A professional psychologist’s important analysis of the loneliness that gnaws at contemporary Western society: what does it feel like when no one sees you, hears you, or touches you?
Our social existence is grounded in being seen and heard. That’s why ostracism — being unintentionally disregarded or intentionally shut out — is an incredibly hurtful and extremely effective form of violence. Anyone can be targeted, and because aggressors generally act inconspicuously, it’s hard to point fingers.
Where empathy and a sense of belonging inspire us to help others, the experience of being ostracized makes us hide or assume a defensive position. For most of us, the sense that the world is against us is a call to arms.
We can fight for our place in the world by being kind or helpful, but if that does no good, we usually either give up or resort to more extreme measures.
This book serves as a conversation between recent scientific research and the reality of thousands of lonely people, told in their own words. At its heart we find loneliness and ostracism exacerbated by social distance, along with empathy and a desire to help, but also the fear of being hurt and the struggle to justify one’s existence.
When the world stops listening, you give up talking, shout even louder — or discover new ways of building community.
“You’re alive, but nobody knows it. That’s what it feels like. It calls your existence into question. It feels like I don’t have a place, a role, a purpose or any meaning in society, the world, life.”
Niina Junttila, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology, has studied childhood and adolescent loneliness in numerous cross-disciplinary projects at the University of Turku. The results of her research have been published in international academic journals and in the trade book Zero Friends. Loneliness among Children and Youth (2015), which has been published in Finnish, Estonian, and Russian to date.
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