On the train to London the other day I picked up a dog-eared copy of Metro, the city’s finest free newspaper. Buried on page 24, opposite an article about a new Harry Potter theme-park, was this little piece:
‘Facebook is causing a “crisis of loneliness”‘, read the headline.
The average teenager spends three and a half hours a day on social network sites […] Two thirds of people […] of all ages say they ‘feel lonely’ and would like someone to have a coffee and a chat with.
I’m not about to bestow biblical status upon statistics published in Metro, but even if these figures aren’t completely representative, the sentiment is appalling. The sad thing is that it sounds like people are able to identify their own loneliness, but are unable to do anything about it.
My recent packrafting trip to the Highlands was characterised by friendly people who picked me up as I hitched around, stopped to chat while on bike rides and walks, invited me in to bothies, made conversation in pubs and fish ‘n’ chip shops, and in one case paid me to stay in their hostel! Yet two-thirds of people under the age of 18 do not consider Britain to be a friendly country, according to this article.
Even more relevant: the trip was one of the cheapest and easiest to get off the ground that I’ve ever done. I took a Megabus from London to Inverness for £16.50 (return). I bought a backpack from Wilko for £28 and plundered my old equipment cupboard for a tent, mattress and sleeping bag; things which anyone could get together by calling a few friends. I did splash out on an expensive packraft (no pun intended), but Ferg borrowed his off a mate. A walking trip alone would have been equally fun. Packraft aside, the entire week’s trip cost less than a hundred quid, was arranged less than a fortnight in advance, and took a single evening to plan.
How can the simple enjoyment, the company, the memorable experiences and the valuable lessons of a wilderness trip be brought to more of the young people who have three and a half hours a day to waste on Facebook? How can an issue like this be promoted beyond page 24 of a free newspaper on the London Underground?
I don’t know the answer to that. I’ve only recently settled in one place long enough to give things like this any thought.
What do you think?