First Sgt. Edward Welsh: Only around people.
When it comes to characters having friends and being social, whether it would be because they are nice and friendly, you'd expect to see that character as happy and not the slightest bit lonesome. Well, not every character. The feeling of loneliness stretches out further than just not having any friends and not being social with people. It also stretches through emotional problems that relate to a character's friends and family, or just involve that character personally with their past experiences whether it would affect them emotionally or just remain as a memory that will stick with them as they grow. They may become socially awkward, as a result.
The typical kind of issues that enforce this trope relates to personal problems like parental abuse, where a character is tormented by a family member that makes them feel scared and alone because they can't tell the people they socialize without of fear it will make things worse. Or when a character has a lonely lifestyle because even though they hang out with friends at school and such, they spend most of their time alone at home with no one to socialize with at the end of the day. Or when a character has a few friends, but that character is treated poorly by them, the character has relatives that don't interact with that character much, and that as a result makes the character wish that they had more or better friends.
Some people feel alone when they are around people that don't understand their pain, usually if they have a gift that they worry could bring harm to the world and the people living within it, that they also feel alone because they believe they are too beyond dangerous to ever be helped by their loved ones that care for them. This is common among people with secret lives, and/or Living a Double Life, which may or may not involve The Masquerade.
Some characters experience these kinds of issues, but they keep them a secret either because they don't want their friends to be put in danger, or because that character feels like their friends wouldn't understand.
In fiction, this trope is usually solved through the character facing up to their problems either by taking down the person responsible for their loneliness, that person who has accidentally caused their loneliness tries to patch things up once they realize their errors, or the character tries to change their lifestyle that is making them feel lonely. Those that don't do any of these actions just remain lonely for the rest of their life.
Compare to Lonely Together, which is used for characters with these kinds of loneliness examples to relate to other characters that experience these same kinds of examples.
Examples of Socially Lonely
- Yugi Muto, one of the protagonists of Yu-Gi-Oh! used to be this before he solved the Millennium Puzzle and met Atem. He was friends with his childhood friend Anzu Mazaki and had a great relationship with his grandfather, but at school, he was always picked on by bullies like Katsuya Jonouchi and Hiroto Honda, and he prefers to be alone in class to play games by himself as a result. His wish that he hoped to have granted when he completed the Millennium Puzzle was to have friends, and that wish came true after solving the puzzle, which reincarnated Atem's spirit into Yugi's body and punished Ushio Tetsu for beating up Katsuya Jonouchi and Hiroto Honda, to which they decided to become Yugi's friends afterwards. Yugi also began to feel more confident and brave through his bond with Atem that the emptiness Yugi felt in his life was pretty much gone.
- Us and Them: Due to being the last Cetra on Gaia, Aeris finds herself isolated from people because she has abilities no one else does. Once she goes through the gateway and finds herself in an entire empire of Cetra, instead of fitting in she manages to isolate herself completely by reacting to the hazing of the White Mages Guild she joins, which is compounded further by people who find out she had Id's Death (the disease that wiped out the Cetra on Gaia) avoiding her like the plague, even though she's recovered from it.
- Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail: Chloe Cerise is unfortunate enough to be someone who doesn't care much about Pokémon in a world filled with them. The fact that her father is a Pokémon Professor doesn't help; indeed, part of the reason she dislikes them is because he's constantly absorbed in his research, neglecting her... even while forcing her to act as his assistant. Her Childhood Friend Goh is obsessed with chasing after Mew, her classmates envy her familial connections, and she's constantly dealing with everyone's presumption that she will follow her father's path.
- In Frozen II, Elsa has a circle of friends, including a sister who loves her more than anyone in the world, but still feels like she doesn't belong because of her powers. Thus, when she starts hearing a strange call from the north that nobody else can hear, she decides to embark on a journey to find the source, wondering if maybe the singer is another being like her.
- Jade from Victorious appears to feel this way, as evidenced by one of her "Jade with Tots" videos, where she asks why she doesn't have any friends she can count on. Even though she is friends with Tori and the others, she feels very uneasy about trusting them, fearing that they will mess things up for her, and it makes her feel like she has no one she can really count on and feels alone in the process.
