idea of the soulmate today is still as seductive – and dangerous – as ever.
isn’t just experienced by those who are physically cut off from others. It can
be experienced even by those who lead active social lives, such as the American
writer and poet Sylvia Plath, who experienced it while at college. Her letters
and journal entries paint a portrait of someone experiencing chronic
loneliness, despite making friends and seeking out romantic relationships. 
of the reason it’s so easy to feel alone even in a company is the emphasis placed
on finding our “soulmate” – the one
person with whom we’re meant to spend our lives. Plath’s college journals show
that she felt this need keenly, especially as a woman trying to balance societal
expectations with her literary ambitions.
a concept, the idea of the soulmate can be dated back to Plato, who told a
story in The Symposium of how man and woman used to be one being before they
were split in two. Since then, men and women have had to seek out their literal
other halves to complete themselves. But the term itself was first used by
Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1822, as the concept of romantic love, was
developing. From the nineteenth century, marriage gained a spiritual dimension,
reflecting the idea that one’s spiritual needs could be fulfilled by human
relationships, not just through God. That’s an idea that is still in force now,
as two literary examples show.
Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, published in 1847, depicts love as dangerous, yet
impossible to escape. Heathcliff’s famous line epitomizes its drastic
importance: “I cannot live without my
life! I cannot live without my soul!”
The tempestuous nature of love is
depicted in Heathcliff’s character as well as the dramatic setting of the
Yorkshire moors.
line is explicitly quoted by Edward, a vampire, in the Twilight series of
novels (2005–8) by Stephenie Meyer. These novels, and their hugely popular film
adaptations, prove that the concept of the soulmate is alive and well. Edward’s
soulmate is Bella, a young woman who decides to leave behind her human life to
be with him, despite all the danger this entails. Problematically, according to
the author, the Twilight series depicts the search for the soulmate as
something so crucial to a fulfilling life that any sacrifice is worth it.
practically encourages us, then, to imagine that we are lonely if we lack our
ideal partner. But is this really a healthy way to think? Can we really not
survive without a soulmate, even if that soulmate is a vampire? Maybe it’s time
to rethink.
a partner is a profoundly affecting experience – but it’s only become a “lonely” one in modern times. Finding a
partner can be hard, but losing one is horribly tough – and a common cause of loneliness.
Widows and widowers face living in an environment filled with material
reminders of their loved one: the objects and clothes that they used every day
may spark feelings of nostalgia and hurt.
the experience of widowhood or widowerhood is another thing that has changed
since our contemporary concept of loneliness has evolved. Two examples – one
from before this modern concept, and one from after – show that shift in
action. They also show how loss is a kind of equalizer, affecting everyone from
monarchs to tradesmen.
Turner was a busy working man who lived in Sussex, England, in the 18th
century. His detailed diary provides a fascinating glimpse into society at that
time. He married his first wife, Peggy, in 1753, but she died in 1761. Turner
described himself as “destitute” in
his diary, and mourns the loss of the “partner
of my soul.”
But did he feel loneliness in the modern sense? True, he was a
solitary man – this is evident from his diary entries at other times in his
life, too – but even in the wake of his wife’s death, his grief was tempered by
his belief in God, and time alone was like Jesus’s time in the wilderness.
This, the author suggests, was “oneliness,”
not contemporary loneliness.
century later, things were different. Queen Victoria lived a very different
sort of life than Thomas Turner – but despite all her riches, after the loss of
her husband Albert in 1861 she spent the remaining 40 years of her life in
mourning. Women – even queens – were expected to mourn, of course, but this was
excessive even by the standards of the day. As well as commissioning huge
numbers of memorials, her rituals of grief included insisting that Albert’s
clothes were laid out each day, and sleeping with a shirt of his: his material
legacy remained ever-present.
Victoria did use the word “loneliness”
in her diary, quite frequently. This was not like “oneliness,” in which being alone enabled a deeper connection with
God, but a profound sense of lack. While losing a partner has always been a
deeply affecting experience, then, the modern concept of loneliness has given
it a new dimension.
media is often called a reason millennials feel lonely, but the reality is more
nuanced. Today’s “epidemic” of
loneliness doesn’t just affect the old. In fact, a 2018 survey by the UK’s
Office for National Statistics found that the age group most likely to report
feelings of loneliness was young adults. And among this millennial generation,
it’s commonly assumed that social media is responsible. But is social media
really the cause of millennial loneliness? Or is it merely a symptom of it?
it can play its part, as the contemporary term FOMO – fear of missing out –
makes clear. In a 2012 survey, almost three in four young adults reported feeling
FOMO, which is frequently a result of seeing other people’s social media posts
depicting glamorous lifestyles. More studies support the idea that social media
can have a profound effect on our emotions. An experiment conducted by Facebook
itself in 2014 showed that the emotions a user observes in posts can affect
their own emotions, creating an effect that ripples through vast groups.
let’s pause before we decide to fear this new technology. After all, people
feared the social effects that the telephone would have when it was introduced.
Some were worried it would make people lazier and discourage people from
visiting each other. But the telephone’s many benefits – especially in allowing
isolated people like farmers to keep in touch with others more easily – were
abundantly clear as well.
the effect of social media comes down to how it is used, and what sort of life
someone leads more broadly. Studies suggest that social media use can indeed
heighten feelings of loneliness – but only when this use is not supplemented by
offline activities. If there’s still a bridge between social media and “real life,” it’s not harmful at all. The
problem is only when online activity replaces offline activity.
social media is neither the cause nor a symptom of millennial loneliness, then.
Moreover, it’s something that can have either a positive or a negative effect
on loneliness, depending on the broader context. True, it can make some people
feel even more alone. But it can also bring people together – potentially even
in real life.”
social media is used to positive effect, it is naturally not just millennials
who can benefit. It could also play its part in affecting another group
particularly affected by loneliness: older people.
new way of life though, encouraging us to go in search of greener pastures and
leave the old behind, could be contributing more to loneliness. We will look at
that next.

leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments box provided below.
a fruitful day!
Bodunrin is a graduate of Philosophy from the University of Ado-Ekiti. He is a
professional writer, he writes articles for publication and he anchors – ‘What
You Should Know’ on SHEGZSABLEZS’ blog.

You Should Know’ is a column that offers to educate and enlighten the public on
general falsehood and myths.

Oluwole Olusanya
Oluwole Olusanya is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of one of the fastest-growing lifestyle and entertainment website in the country. He is a banker, writer, blogger, public affairs analyst and a tax consultant. He anchors Trending Topics on SHEFFA where he shares his thoughts and opinions on trending issues. He is currently studying for a Master’s Degree in Business Administration at the University of South Wales, Wales, United Kingdom. He has diplomas in Banking and Finance, Investigative Journalism, Creative Writing, and Linguistics from Lagos State Polytechnic, Isolo, Lagos, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland and The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom.