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  • Author or Editor: Janet Batsleer x
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This chapter considers the place of youth work projects, and of the importance of engagement, enjoyment, association and accompaniment in the life of neighbourhoods including those visited in the Loneliness Connects Us research. It highlights the work of the youth projects who were involved in the research study and the impact of the austerity on such projects. It suggests however that the commitment to ‘social action’ as a buzzword for youth work should be considered critically , as should medical models of loneliness which lend themselves to the suggestion that interventions by professionals such as social workers or youth workers are needed in order to fix the problem. Rather youth work is considered as part of a social infrastructure designed to facilitate informal learning, advocacy, mutual support and enlivening.

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This chapter works challenges sensationalising media narratives that claim a deterministic relationship between youth engagement with social media and loneliness. Instead the chapter attempts to contextualise the emphasis on social media in terms of historical shifts in communication technology, as an aspect of young people’s lives, and uses of the Internet more broadly. Evidence is presented of young people’s experiences in managing the pressures of living life online and FOMO or the Fear of Missing Out. The chapter concludes with the description of an arts project developed as part of the project’s legacy to co-produce an online resource to help young people navigate FOMO.

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Presenting the co-designed carousel of methods and the iterative conversations which created the research questions and events, this chapter explains the collaborative and youth led research process which underpins the qualitative findings presented throughout the book. It offers examples of how the creative methods generated a research agenda. It locates the book in traditions of youth work as accompaniment and socio-cultural animation with strong links to critical participatory action research. It explains the recruitment of the research team, the range of creative methods of engagement, data collection and philosophical discussion which were used, the partnership with arts practitioners and the performance tour which followed, and presents the youth-led research agenda which emerged as well as introducing the legacy project developed from the initial findings.

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This chapter explores the policy, practice and media contexts surrounding the emergence of the youth loneliness agenda. To understand the social conditions of loneliness it is necessary to locate youth loneliness in the neoliberalising policy context, and the intersections between neoliberalism and the individualising tendencies of psychological research and loneliness interventions. Finally, the chapter questions the representation of youth loneliness, especially how loneliness emerges and spreads, through notions of contagion and crisis.

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This chapter considers specific ‘normative’ moments, including of education/work transition and what is involved in undergoing a change process in which there is a risk of loss of connection. Specifically it considers the change of schools from primary to secondary school; the sixth form; star and the experience of moving to a new town to go to University; starting work: common experiences were widely discussed during the research pointing to moments in which loneliness had been intensely felt. The experience of being left out of the system –for a variety of reasons – becoming classified as ‘NEET’- is also presented. The immersive theatre production ‘Missing’ was developed in response to this theme of an ordinary moment of transition and is introduced in this chapter.

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Poverty intensifies loneliness. The impact that lack of money has on the ability to take part in small celebrations and get-togethers that others take for granted intensifies loneliness. The inability to join in and a failure to be able to provide for oneself at a time when young people are meant to be learning to ‘stand on their own two feet’ is accompanied by a strong sense of shame. Poverty is associated with physical isolation in ‘uncared for places’. There can be an association between the shame of poverty and a cycle of mental ill-health and drug use/abuse which intensifies isolation. The concept of ‘social abjection’ is introduced as a means to understand the loneliness associated with poverty.

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Loss is strongly present in early experience of loneliness. This may be bereavement, but it may also be an experience of parental divorce and separation, of moving into foster care. Sometimes a loss of a feeling of safety and good connection which is the result of violence is accompanied by a loneliness; and the stigma, shame and self-reproach which is associated with becoming a victim of violence is then multiplied in a further stigma associated with loneliness. Using examples of attempted suicide, the trauma of witnessing domestic violence and the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder experienced by a young refugee this chapter’s sub-themes are loss and grief; shame; and social isolation.

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This chapter presents the experience of being left out and not fitting in from a variety of perspectives and draws on the thinking of Audre Lorde and subsequent queer theory to reframe difference as a resource. Ranging from the ways in which children and young people are horrid to one another to the ways in which adults maintain control of groups by harnessing the power of exclusion, it focuses on the micopolitics of exclusion and control. Even when norms seem to have shifted to a greater inclusivity and acceptance of ‘difference’ the experience of being ‘the only one’ in a group is still a lonely one and can be made more so when it is mobilised by others in the interests of retaining power and control. Examples here are of young people exploring non-normative gender and sexuality; of autism; and of young people being cold-shouldered without knowing why.

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The Social Conditions of Loneliness

Anchored in accounts of young people’s personal experiences of loneliness, this book addresses important questions about tackling today’s epidemic of loneliness among young people.

It explores experiences of loneliness in early life, how it is navigated when first encountered and considers how social conditions of poverty, precarity, inequality and competitive pressures to succeed can dramatically influence these feelings.

Presenting diverse and nuanced social accounts of loneliness, the authors explore ways to harness the creative and positive potential of loneliness and provide evidence-based recommendations for policy makers, practitioners and young people to help tackle the crisis.

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The complexity of asking for help and giving and receiving it at a time of life when independence is prized above everything is explored. Requests for and offers of help and connection intersect with flows of power where control can masquerade as care. Such masquerades carry the marks of patriarchal control, class-based symbolic violence as well as of individual personalities and life stories. The small acts and everyday connections presented in this chapter are often ingenious and creative forms of mutual support and friendship, subtly undermining expectations about status and control.

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