The Stigma of Saying ‘I’m Lonely.’

One of the few things, and there aren’t many, that I’m too scared to say on Facebook or Twitter is that I feel lonely, and that’s because I’m worried people will think I’m weird. In truth, they probably would. Saying you’re lonely implies that you don’t have enough people in your life. The word ‘lonely’ paints a picture of a person with no actual friends, and someone who isn’t close to their family. At least, this is how I feel I would be portraying myself if I were to confess publicly to feeling alone, but it isn’t necessarily the case.

In the modern world we tend to be surrounded by hundreds of people, but most of them are acquaintances, rather than real friends. It’s especially the case with students. We add hundreds of people to our list of ‘friends’ on Facebook, but how many of these people could we actually ring up (if we even have their phone number), and ask for help with a problem, or ask for a shoulder to cry on, even ask to come out for a drink? Last Christmas, the one just gone, I sent out a message over Facebook to about forty of my friends, asking for their address. It occurred to me, as someone who is reluctant to yield to modernity, that I see these people every day, sit next to them in lectures, go out with them for evenings of drinking and laughing, share stories and jokes with them, have real friendships, and yet I don’t know where they live. I had phone numbers for a few of them, but no postal addresses. So I sent out this message, and received a fair few answers, and so I compiled an old-fashioned address book (I bought a Filofax. I’m very happy with it), and when December came I sent out Christmas cards to all of them, just like grown-ups did in the olden days.

Our friendships, and most of our day-to-day lives, are conducted entirely over the internet, through social networking sites like Facebook. I for one feel that we’re losing the traditional relationships and friendships that we used to have. I miss the days when you had one phone number, and you would say things like ‘find me in the book’, and would have to make sure you took ten pence with you when you went out so you could ring home. In those days, friends were friends. These days, we get along with people, we see their holiday pictures and know what they had for tea, we offer advice or support when they need it, we share their ups and downs, and all the details of their life, but if I’m being honest, of the people on my Facebook list, there are only a few that I feel able to ring up and ask to come out for a drink. That’s not to say that there aren’t lots of people on that list that I’d love to ask for a drink; there are, but I feel that if I did, they’d think I was weird. It’s a new social boundary. These new friendships aren’t based on solid foundations, like the old ones. Being someone’s Facebook friend often means you met them once when out in the pub, or you know them to say ‘hello’ to from some extra-curricular club. These people aren’t prepared for you to suddenly invite them round for pizza… are they? Perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe they’d be delighted and flattered, and would love to build a more personal friendship. Maybe it’s me who’s too cautious. Maybe I’m the problem.

I have less than ten really good friends. By ‘really good friends’, I mean friends that have been in my life since I was thirteen, eleven, even four in some cases. These are friends I trust, and who really know me. I have 176 friends on Facebook, some of whom I haven’t spoken to in years. They are Facebook friends, but are they actually friends? There are so many of them who I’d love to meet up with, have a drink and a laugh with, who I’d love to know better. There are girls I’d love to go shopping with, but I always feel that if I invite them, they’d wonder why the hell I was asking them to go out, when they barely know me. Maybe that’s the point. The friends I’ve know since I was eleven already know whether or not I’m funny, weird or normal, how I feel about certain things, whether I’m being serious if I take the piss out of them, they know my sense of humour. It’s a frightening thing to suddenly talk to people who don’t know those things. Often, I post a comment on someone’s facebook then panic in case they don’t realise I’m joking. What about those people who have 700, 800, 900 friends on Facebook? How many of those hundreds of people would really classify as friends?

So, where did this all start? This blog wasn’t supposed to be about Facebook, but why it isn’t acceptable in today’s society to admit to feeling lonely. It stands to reason that most of us are. If we’re single, especially if we’ve been single for a long time, and we don’t get out as often as we should, and if our friends live at other ends of the country, as most of them often do, why is it so shameful to utter the word ‘lonely’? Is it because it implies weakness? It is because we think other people will automatically assume that we’re lonely for good reason, that we’re boring, horrendous people, who deserve to be lonely because no-one could bear to be friends with us? I don’t know, actually. I wish I did. What I do know, is that it should be easier to reach out to each other. There shouldn’t be a barrier between us, like there is. We should be able to hold out a hand to anybody, anywhere, and say ‘Hi, do you fancy a drink?’. Maybe that would make us even weirder, and even lonelier, I don’t know.

