Going it alone
as wonderful as Valentine's Day can be if you're in love it can be a little tough for those who are
aloneour cover story is reported by Susan Spencer an avid musician John Francis likes to let his banjo do the talking and at one point that was the only talking he did so your 27th birthday rolls around yeah what happened I said you know I have to do something really different I'm not gonna speak for a day a day a day just today but that one day turned into two days then a week than a month and finally I can't get my head around this you did not say one word to another human being for 17 years yeah literally that's right at 27 Francis decided to stop talking period and he stuck with that decision until he was 44 years old there were about four times when by accident I did speak when I bumped into someone at the grocery store and I said excuse me you know it or I was watching I was Charlton Heston was on television hold his hand down the Red Sea parted and I just went oh my god he spent those quiet years hiking camping and making art he says he didn't really miss conversation it wasn't working for him anyway I would listen just enough to think I knew what someone was
goingto say it and I'd stopped listening which in effect cuts communication that feeling of being disconnected went hand in hand was something bigger loneliness I think I was lonely before I started this in the sense that I didn't want to be
alonewith myself and that...
makes you lonely but anyone who feels lonely is far from
aloneaccording to a recent study nearly half of Americans now say they sometimes or always feel
aloneand one in five says they rarely or never feel close to anyone to be lonely do you have to be
aloneno because it's about the quality of your connections with people it's not just how many friends you have it's about do those friends know you authentically former Surgeon General dr. Vivek Murthy made headlines when he called loneliness and epidemic he even says loneliness can be fatal the increased mortality associated with loneliness is equal to the increased mortality we see with smoking 15 cigarettes a day come on yeah and you know what it's in fact greater than the mortality associated with obesity it doesn't matter who you are or even how old you are the assumption that many people often have is that it's older people who are lonely but it turns out youth and young adults who may have the highest rates of loneliness you think younger people may be more likely to be lonely than older that's what some recent studies have in fact indicated and especially among Millennials the ever-present phone may in part be why these are the people who use the social media the least ignore the most and look at this I mean this is amazing the higher it is the more your odds of feeling lonely dr. Bryan Primack at the University of Pittsburgh heads the Center for Research on media technology and health he...
says the more social media we use the lonelier we are likely to be this is totally counterintuitive say I have 3,000 Facebook friends why am i lonely one is this idea of social comparison people are able to take 3 400 pictures of themselves and post that one that makes them look like they are that much more thin or that much more attractive or that much more successful the impression from the outside can easily be on social media wow I can't measure up with my very normal life we interviewed a professor who believes that social media has contributed enormously to people feeling
aloneyeah I'm gonna have to agree with that someone said just recently to me that if you have four really good friends you're lucky you're you're a lucky person as opposed to four thousand like or a thousand likes you know it's not new that technology is in our homes radio was in our homes television came in our homes how is this different I think with regard to things like radio and television you still can think of them as a little bit more of a social experience you're not gonna be gathering around my Facebook page it's ready whether or not social media is to blame loneliness is not unique to this country the UK government has now developed a Minister for loneliness you're kidding no what does the Minister of loneliness do well the minister of loneliness tries to figure out why people are lonely and then figure out what kinds of interventions might help smooth...
that out sounds like a lonely job if the US had a minister of loneliness psychotherapist Tracy ruble might be it I believe that everybody gets lonely period with that in mind a few times a month ruble and her team set up impromptu offices on the streets in San Francisco you want to be listened to we're a community listening project listen to total strangers for free when you first proposed this idea how did your colleagues react was crazy but four years later her project called sidewalk talk is thirty two hundred volunteers strong in 48 cities around the world but most people would think that well I don't want to tell a stranger that actually people open up to strangers more easily than they do to people they know a few months ago I had a young guy sit down and he said to me I didn't realize it's just fresh out of college that work was
goingto be like this that I would sit in a cubicle all day looking at a screen talking to no one and he didn't say anything else he just sat and cried for about 10 minutes and then he said oh great I feel so much better thank you and then he left which do you think is lonelier to to be with people and not feel that you're fully communicating or to actually physically be by yourself the loneliest that I felt was when I was with someone but I was still lonely John Francis started talking again in 1990 that part of his personal journey he says was over I climbed a mountain and at this bottom of this mountain I was lonely...
and on the way up I found that no you're not lonely you're just