If someone displays these 7 subtle behaviors, they’re probably quite lonely in life

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Loneliness is an affliction that has existed since the beginning of humanity… and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down. 

Even in 2024, on a planet of over six billion people, when the world is as interconnected as ever, lonely people are everywhere. 

And when left unchecked, loneliness can have some pretty harsh consequences. 

We’re all vulnerable to loneliness too. I think we’ve all been a bit lonely at some point in life. 

Some of us take it worse than others. 

So if you know someone who suffers from loneliness, reaching out can go a long way. 

But first, you have to know the signs. 

In this article, I’ll take you through the common yet subtle behaviors of lonely people. 

Let’s get to it. 

1) Their social media usage is way up 

Traditionally, we stereotype those who spend inordinate amounts of time online or playing video games as nerds or socially awkward people. 

But not anymore. We live in a fully digital era.

These days, everyone is constantly connected; generations are being born and ‘logged on’ since childhood, even infancy. 

Social media in particular has become an incredibly convenient outlet for anyone who experiences bouts of loneliness.

It’s used to make friends, with less physical and emotional effort involved… and if things get weird or awkward, you can simply just ghost, vanishing into the abyss. 

People can have full-blown relationships and lengthy friendships on social media without ever having met in person. 

When you get used to this passive way of interacting with people, it’s a hard cycle to break, which only reinforces feelings of isolation. 

Like most of us, lonely people use social media to fill a void of solitude and boredom–but for some, they can take it to the extreme.

2) They binge-watch TV and movies for hours at a time 

We live in a world where distractions are at an all-time high. 

Like social media, many lonely folks find solace and escapism in television and movies. 

Binge-watching has become a mainstream activity. 

People may get so caught up watching their chosen programs, that they don’t realize how isolating and, well, lonely they are behaving. 

The latter is a particularly easy trap to fall in these days, with streaming platforms having an infinite range of content catered to every single interest. 

Lonely people might find that watching large amounts is a suitable replacement for human interaction, filling in the silence…

3) They’re always working 

My last relationship felt particularly lonely. 

We were an incompatible pair, and we prolonged our union way more than was healthy. 

I distinctively remember that to cope, I’d throw myself into work… to an excess degree. 

In my head, going home to an empty relationship was far from an ideal prospect; and hence, I’d conjure up ways to avoid it.

I’d work abnormally long hours, convincing myself and others that I was exceptionally dedicated to my company, but in reality, I just didn’t want to go home and face my reality. 

I was excessively, artificially busy. 

Overwork ironically provided the relief I needed at the time–and in addition, was a great excuse to avoid seeing my ex, since I was doing something “responsible” and not inebriating myself or cheating. 

4) Their communication patterns become erratic 

When one’s loneliness gets more intense, erratic behavior often manifests. 

Everyone’s patterns can be a little different from one another. 

Sometimes, a lonely person will effectively drop off the grid, ceasing all regular communication. 

Other times, you might get a strange message from them in the wee hours of the morning. 

And maybe they’ll eagerly respond within seconds; maybe it’ll take them days or weeks; or maybe they won’t even respond at all. 

The bottom line is that loneliness can often mean inconsistency. 

So if you have a friend or family member with solitary tendencies who has begun to act erratically, something may be up. 

5) They neglect self-care 

When you get into a cycle of loneliness, the feeling of apathy about yourself and everyone else begins to intensify. 

You get used to the status quo of being alone and thus stop caring about things like appearance and fitness. 

Neglecting personal grooming and health can be a telltale sign of chronic loneliness. 

If you run into an old friend or relative at the supermarket looking disheveled, wearing stained sweatpants, far thinner or bigger than before, and emitting an odor reminiscent of aged Irish cheddar, this may indicate something deeper. 

They may be suffering from deep loneliness.

6) They become over-attached to pets or objects

We’ve all heard of the slightly derogatory ‘cat lady’ stereotype. 

You know, the single, elderly, often cynical, sometimes windowed woman who chooses to fill her home with cats. 

It’s assumed that she chooses felines as a substitute for a romantic partner, to fill the gaping void of loneliness in her life. 

While this is an extreme example, many lonely people will sometimes unconsciously form intense attachments to pets or inanimate objects (blow-up dolls, anyone?)  to replace actual human interactions. 

And while there is nothing wrong with unconditionally loving a pet, when that creature becomes the center of someone’s universe, this can sometimes be cause for concern. 

7) They’re overly enthused to have visitors 

When I was doing my postgraduate studies in London a few years ago, I remember walking through a block of council flats (basically, low-rent homes for the less privileged), when a man called out to me.

He was elderly, but gentle-looking and distinguished, possibly in his late 80s, seated on his porch as he asked me if I wanted to have a cup of tea with him. 

Not in a rush, I hesitantly obliged. 

I quickly realized that he lived alone. 

And all he wanted from me was someone to chat with, some fleeting company before he returned to his daily monotony of…  not doing much. 

He was animated as he spoke, going off on tangents about his past, about his grandkids, about his late wife, about his time in the army. 

I think it was a fair assumption that the old man was lonely and desperately needed company. 

You see, elderly or youthful, when a person is lonely they will often exhibit excessive happiness or enthusiasm during rare visits by friends or new acquaintances. 

Perhaps they’ll be so eager to interact, that they’ll even overshare personal details and emotions, deprived of not having enough people to talk to regularly.

Final words

If you recognize the behaviors in this article in someone you know or care about, then consider it time to take some action. 

This can be in the form of a phone call, a thoughtfully worded text, or a spontaneous pop-in. 

As mentioned, once certain people get into the habit of loneliness, it can be difficult to fix. 

Sometimes, simply reaching out and reassuring them that they aren’t alone can make all the difference. 

Lucas Graham

Lucas Graham, based in Auckland, writes about the psychology behind everyday decisions and life choices. His perspective is grounded in the belief that understanding oneself is the key to better decision-making. Lucas’s articles are a mix of personal anecdotes and observations, offering readers relatable and down-to-earth advice.

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