This is the heading of an article in USA Today (May 1, 2018) in which the writers describe outcomes of a study in which the national loneliness score was 44 on a 20–80 scale of loneliness. Social isolation of those aged 18–22 raised even more concern. According to this study, the score for loneliness for these young people was 48 in comparison with 39—the score for elderly people older than 72. In short, counter-intuitively, it is the youth among us in the United States, not old people, who are the loneliest.
In the article, the link between loneliness and physical and mental illness is also explained.
The article describes the role that technology and social media play in isolating young people as they engage in Facebook and other social media, without really developing close friendships with anyone. Although these young people may have many Facebook “friends,” few of them were able to identify friends on whom they could count if they needed help.
Not surprisingly, toward the end of the article the writers emphasized the need for face-to-face interaction between young people as a means to develop friendships. Herein lies the real challenge, that is, how do we go about encouraging face-to-face interaction between young people in a context where it is so easy to be distracted by social media and electronic games? How do we instill in young children the value of interpersonal relationships as a means toward meaningful living?
As we talk about inclusion in schools for students with severe communication problems, these perspectives are critical in helping us consider ways in which to enhance interactions between typical students and those with severe communication difficulties. Instead of implementing “strategies to improve social interaction,” a good starting point could be to focus on where our students are at—and creating opportunities for them to realize that they are not the only ones who feel isolated.
What do you think?