The psychologist reflects on the growing isolation and loneliness among adolescents, who also live in a hyper-connected society
Loneliness among teenagers
The many cases of adolescents locked up in their own are astonishing solitude and away from social relationships despite the constant frequentation of social networks and their perennial connection to the internet. But Why?
It is quite a significant issue as it reflects the very current social system. How effectively digital communication has replaced healthy relationships and made individuals unable to exist without an electronic device.
Adolescence as a period of particular criticality represents an evolution, one growth. At this juncture, children need to confront each other, to show themselves independent from parental figures and, above all, to be accepted by those who, like them, are living the same age. A set of bodily changes, clothing, being looked at and appreciated are of considerable value to them. Therefore any negative comment or judgment, as often happens also on social networks, inevitably involves a closing reaction, especially in those who are more sensitive than others.
To be “connected“Means to participate,” to be part “of the peer group and not having the possibility to do so means to be” excluded “. FOMO i.e. Fear of missing out (Mack & Vaughn, 2012; Murphy-Kelly, 2013) has precisely this meaning (fear of being left out) and in boys this fear is increasingly present, so much so that a form of social anxiety clearly emerges that conditions their behavior: it is therefore something they cannot escape and this leads them to stay for hours attached to your smartphone or to the pc. All this, of course, does not calm their loneliness.
The sense of belonging is not perceived if the relationship with the group is not also encouraged by a real attendance. Children are therefore likely to exhibit introversion and poor communication.
The risks of this loneliness
Teenagers need to to communicate. A simple refusal, a mockery, a departure from the peer group, such as a missed invitation to a party, can cause a emotional isolation with serious consequences on the psychological and behavioral level.
Episodes of particular entity are represented by closing in on oneself or literally “closing in” as in the case of hikikomori, so defined lethargic, noncommunicative and socially isolated boys in their room whose symptoms are the expression of a more serious disorder such as depression, DOC – which includes the phobia of filth – and delusions of persecution. The others and the social context take on ambivalent characteristics and therefore should be avoided as much as possible as they make people uncomfortable and in difficulty.
L’social anxiety that is generated is prodromal to isolation but also to the phenomenon of internet addiction, it is therefore important to have the connection available 24h / 24h. Internet Addiction is no longer controlled (Goldberg, 1997) as it produces the same effects as a drug (carving, tolerance, withdrawal, difficulty in stopping or reducing its use despite the negative consequences in various areas).
The need for approval and the anxiety of recognition are the basis of this disorder. The addiction in this case is behavioral and not substance induced (New, 2017).
THE risks of inner loneliness they can become even more serious and cause the boy to take his own life. Several cases of death from suicide have characterized the media landscape in recent years. The phenomenon must therefore be monitored.
What is it due to?
There are several influencing factors or from which these difficulties arise. First of all, excessive sensitivity, low self-esteem, narcissistic problems, divorce or conflict between parents or family problems, overprotection, difficulty in changing (for example the transition from lower secondary school to upper secondary school), difficulties inclusion in a group of friends, bullying and much more.
How to intervene as parents
Children feel judged, not understood and they also have difficulty in turning to adults figures from whom they try to differentiate themselves and become independent.
To disappear, isolating oneself, sometimes, is the only way to deal with this suffering. Everything, of course, depends on the state of despair they are in and also on their inner resources.
In any case, there are symptoms that are quite evident and cannot be ignored:
I refuse to go to school,
poor academic performance,
tendency to hide,
inadequate self-esteem and little participation in the home,
limited or absent adherence to social life.
All this can be avoided by intervening with delicacy and sensitivity by speaking openly, trying to support him by respecting his times and needs and perhaps by turning to someone who can be of support to the family. Sometimes children just need to be heard and recognized.