- In the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alpha Bitch Cordelia privately confesses to Buffy that despite being the most popular girl at Sunnydale High, she still feels completely alone at times and doesn't really have true friends.
Cordelia Chase: Hey, you think I'm never lonely because I'm so cute and popular? I can be surrounded by people and be completely alone. It's not like any of them really know me. I don't even know if they like me half the time. People just want to be in a popular zone. Sometimes when I talk, everyone's so busy agreeing with me, they don't hear a word I say.
Buffy Summers: Well, if you feel so alone, then why do you work so hard at being popular?
Cordelia Chase: Well, it beats being alone all by yourself.
- Star Trek: Voyager
Freya: Do you know what it is to be alone among many and unable to speak your fears?EMH: I think I do.Freya: How do you survive?EMH: I'm still learning how.
- While something of an Insufferable Genius, the Emergency Medical Hologram will admit to this in his private moments. He's an Artificial Intelligence programed with a great deal of knowledge but No Social Skills as he was only meant to be a short-term supplement to the medical staff (who were killed in the pilot episode). Even after being accepted as "Doc" by the crew, the EMH continues to struggle with the feeling that they regard him as Just a Machine instead of a sentient being with his own rights and needs.
- In "Extreme Risk", B'Elanna Torres is engaging in high-risk holodeck activities with the safety protocols turned off after suffering Survivor Guilt on being told that the Maquis back home have all been wiped out. Despite the presence of Captain Janeway, Chakotay, Tom Paris, Neelix and the EMH, B'Elanna never goes to any of them for help. Eventually Chakotay has to force the issue.
- Lena from DuckTales (2017) is this when it comes to being the niece of Magica De spell. Even though she has no issues with friends and socializing with people, her resentment towards family is due to her relationship with Magica, as Magica is very emotionally and physically abusive towards her niece to use for her villainous goals, promising to grant Lena freedom if she obeys. Magica has especially threatened to harm her new friends if she spills the beans to them about Magica, which has made Lena feel helpless and alone as a result. Also in the second season where she is afraid of turning into her aunt and losing her friends forever, which ends up revealed to be her biggest fear that causes her quite a nightmare that Magica traps her in along with her friends.
- Sam-I-Am from Green Eggs and Ham (2019) is this in spades. Even though he's regularly a friendly guy who's very social with people and can easily make friends, he doesn't really have any friends that are willing to stick around him for very long due to his clinginess to making friends with people. Also, because of his childhood life of being abandoned by his mother, he has spent most of his life growing up alone without having any friends there for him. Altogether, this is why Sam is so obsessive over making friends with Guy-Am-I since he's the first person to ever wanna stick around Sam.
- Sunset Shimmer was this in My Little Pony: Equestria Girls Rainbow Rocks. While the Mane Six have forgiven Sunset for her evil actions in the previous films and she has started a friendship with them, she is still trying to gain forgiveness from everyone else for always being a huge bully, and her constant failed attempts at redemption make her feel like she's an outcast who will always be viewed by everyone as nothing more than a bully.
- In the The Owl House, Amity Blight has her own Girl Posse, but it's quickly revealed that she doesn't actually enjoy their company. When they're shown having a slumber party in "Hooty's Moving Hassle", the other girls are all playing games while Amity is off by herself staring out a window. "Understanding Willow" reveals that they're not even her friends by choice, having been forced to hang out with them by her parents who also forced her to cut ties with her actual friend Willow.
- Lars Barriga from Steven Universe is social with customers at the Big Donut and has a friendship with Sadie, but his low self-esteem keeps him from being open to other people. Even when he tries to impress the Cool Kids and be friends with them, he doesn't connect very well, so much so that he once asked Sadie if she has ever felt lonely despite being around people.
- Ready Jet Go!: Boxwood Terrace being the small town that it is, everyone interacts with everyone at one point or another, and there are multiple events and contests held in the neighborhood, most of which Mitchell is involved in. Mitchell is shown to have two fans who gush over him when he arrives at the race in "Kid-Kart Derby", but despite all this, Mitchell is a very lonely kid who just wants to have friends, but he doesn't know how to do it.