According to a new study reported on LiveScience.com, “Loneliness, like a bad cold, can spread among groups of people.”
It’s like a virus. While H1N1 can spread through handshakes, people catch the loneliness bug through negative interactions with other people. A lonely person will be less trusting of others, essentially “making a mountain out of a molehill,” said study researcher John Cacioppo, a psychologist at the University of Chicago. An odd look or tone of voice, or word-choice, that wouldn’t even be noticed by a friend-full person could trigger a whole cycle of negative interactions by a lonely person. Those negative interactions then would cause that person to lose friends.
In essence they are unfriending themselves.
But it doesn’t stop there. When they unfriend themselves from someone else, that person who has been unfriended, will now feel the loneliness bug and may begin to interpret other people’s actions as being unfriendly…and so both people end up taking steps towards the relational fringes.
I love how closely the report (published in the December issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology) comes to Biblical truth when it suggests that loneliness is not a character trait, as in “that person is such a loner,” but more of a state such as hunger.
The reality is that God designed us with a connection requirement. Our hearts are hungry for friends. So what does God do? Psalm 68:6 says that “God places the lonely in families.” Church is a family of sorts, as is your lifegroup, as maybe your workgroup, as maybe your roommates, or maybe even just your circle of friends. God has placed you in a family to disrupt the loneliness virus.
On facebook it is pretty easy to unfriend someone, click a button and they are no longer connected to your social-media-relationship world. Unfortunately in life it is sometimes equally easy to unfriend someone. The harder, but more rewarding work comes when we be-friend someone. Then instead of starting viruses, we are satisfying heart-hunger.
Maybe God has put a lonely person in your family? Don’t pass on the virus, feed their hearts.