Living Madly: Hello?

Photo credit: Alexa Foto

Living Madly: Hello?

By Emilie-Noelle Provost

I’ve read several articles lately that discuss the problem of loneliness and what can be done about it. Over the past several years, it seems, the lack of human connection has become a problem for people of all ages.

Even if loneliness doesn’t affect you personally, you don’t have to be a sociologist to see that we’re more disconnected from one another than ever before. More people are living alone. And the technology that supposedly exists to help us connect with each other, including smartphones, dating apps, and social media sites, seems to be making the situation worse, if only because these things make us believe we’re more connected to one another than we really are.

According to the articles I’ve seen, the reasons so many people are lonely are several and complex. They include declining participation in organized religious groups, social clubs, and community organizations that for much of recorded human history helped people meet, get to know one another, and spend time together on a regular basis.

Our increasing preference for shopping online, rather than going to the store in person, denies us the opportunity to run into people we know unexpectedly, as well as the chance to meet and talk with new people. And the demise of once-common pastimes like bowling or going to the movies, as opposed to watching movies on Netflix at home, has made opportunities for social interaction much less frequent. Even when people are together, at a restaurant for example, the ubiquitous presence of television screens and cellphones makes it difficult for them to fully connect.

And because we live in a society that holds workaholics in high regard, many people also put off getting in touch with friends, engaging is social activities, or taking time off in favor of working more hours. Many people don’t even realize they’re doing it.

All this was compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced nearly everyone into social isolation for the better part of a year. Because they’re so out of practice, many people now feel nervous or intimidated about meeting other people, causing some to avoid social situations even when they have the opportunity to participate in them.

Most of the articles I read offered good advice for tackling the problem of loneliness. Some suggested setting aside 15 minutes a day to connect with friends. Others advised working less, and making an effort to be present when around other people by avoiding technology.

One idea that none of the articles mentioned, though, seems to me to be one of the simplest and most obvious: Call people instead of texting them. It’s fine to text someone to tell them you’ll be five minutes late. But when it comes to having a real conversation, talking instead of typing away on your phone while you’re watching TV can make a big difference when it comes to connecting with another person.

Hearing someone’s voice helps you determine their mood, and vice versa, which often leads to talking about things happening in each other’s lives. Having a real conversation avoids the misunderstandings that can occur when communicating by text or email (Do the capital letters mean she’s angry or are they a typo?). People also tend to cover a number of subjects when they’re talking to each other, which sometimes leads to making plans to see one another in person.

If you think about it, talking on the phone today is cheaper and easier than it ever was. Long-distance phone bills are a thing of the past—most cellphone plans let you talk to anyone anywhere in the country for as long as you like, free of charge. And gone are the days when people were restricted to talking in a single room by a landline telephone cord. You can talk on the phone anywhere: the store, your car, the beach. The only real barrier is our willingness to pick up the phone when someone calls.

So, the next time a friend texts you to say hi, ask them if they’d mind if you called them instead. You might be surprised by what you end up talking about, and how you feel when it’s time to hang up.


Emilie-Noelle Provost is the author of The River Is Everywhere, which was released on March 14, 2023, and The Blue Bottlea middle-grade adventure with sea monsters. Learn more about Emilie and her work at

One Response to Living Madly: Hello?

  1. Jack says:

    Excellent piece, Emilie. It’s ironic that the “smart phone,” which would seem to be a device that keeps people connected, would seemingly isolate them. A friend told me recently that his adult son doesn’t talk with anyone on the phone anymore — he just texts them because he wants to avoid idle conversation. Yikes. And conversations, idle or not, are nearly impossible in restaurants where “background” music is so loud you must shout to be heard. Movies online. Shopping online. The isolation is everywhere. No wonder many are lonely.