Creating Connections Amid The Loneliness Pandemic

macrophotography of person cleaning a giant lolly

Are we more connected than ever?

In today’s technological world, you would think that we have mastered the art of staying connected. So why is it that 3.83 million people in Great Britain struggle with loneliness, often feeling isolated [1]? Despite having access to a multitude of virtual tools, it doesn’t particularly mean that we know how to use them, and the ability to nurture genuine connections remains elusive.

While our current curriculum attempts teach students key skills, promote physical health and mental wellbeing, it struggles to keep up with our ever-changing society. The development of dopamine-hijacking apps, compounded with Britain’s social issues and post COVID-19 effects, provides unprecedented challenges for our young people.


Macrophotograph businessmen surrounded by giant pills

Looking for connections in all the wrong places

It’s a privilege to have access to our basic needs beyond simply surviving. However, we are bombarded with a seemingly endless stream of stimuli. From social media and TV to news and literature, our phones keep us tethered to a worldwide ether. Amongst the digital noise, our young people are falling victim to the pitfalls of technological innovation. A study published last year suggests that individuals who use social media to maintain their relationships feel lonelier than those who spend the same amount of time on social media for other reasons [2].

With increased reliance on social media to maintain relationships going beyond the pandemic, and the switch to remote/hybrid work, there is no wonder that another study reported that young British adults (16–24 years old) who identified as BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) reported higher levels of loneliness [3]. In the UK, 24% of young adults (18-24) reported often experiencing loneliness and 7% said they are always lonely [4]. For creative individuals, feelings of isolation can feel particularly profound.

Young people today are burdened with expectations and demands which can seem overwhelming and lead to anxiety and feelings of worthlessness… Creativity is an emotional outlet, and it is no accident that society’s most exciting creatives are often very young, while older creatives have usually held on – with a vice-like grip – to the urge to rebel and not to conform.
Michael Cockerham, Photographer, Ideas Foundation Facilitator & Creative Advisor
Macrophotography of People traversing over foil past sweetcorn
Macrophotography of cyclists cycling over half a tennis ball
lots of miniature people

So, What's The Big Idea?

In response to the issue of loneliness, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Divine Agumba proposed a project that would connect young, isolated creatives.

The project combined The Amos Bursary’s mission of fostering excellence for talented young individuals of African and Caribbean descent, Divine’s passion for innovative social action campaigns addressing mental health and racial equality, and The Ideas Foundation’s dedication to boost confidence in youth from diverse backgrounds, including BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic), refugee, lower socio-economic and geographically isolated communities.

On the front line, facilitators Peter Scott, Michael Cockerham, Tom Martin, Adisa the verbaliser and Ben Worth imparted their creative knowledge to students. By asking and answering questions, experimenting with different modalities of story telling and engaging young people's innate curiosities, the facilitators bridged a gap between eduction and creativity. Whether the students took part in drama, poetry, or macrophotography workshops, the skills they learnt were invaluable.

I felt happy in the workshop because I got to meet new people and do new things.
Student, Linlithgow Academy, Falkirk

With funding from UCB and equipment from Canon, The Ideas Foundation Facilitators were able to alleviate the burden on educators and schools in Falkirk, Whitby, and London. Their students received wellbeing skills, leadership skills, portfolio content and social media detox tips to build the solid foundation needed to navigate an increasingly complex world. With sustained support, charities such as The Ideas Foundation can provide key interventions to the New Creative Class. By destigmatising mental health, promoting mental hygiene tools, peer support and community action, young people are better prepared for the world of work.

three students peering behind a wall smiling
Student #CreatingConnections photography

By Marisol Holme

[1] Campaign to End Loneliness, The State of Loneliness 2023: ONS Data on loneliness in Britain (2023).

[2] Bonsaksen T, Ruffolo M, Price D, Leung J, Thygesen H, Lamph G, Kabelenga I, Geirdal AØ. Associations between social media use and loneliness in a cross-national population: do motives for social media use matter? (2023)

[3] YouGov, Young Britons are the Most Lonely (2019).

[4] Office for National Statistics Loneliness-What Characteristics and Circumstances are Associated With Feeling Lonely?  (2018a)

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