COVID-19 has essentially obliterated how we connect and interact with others, which means that as we approach this Valentine’s Day season, the loneliness can feel louder than ever. Unfortunately, especially in the age of digital media, the signs of loneliness are easily overlooked due to the fact that our smartphones and other technological devices can offer a false sense of closeness and connection.
Still, nothing truly takes the place of meaningful human contact and increased yearning for this basic need to be met can sometimes lead people to attempt to fill this void in unhealthy ways. One of the most common ways that people seek to fill the emptiness that they feel is by reaching out to lovers from the past. They mistake their loneliness as a sign that they were somehow meant to be with this person and begin reminiscing on the times that they shared.
There are healthier ways to manage chronic loneliness, but the first step to doing so is accurately identifying the signs of loneliness in the first place.
You find yourself idolizing social media couples
If you’re not a person who subscribes to #relationshipgoals culture, but you find yourself fixated or even idolizing social media couples as of late, it could be a sign that you’re simply yearning for a deeper personal connection with others. You may not actually miss being with your ex at all. You just want to connect with someone in a meaningful way and the way that the couples you follow present themselves on social media makes it appear as though they have the connection that you’re searching for.
You romanticize the idea of being in a relationship
In addition to fawning over social media couples, another sign that you’re struggling with loneliness is that you overly romanticize love and the idea of being in a relationship. You reflect on past relationships and only think about the good times while overlooking the bad times or minimizing the reasons that caused you to end those relationships in the first place.
You’ve been struggling to connect with others
Do you find that you’re having a hard time connecting with loved ones and friends? Do you feel alone and unseen even when in the presence of others? Are all of your conversations superficial and taking place at the surface level, leaving you feeling disconnected all of the time? This is a tell-tale sign of loneliness and may very well be the reason why you’re thinking of your ex. They remind you of a time when you were connected with someone on an intimate level.
You just ended a relationship
The days and weeks following a breakup are tough and they can feel extremely isolating — even when you have a tribe of relatives and friends rallying around you. Romantic partners can make up a large component of one’s social interactions and when a couple is abruptly separated, the absence is heavily felt. As a result, some may seek to fill this void by reconnecting with a different ex.
You really want to go on a date
Dating is great. There is nothing like getting dressed and stepping out with a romantic partner. The great news is that there are a ton of prospective lovers out here who you could be stepping out with. Your ex is not the only person on the planet. If a date is what you want, download some apps and get to chatting. Of course, you’ll want to take some precautions since we’re still in a pandemic.
You’ve been struggling with self-image lately
Another sign that you may be experiencing long-term loneliness is that you’re struggling with low self-worth. As a result, you may seek out a particular ex because being with them reminds you of a time when you felt wanted, loved, appreciated, or worthy. It could be the feeling that you are missing — not the actual person.
You’re suddenly more materialistic than usual
Are you spending more than you typically would? Have you developed an unusual attachment to material things that you didn’t have before?
“It is widely believed that there is a vicious cycle in which loneliness leads to materialism and materialism, in turn, contributes to loneliness,” explains Rik Pieters, a professor at Tilburg University, who authored a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research on the connection between loneliness and materialism. “While materialism can increase loneliness, it may actually reduce loneliness for some consumers. Increasing opportunities for social interaction and improving social skills may be more effective at reducing loneliness than the usual appeals to turn off the television or stop shopping.”
Social media leaves you feeling empty
We all love to lounge around and scroll through our social media platform of choice. However, when you’re already struggling with loneliness, spending hours on social media can exacerbate those feelings. As licensed clinical social worker Sherry Amatenstein explains in an essay for Psycom, “Studies suggest that using Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and similar social media apps to keep in touch with friends and forge off-line connections can add vitality and communion to your life. But if you are spending hours every day using social media mainly as a substitute for real connection, your feelings of loneliness and inadequacy will likely worsen.”
You’ve been binge-watching TV a lot more
We’re all guilty of binge-watching when we stumble across a great television show, but studies have linked chronic binge-watching to loneliness. Researchers found that the more lonely and depressed one study’s participants were, the more likely they were to binge-watch television show after television show.
You’re struggling to sleep
“Diminished sleep quality is one of the many ways in which loneliness gets under the skin, and our findings underscore the importance of early therapeutic approaches to target the negative thoughts and perceptions that can make loneliness a vicious cycle,” said Louise Arseneault, the lead author of a study on the subject that took place at the King’s College London.