Another social dilemma: pandemic loneliness

Mitav Nayak ’22 and The Social Dilemma – Ryan Rodack ’21

Humans are social creatures. Whether we realize it or not, our social interactions bring us happiness.

     In his book Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, social neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman writes, “Love and belonging seems like a convenience we can live without, but our biology is built to thirst for connection because it is linked to our most basic survival needs.”

     Students’ emotional connections are more impactful than they realize. Solitude can lead an adolescent to become more stressed and possibly even depressed. Through COVID-19, teens have had dramatically less contact with others. School closures and people staying home have caused kids to stay in their rooms or behind a screen instead of interacting with others.

     Pre-COVID, a 2018 British survey found, “More than one-in-ten children have reported suffering loneliness in the Office of National Statistics’ first-ever report into child loneliness. A total of 11.3 percent of children surveyed reported that they were often lonely with the feeling most prevalent for kids aged between 10 and 12.”

     The recent lack of social contact wears on students. Online schooling is not the same as being in an in-person class. The total that it is taking on many teenagers’ mental health is being overlooked by many.

If they admit to it or not, their peer interaction greatly affects their happiness. 

If they admit to it or not, their peer interaction greatly affects their happiness. 

     Not only does it improve mental health, but the interaction increases competitiveness. With many kids doing worse in their classes, interacting with other students would not only make them happier, but also more competitive.

     Despite the evidence that suggests how important social interaction is, many adolescents do not value social connection enough, and, worse, they are not taught or told how important these interactions are, and therefore do not really know any better than to stay sheltered in their rooms instead of going out and seeking a social encounter. 

     Over the course of the pandemic, isolation has worsened, and the only way to fix it is to start bringing more awareness to the topic.