According to a study out today, one in 11 adults say that they have no close friends. Here fashion blogger and model Becky Magson, 32, reveals what it’s like to be completely friendless in real life...
Blogger Becky Mason says she has no friends to invite to her wedding [Stuart Wood]
Posing for photos at a glamorous fashion event, surrounded by industry big hitters and other fashion bloggers, I couldn’t help be struck by the contrast to my real life. Here I seemed confident, popular and with a life many would . In reality the moment I left the event I was going home and, with my fiancé Sean away on business, would be spending the evening with just my pet guinea pig and rabbit for company.
Because the truth is even though I’m a successful model and blogger with over 2,000 Twitter and blog followers, and 600 ‘friends’ on Facebook, the sad truth is I haven’t got a single ‘real’ friend. There’s no one I can meet up with for a cocktail after work, and I never have had a birthday party as an adult. I’ve been engaged for over a decade now which I'm aware is a long time. It's mortifying to admit, but one of the main reasons I've been putting it off is that I’m ashamed I will have no one to invite but my family. How tragic is that? I know I’m in a rut - I crave friendship and hate being lonely, but I’m scared to take that leap, lay myself bare and try to make new friends.
And it seems I’m not the only one. A recent survey from the Office of National Statistics found that British people are among the most lonely in Europe. Only 58 per cent say they feel connected to people in their area with one in eight saying they have no one to turn to in a crisis.
Growing up I had a tight knit group of school friends and never had a problem meeting new people. But an unprovoked physical attack by a gang of teenagers when I was 16 changed my life overnight. I became anxious about going out again, terrified I’d be attacked again. At first friends would come to my house to keep me company, but quickly they got bored. I didn’t blame them. They wanted to be out clubbing, meeting guys and making new friends. And I just wasn’t the same vivacious, confident person I’d once been. Understandably, they slowly drifted away.
And then I met Sean… his brother is married to my sister and although our paths had crossed at family events, one day it just felt like the dynamic had changed and we were quickly inseparable. I threw myself into the relationship and he became my boyfriend and best friend wrapped up in one. While the anxiety about going out and socialising subsided, I poured all my energies into my relantionship with Sean, and convinced myself I didn’t need friends. It just felt like he was enough, so the impetus to rebuild old friendships or make new ones passed me by.
So while former mates started university or got office jobs, forging the adult friendships they still have today, I used my relationship as a security blanket, missing those crucial opportunities which I realised too late happen less and less the older we get.
Sean and I quickly moved in together and I started up an internet business from home launching my blog, beckysboudoir.com, where I review and model lingerie. Professionally I’m doing really well. Yet I’ve inadvertently created a ‘perfect storm’ of loneliness: working from home, with no colleagues to form new friendships with, I’ve become increasingly isolated. If you looked at my social media presence you’d never guess I’m so lonely - I exchange chatty tweets with my followers, I’m photographed at industry events and I post photos from my blog shoots.
[Many lonely people appear popular on social media / Picture: Getty]
I appear busy and successful, which I am, but if people assume that means I’m popular and have an equally fulfilling social life, they’re wrong. It’s a deceptive landscape. My relationships with people online are superficial. They’re interested in my work and my brand, not who I really am. Most I’ve never met. And now it makes me desperately sad. I miss female company, and that unique bond you have with a really good friend. I adore Sean, but I do feel like I am missing out on the kind of laughs you have with a girlfriend, the hours you can pass just chatting about nonsense.
I do interact with people at networking events and fashion shows, and I do regular photoshoots for the blog, but despite coming across as chatty and sociable I’m afraid to cross the work line and suggest meeting up for a drink or swapping numbers. What if they think I’m weird? Being lonely is such a taboo word in today’s busy, sociable world, we’re suspicious of people who can’t connect to the world around them, presuming there must be something ‘wrong’ with them. I'm worried people will think I'm desperate for friendship and then think I'm pathetic and reject me.
Sure, I have a great social life with Sean – we like to go to concerts, eat out and walk at weekends – Sean has lots of friends, and of course they have wives and girlfriends. But I panic at the thought of being paired off with one of them, with a pressure to bond just because our partners are friends. It feels so unnatural and he knows that, so he tends to socialise with his friends separately and I stay at home. This makes the cycle of loneliness even worse, but I am still too scared to take those first steps to socialise. Sean knows how I'm feeling but we don’t really talk about my loneliness any more. I’ve been this way more or less since I met him and he’s so sweet I think he avoids raising it because he doesn’t want to upset me or make me feel under pressure to do something about it.
I think it's interesting that there are now friend dating events to try and solve the increasing 'loneliness' problem in society, but I wouldn't have the courage to go. That tortorous self-doubt is always there. What If people don’t like me, and I’m just not friendship material anymore because it’s been so long since I one?
‘You have 100 new Twitter followers’, an email I opened up last night told me. Who cares though - none of them a real. I couldn't send one of them an invite to my wedding.
Writer: As Told To Eimear O’Hagan