Beneath the forest floor is a networking system between trees that is nicknamed the "Wood Wide Web." This system connects the roots of trees to one another and allows them to communicate and share resources. Through this web, mothering trees are able to share nutrients with younger trees, dying trees are able to release their remaining resources back into the network, and the trees are able to communicate and warn each other of nearby dangers, like insect infestations.
It's a beautiful system.
Similarly, we also have our own web, the "World Wide Web," that has connected us in more complex ways than ever before. It's true that the web, and social media particularly, has connected us in positive ways. But we are also in a time that has been referred to as "the loneliness epidemic." Among many reasons, this is in part because of an absence of meaningful relationships.
Meaningful, the critical word. Despite our endless opportunities to connect with other people, we have fewer opportunities to cultivate in-depth relationships with others. We're more likely to have a higher quantity of relationships at the sacrifice of quality. Our relationships with each other often only scratch the surface of our lives.
Loneliness is not a lack of human interaction but an absence of authentic, vulnerable relationships. It’s not the distance between human bodies—it’s the distance between their souls. Loneliness is the product of superficial relationships. It’s the result of an excess of repetitive, predictable conversations that lack depth, meaning, and vulnerability.
Loneliness is the opposite of meaningful connection.
Like the trees, we are innately wired to form community with each other beneath the surface of our lives. We yearn for intimate and meaningful relationships with the people around us. Though social media can support human connection, it alone cannot develop the connection into something meaningful. Authentic and purposeful relationships take time, work, and especially presence.
Forming a meaningful connection with someone means being in their company (without distractions) andreallylistening to them. It means supporting and nourishing them as you grow alongside each other. It means contributing what you can, when you can, to the community around you. It means practicing vulnerability by reaching out and inviting others in.
Loneliness is a reminder from our hearts that we really need each other in a way that goes beyond surface-level interaction. We need someone to share our fears with, to cry in front of, to laugh with, to hold with an intentional and meaningful touch, and to remind one another that we are not separate in our experiences but, like the trees around us, we are intimately and irrevocably connected.