In the animated featurette “Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore,” the titular Eeyore spends most of his day looking morose. The rest of the Hundred Acre Woods crew find him struggling to stay afloat in the river after Tigger bounced him in, and they attempt to rescue him with adverse effects. In response to the characters asserting that Tigger should be more considerate, Eeyore sadly replies, “Why should Tigger think of me. Nobody else does.” He also later states that “no body minds. Nobody cares. Pathetic, that’s what it is.”
In today’s world with beautiful photographs of gatherings complete with the #squad over-saturating social media, it can be difficult to not to feel left out when it appears that others seem to be getting together without you, and thus, do not care about you. You may even feel similar to Eeyore in “Winnie-the-Pooh” when the self-deprecating donkey quips, “I have my friends. Somebody spoke to me only yesterday. And was it last week or the week before that Rabbit bumped into me and said ‘Bother!’ The Social Round. Always something going on.”
University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross documented in a recent study that Facebook actually frequently makes users feel sad and lonely, contrary to its supposed purpose. However, no matter how lonely you may feel, it may not be true.
In some cases, as in Eeyore’s friends — in all their perfectly imperfect selves — are inherently human in spirit. Imperfect people inevitably create situations fraught with imperfection. In other words, those friends who posted their #squad pictures most likely had a lot on their mind and may have forgotten to call. When people focus so narrowly on what is directly in front of them, it is often hard to recognize anything out of their immediate peripheral. We are all NPCs in another person’s world.
The feeling of loneliness is a universal one. It is estimated that one in five Americans suffers from persistent loneliness despite the increase in social media connectivity. There is some point in everyone’s lives when they experience that moment when they think, “I am all alone.” It is why this year’s John Lewis Christmas Advert “Man On The Moon” about a young girl reaching out to an elderly man isolated on the moon has resonated so strongly around the world. Yet, there is a societal stigma about being all alone that prevents people from discussing loneliness for fear of others thinking they are weird.
Loneliness, unlike solitude, is not isolation by choice. It indicates a discomfort or emptiness associated with being alone.
For the chronically lonely, there is actually neuroscientific explanation. A recent study conducted at the University of Chicago by husband and wife research team, Stephanie and John Cacioppo, and their colleague Stephen Balogh, provided evidence that lonely people’s brains are wired differently than their non-lonely counterparts.
Those who identified as lonely were overly alert to the differences between social and nonsocial threats and more focused on the negative. In contrast, non-lonely people focused on both positives and negatives.
Eeyore, with his self-deprecating, cup-half-empty point of view, is part of the lonely group, who inherently views his surroundings negatively. However, when he disclosed his sadness to his friends, they rallied together and worked to help ameliorate his lonely and self-deprecating feelings.
The next time you feel like Eeyore and claim “no presents. No cake. No candles,” perhaps, you will be surprised as he when he discovered his friends planned a surprise party all along. If not, reach out and discuss with others why you are feeling lonely and take comfort in that the fact that you are not alone.