10 Responses to “The Stigma of Saying ‘I’m Lonely.’”

  1. 1 Bob Hamilton April 9, 2011 at 12:15 am

    That’s a beautifully written post. Wonderful how you come across things at just the right time. Something to sleep on. Thank you!

    • 2 Vikki Littlemore April 9, 2011 at 12:19 am

      Thank you so much for your comment, it really means a lot, and makes me feel like it’s worth writing what I write, if even one person appreciates it. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  2. 3 Candis Jean April 16, 2011 at 5:34 am

    A dear friend of mine has starting posting things like “who wants to come over for breakfast tomorrow?” as a way to break the voyeuristic streak of facebook. At first, I had a moment where I thought “Oh, honey, that’s just… well… sad?” And then I thought about it.
    It isn’t sad to ask people in your virtual life to join your real life.
    I often think about just deleting my facebook account, because I don’t need friends from high school delving into my “what I do now”. I un-tag all photos of nights out with good friends at the bar, because I don’t want to seem like a lush—just like I un-tag every cigarette in my hand, because I don’t want to explain that I am unhealthy.
    Facebook isn’t me, it’s the ideal me that other people can’t nit-pick.
    Love the post, thanks for the link—and good luck with getting out of the virtual rut. I wish more people would try to.

  3. 4 Tino11 April 21, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    I am not so macho as to not confess to being lonely.
    Up until 3 yrs ago, I had good friends, real and online [or so I thought] but when I became ill, most of them disappeared fasten than the rats on a sinking ship.
    Next time you meet someone, and you ask them if they are ok, pay attention to the response and your own reaction to it, that will reveal a great deal about yourself.
    I ask that question often, and when/if some one says they are down, depressed, in trouble, I say, lets have a coffee and you can tell me whats up. Sadly, when I needed someone to say that, there was no one there. Thats why I listen now, I dont hear anymore, I listen.
    Thought provoking material, enjoying reading some of your posts.

    • 5 Vikki Littlemore April 21, 2011 at 12:29 pm

      Thank you for all your lovely comments. It really means a lot to me, and I’m glad you’re enjoying reading, it makes it worthwhile. I know what you mean about asking whether people are okay. There is this custom, particularly in the north, of saying ‘Hiya, are you alight’, and the other person says; ‘Yeah, are you?’, and then you reply ‘yeah’, and then usually carry on walking straight past them. Neither party really wants a more detailed answer than that, or a more personal response. In fact, you’re sort of obliged to give the usual ‘Yeah, are you?’ and nod, because anything more personal, such as; ‘Not really, I’m feeling really low today’, would suddenly make the other person feel uncomfortable, and they’d be looking for a way to get away from you, thinking you’re one of those weird people. I think we should be more honest, and tell people how we really feel, so that when we really are ‘Okay’, it means something.

      Thanks again for taking the time to read my posts, I really appreciate your input.

  4. 6 Bob January 18, 2012 at 1:10 am

    Part of the problem may be purely one of perspective.

    You “only” have ten really good long-term friends? In those quaint times gone by you write about, that would be a lot of good friends. In that time most adults over 30 could count the really good long-terms friends they’d had since their youth on the fingers of one hand.

    Perhaps the difference is in how they experienced those firendships. You saw your friends, went out with them. Being interested in their lives wasn’t “creeping”, and you were under no pressure to have 175 pretend friends and a fabulous life with no time for real friends.

  5. 7 juttaghold April 5, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    Beautiful post. Cold, cold world, isn’t it! I look at facebook as an intrusion into my personal space. And it’s just so strange how some people collect friends like they are collecting china. Friends that when trouble comes, they run and leave you to your misery. Makes me wonder if they are even worth having around at all. Too many fake people on facebook, I just can’t stand. I love your post! Thanks for writing.

