The phenomenon of Urban Loneliness – Is It Myth or Reality?

Posted: August 16, 2018

Chronic loneliness is not an unheard of phenomenon in metropolitan cities, or rather in modern metropolitan Indian cities. What is the truth behind it?

Loneliness can often be mistaken for depression. However, the two are quite distinct. Agreed, that loneliness on more than one occasion tends towards depression, but the converse might not be true. I am not an expert on the topic, yet here, I will try to lay out a layman’s perspective of the persistent problem of loneliness.

Why is loneliness so prevalent in our society today?

Simply because of the growth of the concept of individualism, in my opinion. Traditionally, in an Indian society an individual is expected to always abide by the family wishes. The trend is gradually but definitively changing.




Indian parents with their aspirational motives generally send their children to colleges/universities in metropolitan cities, which is often a potpourri or an amalgamation of cultures. Exposed to the ideals of urbane mannerisms these children adapt and mold to ideas revolutionary to their parent’s staid belief systems. Exceptions of open, liberal households are of course present, however they are unfortunately numbered.

This gives rise to hitherto unheard of habits, likes and influences such as a cultivated affinity towards western content (in the form of TV shows/movies or more recently Netflix) music, lifestyle etc. Suddenly a young adult finds himself/herself facing or dealing with situations previously unheard of, quite possibly for which a sheltered upbringing had left him/her unprepared.

This cultural juxtaposition often acts as a two way traffic. On one hand metropolitan culture, lifestyle (generously peppered with urban upcoming trends like travel/fashion/blogging/photography etc) tends to expand the mind and help formulate opinions, involvement or drive passions. Contrarily this expansion or exultation often acts as an injection of isolation.

As the years go by, and this young adult metamorphoses into a new breed of culturally refined, well read, opinionated and liberal citizen, but the itch of loneliness becomes increasingly pronounced. From the issue of forming everlasting bonds of friendships, to cultivating professional contacts, to the ever imminent question of finding love, every aspect of human interaction goes through several layers of scan or security check. The echo chambers we force ourselves into tend to hold our faculties in a tight grip.

Therefore, is the phenomenon of urban loneliness really a myth?

Or is it just an issue evolved out of our so called pseudo intellectual progress? It is hard to say. Research suggests that, the possibility of facing loneliness picks up from the age of 30. Loneliness is often identifies with a general lack of purpose, dissatisfaction with life and living individually in a city almost doubles the risks. City dwellers are increasingly impacted by social fragmentation, noise, lack of control, stress at work, subordination and overcrowding. Loneliness if it persists over longer duration also leads to depression and tends towards self harm or suicidal tendencies. Despite the rapid rise of this phenomenon, loneliness is not diagnosed as a medical condition. Symptoms often help with identification while also mixing it up with depression, anxiety. However, the distinction is often evident.

In conclusion, the rise of this trend is fairly recent. I have often heard it spelled out as a gap or an issue persistent with our generation. Perhaps it is or perhaps it isn’t. I believe that loneliness had always been present as an undercurrent in our society, however, it’s foray into the mainstream media is probably credited to the information explosion which is a gift of our digitally connected generation. In an age of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc, sharing comes easy and the hunger for validation is more marked. The more digitally connected we seem to be, factual or humane aspects become more impaired. One can only imagine the societal structure in the times of the millennial or the Gen Z, coming of age. Nevertheless, society (not just Indian society) is in a state  of constant evolution and it largely does ensure survival of the fittest. What could we do to hold the trap doors open? Maybe quite simplistically form better or more meaningful relationships. We could dedicate some downtime to ourselves, disconnect from the clutter every once in a while and pursue an interest. Reach out, talk, meet, share. Maybe we could take a cue from our traditional Indian belief system and learn to believe in the concept of constructing a framework of exchange. This would definitely not only be family or relatives, but people whom we come to identify with, over a period of time. Maybe people with similar value system. After all, for us, association does come more naturally. And traditionally so does acceptance, assimilation, tolerance. One simply just needs to reach out.

First published at author’s blog

Image via Pexels

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Manojita loves to write alongside her regular 9-5. Flair for language, poetry, art etc

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