A birthday party two years ago. The cake was just about to be cut when a friend told me he often felt lonely. I was shocked. He saw enough people and his days were often fully planned. The difference between alone and lonely suddenly became painfully clear to me. I asked if he could talk to someone about it. His psychologist had told him to find a girlfriend.
In August this year, the magazines were suddenly full of a new twitter hashtag: #maatjegezocht (buddy wanted). Tired of being lonely, Nadi from Nijmegen sent the hashtag out into the world. "I am alone every day. At most 30 min physio. And that is my social life. Where can I find a social life?". She received an overwhelming number of reactions and many others said they experienced the same. For a moment it seemed as if the taboo to talk about loneliness became less heavy.
The hashtag is still in circulation, although less popular. The power of social media benefits; a place to meet new people. To really combat loneliness will probably take more than an online contact, but if that is the start of an encounter, that is certainly a nice first step.
Last week was the week of loneliness. In the back of my mind I think back to the birthday party. If there was even such a thing as #maatjegezocht then, it might have been a solution. Soon we will eat cake again. I have resolved to really ask how he is. And also to the rest of the attendees. That is my contribution. No matter how big or small it is; what is yours?