Out of these past seven days, for four of them I have not had a conversation; not a single word exchanged with a single person in real life.
There is nothing particularly strange about me, I'm a 27-year-old woman who can hold a conversation, and has at times even been called interesting. So why is it, then, that no one thought, or felt the need to speak to me for four complete days?
There are a few practical factors involved in answering this:
I work freelance from home, and the people that I live with do not, so during the day, speaking isn't really an option. For these four days, they were away, leaving me to fend for myself (*screams Leann Rimes: 'How do I live'*)
My work involves vast amounts of time spent online; I despise Skype, so much of my contact with others is done via the medium of reading and writing. So in other words, without speaking.
Money is an issue currently, so going out to meet friends is pretty impossible. No money for bus/train/taxi fare, no money for food/drinks/activities, and no wish to walk home alone in the dark make for a very silent few days.
And, the only other thing I can think of: people were too busy, or did not think to speak with me.
Now, don't get me wrong, I love having time to myself, it gives me time to think, time to work, and time to do the boring stuff that no one else will want to watch you doing. But, try as I might, I couldn't deny the overwhelming and alarming sense of isolation that I felt as a result of this. In my moments of biggest despair during the Four Days of Doom (the nickname cheered me up), I found I was asking myself what i'd done wrong; why out of the millions and millions of people populating this earth, did not one single person think to say hi, or even to talk to me about something (ANYTHING) I might be interested in?
Now that I've got that off my chest, I can tell you that my experience of this silence was completely minimal when one compares it to what so many people have, and are, going through on a daily basis. Some of you may have heard about or seen a documentary called 'Dreams of a Life', about a young woman who died, and this went completely unnoticed for three years. How absolutely terrifying, but unfortunately not uncommon.
We, as the human race, are becoming lonelier and lonelier, and we are becoming more afraid or embarrassed to talk about it. Sherry Turkle has talked about the presence of online communities meaning that we are no longer talking as much as we once did. Similarly, John Cacioppo can be seen talking about 'The Lethality of Loneliness', which is an eye-opening watch.
We generally talk about loneliness and isolation in elderly people, which in itself, is heartbreaking, hence why if an older person talks to me on the bus, I will seize that opportunity because even if I'm running late, or I'm not interested in what they are saying, I will darn well listen and pretend I am enthralled. What we haven't acknowledged as much as we should, is that it is not just older people that suffer with isolation, we all are vulnerable to it. My example of the silent four days I spent this week are not astounding, but a sad thing to happen to any person; we all deserve to be heard, and we all deserve to be thought about.
So next time your mind wanders to how that friend of yours is, rather than push that thought to the back of your mind, call them. Next time an elderly person starts talking to you, take the time to listen and talk back. Next time you notice a person (of any age) looking sad or alone, smile at them. If someone is acting in a way you don't like or understand, instead of ignoring them, ask them why.
You never know, you might be the only person they have had contact with in a very long time.