Casey Villalon | The Poly Post

Young adults navigating feelings of isolation and the lack of connectivity

By Kristine Pascual, Mar. 12, 2024

I’ve kept a diary for seven years. After filling six diaries sealed with thoughts I can’t say out loud, it’s the only thing that knows me completely.  

In some ways I think I’ve always felt a little bit isolated, that even when surrounded by friends or family there is just this lingering feeling. My first year of college was when I was officially diagnosed with depression, but I think it’s deeper rooted than anyone realizes. Sometimes loneliness feels worse than it looks.  

Business student Sumair Harrison is just one fellow student who feels that loneliness as a member of a commuter university like Cal Poly Pomona .  

“I know that there are a lot of people like me who are dealing with this,” Harrison said. “It often seems like this society is so cold and people don’t care.  It’s hypocritical that the same kids who talk about mental health and creating a kinder world are the same ones who would never check up on you or care.”  

According to a study led by Boston University researcher Sarah Ketchen Lipson, levels of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and loneliness are peaking in college students. Lipson conducted a survey of nearly 33,000 college students across the nation finding that half of those students in 2020 screened positive for depression and/or anxiety. Two-thirds of college students struggle with being lonely and feeling isolated.  

Lipson recommends for faculty to be more lenient and flexible with their students. She urges instructors to be aware of the potential burdens that mental health can bring. Lipson highly recommends for universities to provide more mental health resources, something that Cal Poly Pomona is lacking in. 

For the most part at Cal Poly Pomona, students are heavily invested in classes, leaving little to no room for socialization. Biology student Jorge Gonzalez mentions the loneliness epidemic across the CPP campus. Gonzalez, not typically an outgoing person, found himself going out of his way to talk to others but still found himself forming no further friendships.  

Casey Villalon | The Poly Post

“Isolation means basically just studying alone or neglecting emotional attachments with people in order to further your education,” Gonzalez said. “People are here to learn. I do try to talk to people, but most people are just focused on their education.”  

According to a Forbes article, teenagers today spend about an hour less per day socializing with their peers than teens in the 1980s and 1990s. Adolescents who reported fewer social interactions were also the ones who felt lonelier and more isolated. Social media can further lead young users to feeling like they need to measure or compare themselves to what they see on social media. Social media usage can also turn into solation from FOMO or “fear of missing out.”  

For those who do not have that close social circle, socialization can be difficult. Marketing student Nicolas Whittington credits social media as a key factor in contributing to his isolation. Admittedly, seeing posts from other college students having fun at parties and games gave Whittington FOMO but he remembers the facades people may put on.  

“Social media has a way of making sure you only post the good parts of your life,” Whittington said. “It’s kind of a distorted reality. It’s showing off a perfect life, but I don’t think there’s such a thing as a perfect life. It doesn’t exist.”   

There are plenty of benefits to lowering use of social media by setting boundaries with online usage. By lowering usage, an individual can prioritize time for face-to-face interactions with friends, family and peers. It is also important to understand that what social media presents isn’t always 100% authentic.  

Having plenty of friends does not always solve the equation of loneliness. One can still feel isolated with people surrounding them but there are ways to combat loneliness. Though the issue of loneliness can’t be solved overnight, pinpointing the root can be a helpful place to start.  

“Always keep looking forward to something,” Harrison said. “When you lose hope, life loses color.” 

Feature Image courtesy of Casey Villalon 

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