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Reaching Out of Loneliness
I know some people with dark senses of humor, so taken out of context I didn't know what to make of this -- a Louis CK-ish one-liner? A cry for help? What was my responsibility toward this person? Could I just close my browser window and pretend it never happened? What if this person actually did kill herself and it was my fault because she'd just been waiting for someone somewhere to respond? On one hand, it was none of my business. On the other, she did post it in a public place. So a few minutes later I messaged her. "Um, are you making a joke? Or, if not, uh, are you okay?"
She wrote back that she was not in fact joking, and her distress was very real. Soon her Facebook page started to populate with affirming messages from friends, urging her to be strong, reminding her of reasons to live. There was a long, wrenching pause in her responses, and then the post disappeared and an "I'm really okay, sorry to scare you" kind of message appeared. And the whole internet went, "Phew."
Anyway, it was this lonely woman I thought of when I heard about Jeff, One Lonely Guy, who posted the flyer, "If anyone wants to talk about anything, call me (347) 469-3173. Jeff, one lonely guy" and, to his surprise, received thousands and thousands of calls. He's now written a book about his experiences and recently spoke to NPR about it. Ragsdale explains that he had just moved to New York and had broken up with his girlfriend and was in a really dark, lonely place. As soon as he posted the flyer, he says he became a kind of confession booth, with tons of people phoning in to help, offer advice, or just tell him their own lonely troubles. He also says that just reaching out, having people reach back, and in particular hearing all their voices (and not just seeing them online) helped him. He started to step back from the dark thoughts. As did, I hope, my Facebook friend. We all have our lonely moments, and it's helpful to remember that there are ways to find people with which to -- in the totally-taken-out-of-context words of EM Forster -- "Only connect."
Here's the whole interview -- listen for Oprah's cameo!
How to Deal With Loneliness
Helping an Isolated Friend
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