UPDATED: A 35-year-old Swedish woman who wrote to a newspaper to say she was so lonely she'd thought about killing herself, has stirred a debate about the difficulties of making friends in the Nordic nation.
Published: 9 November 2015 16:42 CET Updated: 9 November 2015 19:12 CET
A park bench for one in Stockholm. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
Feeling sorry for yourself this week? Spare a thought for Anna Kumlin, a Swedish woman who lives in Järpen, a remote town in north-western Sweden, whose comments about her battle with loneliness have made national headlines.
“I've been feeling very ill and wanted to die several times,” she wrote in a debate article in Swedish tabloid Expressen on Friday.
She said that she had moved to the area 20 years ago, having previously lived in Stockholm, but had struggled to make any close friends.
“When I am on social media looking at pictures of people with their friends it stings my heart,” she wrote.
“What have I done wrong? Why do I scare everyone? And why does no one want to hang out with me?” her text continued.
Kumlin, who is a single parent, explained that she had joined several Facebook groups in an attempt to grow her network, including some aimed at other separated mothers.
However she said that despite finding it fun to swap experiences and tips, it remained difficult to “really get to know people”.
Having previously found comfort spending time with her children and riding horses, she explained she had been compelled to publicly share her struggles after eventually finding an online community called 'Solitary friends' (Ensamma vänner), which made her realize that many others were finding it just as difficult to connect with people.
Kumlin blamed an increasingly “stressed society” for the phenomenon.
“You work a lot and do not have time to socialize and meet new people,” she wrote.
Kumlin's opinion piece was one of the most read and most shared articles in Sweden over the weekend. Her story has renewed debates about friendship in the Nordic nation where, according to a recent survey by Statistics Sweden, around 14 percent of people feel 'alone'.
“Swedes are polite, but they don't do small talk (…) while they may appear reserved, they're usually just respecting your privacy,” the report's authors concluded.
However it seems Kumlin is edging closer to finding the “best friend” she feels is missing from her life. She told Swedish newspaper Metro on Monday that after putting her heart on the line she had received around “70 to 80” social media messages from people who wanted to connect with her, although unfortunately none of them were based close by.
When The Local contacted Kumlin via Facebook she said she was “flattered” that her story was gaining international interest, but declined to be interviewed.
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