Loneliness Is Bigger Than The Holidays cover image

Loneliness Is Bigger Than The Holidays

The Holiday Profiteering Has Begun

‘Tis the season of savvy advertisers plucking our heartstrings with allegories of the widow, the forgotten father, the neglected child, or the isolated curmudgeon. Our eyes water as we witness these tales of woe, and we ache as an unfamiliar feeling begins to burn within. It’s this feeling that advertisers value the most: remediable guilt.

Under the guise of dogoodery, the merchants-of-more seize upon this guilt to liberate our dollars while compressing the brands they represent into topical lotion, dulling the pain of the dagger they jabbed into our hearts.

The latest incarnation of this gross capitalization of the very real, very lethal, and expanding pandemic of loneliness comes from a brand I generally adore, Apple. Their aptly named “Fuzzy Feelings” campaign goes as far as to acknowledge the method used to extract our money right in the title. The crass and product-laden short successfully illuminates our failure as a species to ensure that nobody is ever unintentionally alone. Watch it. Notice the feelings you feel.

Their ad reminds us to be better people, and Apple knows they will benefit from their association of that positive attribution. They even went as far as to showcase their products, allowing us to buy our way out of guilt.

Spending money with a company telling us to be better people is the same as being a better person, right? It’s much easier to open our wallets than apologize to those we know, or are related to, who suffer alone.

Show me the company that produces that video short, without featuring their products, without ending on a shot of their logo, and I’ll show you a company that genuinely cares about those suffering from loneliness. That’s the company that understands you don’t turn suffering into a buck or an opportunity to promote their brand.

Are Advertisers To Blame For Holiday Loneliness Marketing?

As someone with a long history in directing advertising campaigns and dollars, yes, advertisers are to blame for much of the unnecessary pain we experience. But in this situation, no, not so much. The blame for the condition these advertisers brazenly leverage every holiday season lies entirely on us.

Loneliness is a global pandemic. Countries around the world recognize it as a leading cause of death in their countries. Countries like Japan and England have appointed “Ministers of Loneliness” to address the crisis, each with spectacular failure because they never addressed the real cause of loneliness.

The cure for loneliness is undoing the escalation and promotion of self-absorption as a virtue.

England, Japan and every other country failing to addressing the dilemma focused on ensuring those experiencing loneliness had access to community and resources instead of what they should have been doing: calling the living family and screaming across the phone, “Go spend time with your mom.”

I understand that’s oversimplified, and as a researcher and Unofficial Minister of Loneliness, I’m aware of the deeper systemic issues behind loneliness. But I’m also not wrong.

Self-involvement and ego-centrism reduce the burden of living in a community. Think good fences make good neighbors? How about not even acknowledging you have neighbors in the first place?

We need to remember the wise words of John Donne, that no man is an island. In ways we don’t even realize, we exist in a community that is interconnected and dependent on each other.

Our conscious and unconscious efforts to isolate ourselves from others are a year-round ordeal. When we see advertisements reminding us to be better people during the holidays, we ache because we know, deep down, we’ve failed to meaningfully engage with humanity everyday since the last time we were reminded of our failure.

And Then There’s Geoffrey Holt

I saw two bits of media today before writing this article. The first being the boorish ploy of Apple, but the second is the story of a quiet man in the small community of Hinsdale, New Hampshire. I know a bit about New Hampshire and the small towns that dot the entire state. I also know about the small-town mindset that permeates even the most significant cities of the colony. While they love their independence, they equally value and cherish their interdependence.

Geoffrey Holt lived in a trailer park and was its caretaker for decades. He taught driver’s ed to the town youth when he was younger. As he aged, he stopped driving a car, instead opting for a riding lawnmower to make his way into town for groceries and supplies. His furniture was sparse, and his clothes tattered. In every way imaginable, he was a humble soul.

George passed away last June, leaving nearly 4 million dollars in trust to his town. Local community groups can apply for grants based on the merits of their programs and their ability to enrich and build up their small community. Why did his noble story make the news? Because it’s uncommon. Sadly, uncommon.

I plead with you to overcome the barriers that stop you from connecting with your elders, distant family or your neighbors. For many of us, our neighbors may not speak language as us, and they may have entirely different customs. One thing we share, is our susceptibility to loneliness. Take time to say hello. Even if they don’t understand, or don’t want the attention, they will know they have a neighbor that did the uncommon thing, and maybe that will be enough for today.

© 2024 · Dr. Corinne Votaw-Freer · All Rights Reserved · Privacy Policy