You sit there and swipe on your phone when you’re waiting for someone.
It’s a public place. You don’t want to look like someone just standing there. You look like a predator for chrissakes, just standing there, leering at fellow human beings.
This is why I’m never early anywhere. There’s nothing worse than watching the minutes pass while the person you’re waiting for isn’t there. What if they don’t show? Oh god, what if they don’t show and someone’s watching and you’re just standing there by yourself and you’re pacing by yourself, you’re waaaaaaiting on them, think of all the things you could be doing instead, you could’ve eaten something before you left the house, you could’ve checked to make sure the oven was off after you fried those mediocre eggs for breakfast, you could’ve taken a shower instead of spraying on some deodorant and hoping to god nobody notices you smell like garlic and desperation, you could be responding to the messages of all the people you’re ignoring, but no, you’re sitting here like some kind of schmuck waiting for the other person to show oh there they are only one minute late the bastards *HI HOW ARE YOU, HAVEN’T SEEN YOU IN FOREVER!*
Nah, I’d rather be late and build up a completely different kind of anxiety and sweat because I mis-timed how long it took to take a shower and make that quick bite to eat and actively avoid messages.
Cellphones that you can use as visible identifiers of being occupied with something are a pretty recent invention, however.
What did people do before that (i.e., Big Bang — 2009 AD)? Stare at their pocket watches? Read a newspaper standing up? Count goat droppings?
I’m convinced this is why mobile phones were invented — they give us SOMEthing to do when we’re out in public.
We don’t *really* need to reach people as quickly as buzzing their watch.
We don’t *actually* need to confirm something 7 times over.
And we don’t *quite* need to play Candy Crush in line at the bank.
We need something to fiddle with so we don’t look out of place and appear out of sorts and, most importantly of all, feel like a total loser for standing there without company.
There’s a certain pain in loneliness because it triggers a deep survival mechanism of “I’m alone, I am without my fellow species mates to defend me, I am vulnerable to attack”. Perhaps that’s why it triggers such pain, that pain is designed to be a catalyst to action. Which means you would usually respond to loneliness in one of three ways: fight it (immediately immerse yourself in people), fly from it (find a way to distract yourself from the crippling loneliness), or freeze (enter a depressed-like phase just feeling the loneliness and being unable to do anything really).
My reaction is usually the flight/freeze. I’ve occasionally fought it, but even that’s just a temporary solution to a deeper problem. Feeling people around you is not the solution and is, in this instance, simply an extension of the flight reaction.
The real solution is to find out why you’re lonely, and what you can do to fix this. Pro-tip: the easiest way to do this is to feel lonely at the time, and then the hard part comes in of having to overcome the fight/flight/freeze reactions.
Maybe it’s your fault.
Maybe you’ve been making life hard on other people around you.
Maybe you’ve made other people lonely.
Maybe you prefer being lonely more than you’d like to admit.
Maybe all those are wrong and you’re surrounded by not the best people.
Or maybe it’s a mix of a few of those.
Finding out why, and then executing a plan to fix it based on all the above (example: being more outgoing, making amends with the people you’ve made lonely, and surrounding yourself with better people who won’t make you lonely) is just going to bring an end to the loneliness that much quicker.
It’s not going to be easy and it will probably hurt. But you’re tough enough to handle it.
Just like you’re tough enough to stand in public, waiting for someone, without pulling your phone out of your pocket.
After all, people have been doing that for thousands of years. And the cumulative success of their survival is you.
And a bunch of other lonely people who feel exactly the same.