Before moving to Edmonton, Brandy Yanchyk lived in London, England. We don’t think of London as an isolated place. Heck, when you land in Heathrow, you feel like you’re at the crossroads of the planet.
But Yanchyk struggled with feelings of isolation. She lived with a senior who suffered from dementia.
Yanchyk was lonely.
She’s now married, lives in Edmonton and is an acclaimed filmmaker — and an alumna of Avenue’s Top 40 Under 40. But she’s never forgotten the psychological burden of loneliness; and it inspired her to tackle that very topic in her latest documentary.
“I was interested in the topic of loneliness, I’ve experienced it,” she says. “It happens to all sorts of people in all sorts of conditions. It goes across age groups, it happens to all types of sexual orientations. I hope that, when people see it, they can turn the lens on themselves. Am I seeing myself in this? What can I do?”
Breaking Loneliness premieres on CBC Alberta this Saturday (Sept. 28) and is available for streaming on CBC Gem. Yanchyk found some very different examples of isolated people in Calgary and Edmonton. There is a senior who lost his wife of more than 40 years, and now has to cope as a widower. There’s a gender-fluid person who feels left out. There is a divorcee who has to rebuild her life. And there’s the poignant examples of Indigenous Canadians who feel isolated.
“To indigenous people, they experience loneliness at a different level,” Yanchyk says. “That’s because their culture has been taken away from them.”
What’s pointed out in the film is that many people who feel lonely are in fact very active on social media. The thing is, having hundreds of “friends” on social media doesn’t replace real, human interaction. A social-media “like” might give a person a quick rush of adrenaline, but it does not replace an eye-to-eye conversation. Social media does not build or even reinforce a feeling of self-worth. In the film, we see people who have hundreds of social media connections but still feel terribly lonely.
Maybe, just maybe, the rise of social media has only increased the numbers of isolated people, as we retreat to our phones and laptops rather than getting, well, out there. These are important questions asked in Yanchyk’s film.