can feel like a totally inadequate human being. You can feel as if you haven’t quite grown up. Like loneliness it can disbar you from taking part fully in society; you can end up feeling marginalised and excluded. Of the two, I much prefer being poor and having lots of friends (not to mention a family) but neither is very comfortable.