  6. 8 MackenziLee August 12, 2012 at 4:55 am

    This was great! I think we also have a difficult time telling the difference between being alone and being lonely. I’ve experienced this whole “I know a lot of people but don’t really have a lot of friends” thing a lot recently because I’ve lived in four different places in three years.
    Also, facebook bugs the crap out of me. I hate how much I hate it, and yet I’m constantly on it. It’s changed the way we communicate, and how we look at the world. I hate every moment I am experiencing something in my life and the first thing I think is, “Oh! I need to tell everyone about this on facebook!” We really just use it as a tool to feed our own egos rather than communicate with people.
    *end rant*
    great post though. I love your writing luv.

  7. 9 jandupuisvictoria August 4, 2014 at 2:21 am

    This is a very interesting article. There is a real stigma with loneliness yet it is such a normal part of the human condition. If you have 10 good friends, consider yourself very fortunate.

  8. 10 LWolfe December 12, 2015 at 6:20 am

    Clinical depression has less of a stigma than loneliness these days, which is strange…because isn’t loneliness part of the human condition everyone experiences at some point? I wonder how many depressed people are really just lonely. In my experience, though, talking about loneliness is more awkward for people than just about anything else.

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Sylvia Plath said; "Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences". My aim in life is to find things and people to love, so that I can write about them. Putting words together is the only thing I can see myself doing. This blog is an outlet, and I hope you enjoy reading it. Please feel free to comment on posts, or contact me by the special e-mail I've set up ( with your thoughts.

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The New Remorse, Oscar Wilde.

The sin was mine; I did not understand.
So now is music prisoned in her cave,
Save where some ebbing desultory wave
Frets with its restless whirls this meagre strand.
And in the withered hollow of this land
Hath Summer dug herself so deep a grave,
That hardly can the leaden willow crave
One silver blossom from keen Winter's hand.

But who is this who cometh by the shore?
(Nay, love, look up and wonder!) Who is this
Who cometh in dyed garments from the South?
It is thy new-found Lord, and he shall kiss
The yet unravished roses of thy mouth,
And I shall weep and worship, as before.

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Music I Love (In no particular order, except that The Smiths are first)

The Smiths,
The Libertines,
The Courteeners,
Nina Simone,
Pete Doherty,
The Kills,
Amy Winehouse,
Arctic Monkeys,
Rod Stewart,
The Doors,
The Rolling Stones,
Etta James,
T. Rex,
The Jam,
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Jack White,
The Deadweather,
David Bowie,
The Winchesters,
The Cure,
Kaiser Chiefs,
The Kooks,
The Twang,
Kings Of Leon,
The Housemartins,
The Ramones,
Robots in Disguise,
The Klaxons,
Kate Nash,
The Raconteurs,
Regina Spektor,
Aretha Franklin,
The Contours,
Dirty Pretty Things,
The White Stripes,
New York Dolls,
Yeah Yeah Yeahs,
The Clash,
Style Council,
Velvet Underground,
The Horrors,
The Cribs,
Reverend and The Makers,
The Subways,
The Wombats,
Elle S'appelle,
The Troggs,
The Beatles,
Echo and the Bunnymen,
Florence and the Machine.

Olive Cotton, Tea Cup Ballet, 1935

Olive Cotton, Tea Cup Ballet, 1935

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One less tree from our window each day

Vikki's bookshelf: read

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Of Mice and Men
Pride and Prejudice
The Hobbit
The Da Vinci Code
Tipping the Velvet
Wuthering Heights
The Picture of Dorian Grey and Other Works by Oscar Wilde
Bridget Jones's Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Irish Peacock & Scarlet Marquess: The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde
The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman
Moab Is My Washpot
The Bell Jar
The Other Boleyn Girl
On the Road
Brideshead Revisited
Revolutionary Road

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