Lonely? Believe it or not, you aren’t alone. Loneliness affects more people than you might think. Here are some ideas for how you can use technology to feel more connected.
Start a conversation
A simple conversation is a great start. It could be about the weather or about a shared interest, but as long as it’s a meaningful connection with another person, you’re helping to reverse the effects of loneliness.
However, technology can take on some of the heavy lifting for you – did you know you can even have a conversation over text? You don’t have to speak to someone if you’re not comfortable – you can contact a service like Friendline on the phone but also by live chat on your phone or computer, if you’re looking for someone to connect with to talk some things through.
No matter who you talk to, there’s always the question: what do you want to talk about?
A video call can connect you if a phone call isn’t enough
While speaking to someone is a big step forward when you’re experiencing loneliness, there’s a real difference between a chat on the phone and seeing someone’s face – even when that face is on the other side of a screen.
If you’re able, try to plan a time where you and someone you know, or a group of people, can all jump onto a group video call and see each other’s faces. Seeing a smile or a laugh on the other end might just make you smile too.
Supportive conversation how-to guides
The recent R U OK Day showed us that there’s always more to ask after the initial question and gave some tips on how to have a meaningful conversation. Especially if the person you’re talking to isn’t feeling 100%. Spoiler: many of us are not!
Conversations can make a huge difference in turning around feelings of loneliness. And there are online guides on what to say next if you’re struggling, whether it’s to someone you know closely or whether it’s to someone that you work with.
Take part in a live event or group activity from the comfort of your couch
Online group cooking classes, whether you’re planning something informal with a group of friends or joining a professional teaching you alongside complete strangers on Zoom, are a great way to connect (or re-connect) in a low stakes environment.
Your phone or PC is also a portal to support services and tele-health
Throughout the pandemic, support services have been stretched by the sheer number of people presenting with issues that have been exacerbated by the necessary restrictions that have been put in place.
One upside to the upset of the last 18 months has been that many mental health support services have had to move online out of necessity. We’re becoming far more familiar with accessing support services digitally rather than in person – and if you’re experiencing loneliness that feels problematic, this support is around when you need it. Our Telstra Foundation partners ReachOut and Orygen also have a huge range of resources for young people who are struggling with their mental health.
Find a new community
The internet is filled with like-minded people, just looking to share their interests. And new communities pop up every day to help you connect.
A simple search for what you love can reveal that there’s always someone up you can connect with and talk to about what you’re interested in. Discord is a community that could also help, as it gives you the chance to meet up with people who share your interests.
Then there’s everything from Twitter to Facebook Groups that can help you meet new people and practice those conversations!
Robotic companions to keep by your side
There’s a huge amount of research going on into how robots can help humans in their day-to-day lives, whether that’s a flying delivery drone or a friendly chatbot for an online store. Robots can also help people who are experiencing loneliness, and we think they’ll only become more popular for helping people who might not have someone else to talk to – especially in settings like aged care and in education.
Some robots already exist that have been designed to help encourage social interactions, and simply to provide a friendly companion to anyone that needs it. Toyota’s Kirobo Mini, for example, is a 10cm-tall “miniature communication partner” that can respond to questions with casual conversation, as well as learn from the questions you’ve asked it before. Pepper is already helping Australians who have to take a trip to hospital, and robot companions for children are getting more and more advanced by the day.
For more ideas on managing loneliness, visit our Talking Loneliness hub.
If you need help, mental health support services are available through:
Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636
Lifeline – 13 11 14
Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800