Here is the full transcript and summary of Juliana Schroeder’s talk titled “How To Fight Loneliness: Everyday Hacks For A Connected Life” at TEDxMarin conference. In this TEDx talk, behavioral scientist Juliana Schroeder speaks about the paradox of loneliness, how people who are lonely sometimes further isolate themselves, creating a cycle of loneliness.
Listen to the audio version here:
If you’re anything like me, you’ve had moments in life when you feel incredibly lonely. Imagine if you felt that crushing loneliness every single day. Well, an estimated 44 million Americans this year reported exactly that, leading the U.S. Surgeon General to confirm what we already feel, we’re in a loneliness epidemic.
The paradox of loneliness is that people who are lonely don’t want others to think there’s something wrong with them. So they further isolate themselves, creating a cycle of loneliness. Its invisibility is part of what makes it so insidious. Some of my own loneliest moments occurred strangely while I was surrounded by people.
I had just started my first full-time job post-college and it was sapping away all of my energy. I’d wake up early while it was still dark out, load up on coffee and dread, and ride the rush-hour commuter train packed into my seat like a sardine with people on every side of my body.
I felt detached from everyone around me, almost as though I was floating just outside the train looking through the window at myself. But instead of alleviating that detachment by turning to the person sitting next to me and saying, hi, I usually spent my commute scrolling through social media on my phone, taking solace in digital daydreams.
That painful commute led to one good thing. It motivated me to become a psychology researcher and spend my career studying the dynamics of social interaction. I became fascinated with understanding my own irrational behavior.
Why did I spend day after day perpetuating my loneliness even though I was literally surrounded by opportunities to lessen it? On that train, I was faced with the same fundamental social choice all humans have faced since the dawn of time. Should we connect with others or avoid them?