Loneliness is said by many to be the biggest (but vastly under-publicised) epidemic related to mental health.
In a world of smart-phone anxiety-inducing alerts, notifications and effectively being "on-call" in the job of life 24 / 7, it's ironic that so many humans feel lonely and isolated.
Such is my disposition, that when I see someone in a workplace or at a shopping centre or anywhere, that is alone, my mind wanders. Just on the weekend I saw a disabled lady having a coffee on her own. I see her regularly and as my mind works, I feel troubled. I know empathy is good but this uncomfortable feeling can last sometimes for an hour or two and I think about that person later.
A different scenario may be a man I see with his kids, wife, friends. Seemingly surrounded by presence. But I know too well what could be truly be going on inside that mind, the closed conviction that no-one would understand what they may be thinking right now or how terribly lost they may be. A big reason I started Mr. Perfect was the discovery (anecdotally and from a study) that as men age their own social connections with men start to dissolve.
Guilt at my own situation washes over me regularly, because I CHOOSE isolation when I can. For 95% of my waking moments, I am surrounded by people in close proximity. Isolation to me, in most aspects is healing and desired when needed. I always enjoyed my own company, a serial introvert that had to learn to feel more comfortable and communicate more clearly in social settings or work presentations or similar (on the other hand give me a pen instead and I can communicate to every inch of my mind).
The buzz of these scenarios now feels great in the moment, I feel "connected", but for every hour of this, afterwards I need a couple of hours downtime and working or relaxing alone to energise again (a one-on-one deep chat or dedicated time with my sons can also do the same for me). Conversely, extroverts I know feed off this physical togetherness, it's their kind of fuel.
Our Mr. Perfect Meetup BBQs attempt to connect people, of all characters, personalties and backgrounds. Some talk, some do not, others just feel better for being in the presence of others for a couple of hours. This can be for some the only time they get to do this all week. Not having a choice about isolation is what eats away at me, what keeps me awake, what keeps me hungry.
Truly, I personally get the real buzz from observing this togetherness, I don't necessarily have to be "in it". No one has to be an extrovert to be a good connector and create a community. Some of the best people I know at this are some of the most quiet, thoughtful and selfless.
Loneliness comes in many shapes and colours. I can only hope that we all think a little deeper about what a community really means and that no-one should have to feel the ache and pain of being isolated or alone, mentally or physically.