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Americans Are a Lonely Lot, and Young People Bear the Heaviest Burden (npr.org)
303 points by sudouser on May 1, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 257 comments

Best thing I did for my social life was stop working in tech and using tech as much as possible. I visit the same cafe every morning and now know all the regulars. I stopped buying groceries online and go to the store now. I call friends instead of texting and plan outings. I ride a bike and stop to chat with people wherever I go. I don’t watch TV, or play video games. I go the bookstore (only one left in my city) instead of Amazon, and I chat with people in the bookstore.

I now deeply regret working as a software engineer in my 20s, as I’ve realized it contributed massively to my loneliness. Which is sad because I used to be so excited about technology and now I see it as the biggest trend in reducing quality of life.

It seems the more interactions that are mediated by technology the less human contact we have.

What do you do when your friends don't pick up, or if they aren't willing to go on outings with you? I think the biggest contributor to my loneliness is that no one seems to like me. I reach out to hang out, and usually, get rejected.

This will seem counter-intuitive but work on opening up strangers in public places, and your friends will end up gravitating towards you.

Gladwell observed in Tipping Point that most peoples' social circle is usually created by one high connection "maven" who connects many low connection end nodes. You want to try to move closer to how that maven operates.

Concretely: If you go out with a friend, and end up becoming buddies with the waitress, and then also know of an after party you can bring the friend to, by virtue of your network, you will constantly be getting solicited to hang out. Even more quantitatively: if you can average +2 casual connections per day when you try, you'll be doing very well. But two connections in a day is very difficult for most people on HN; you'll have to work and experiment on how to achieve that.

I call those social connectors - one of the biggest differences I’ve seen having moved from California to the PNW is that they have large groups with absolutely no connectors. Having usually been one (but between groups), it’s signifcantly detracted from the quality of relationships here - it takes so much effort to get “into” a group because there is no front door, just a long slow osmosis by proximity.

I lived in Seattle for seven years, and what I observed there was that people there are shy (not snobby or cliquish, as the "Seattle Freeze" stereotype implies), which means you need to approach them because they will never approach you. When I put energy into introducing myself to people, I always got good results and I made a lot of friends that way. In contexts where a conversation started before names were exchanged (like hanging out with the smokers outside), I noticed that people seemed relieved once I introduced myself. I've shared this with friends, some who have tried it with similar good results.

Another interesting dynamic in Seattle is that people seem to assume all the people they know already know each other, which means nobody tries to introduce people. I have an old friend up there who used to insist I already knew people I hadn't met, which was frustrating. The result of this tendency is a social network with a highly connected center and a lot of poorly connected leaves. This structure really revealed itself when my social network was struck by a tragedy where several people were victims of a shooting -- there was a group of people who all had direct connections to at least one victim, and another group who didn't know any of the victims personally but a majority of their friends had. I was in the latter group and I found it very strange.

It was a huge contrast when I moved to the Bay Area, where people assumed everyone was a transplant and went out of their way to do introductions. I was at a party once where I was reintroduced to the same person four times -- someone who I had already met years earlier.

Reminds me of the parable of the two shoe salesmen in Africa [0]. The point being, if there's all these isolated, lonely cliques, there's actually a huge opportunity for someone who can consistently connect with others starting out as a stranger.


The opportunity is there but in seattle you definitely have a huge barrier - people will instantly mistrust you if you do anything other than the slow and steady route.

I'm kind of a maven, except all of my friends end up disliking each other.

Common misconception: having your finger in a lot of different pies is not being a Maven. If you joined an improv group, a church group, a softball team, and an MMA gym, you're at best a conglomerate, but more likely an overextended end node.

I don't meet people through groups, I just go up to them in public

That can be really tough; I've had similar experiences and I'm sorry to see what you're going through. You are not the only one (there's an article above with the data!). I hope some of this helps; f some is way off base, ignore that part:

Most of all, have compassion for and care about yourself. It doesn't solve every problem, but it's the most important relationship you have by far. Without it, you'll always be lonely no matter who is around. With it, how others respond won't matter so much.

Have compassion for the other people too, especially those who don't respond. They have their own problems which have nothing to do with you, which, like everyone else's problems, might make them a*holes at times. The reasons they don't respond likely have nothing to do with you. Don't objectify them - don't make them characters in your narrative of your social life; they have their own narratives independently of everyone else.

Another reason to have compassion for them is that people in your situation tend to adopt a perspective where all the power is in the hands of others: They respond or they don't. It's not a healthy (or realistic) perspective; you have power too and they are flawed, vulnerable human beings too.

And more practically, instead of worrying about people who don't seem to respond, keep trying until you find some who do - it can be hard to motivate yourself but it's worth the effort. For everyone, there are plenty of both kinds and it's no shame if it doesn't work out with some - that's inevitable given the odds - or if the ones that will respond are hard to find. You don't need many successes to have a social life and you are worth the effort no matter how bad your experiences so far.

Finally, many people find themselves lonely at times in their life, and find they need only one really close relationship, a life partner. If you have yourself (see above) and a life partner, then the other relationships become much less significant. Maybe that's the real goal; it can take a lot of looking, but once you find the person you both have it made (with plenty of work!).

Good luck!

The only answer I ever found to this was "find different friends" - or, more directly, "find real friends who do like you more."

But it's very, very hard.

My biggest issue is similar. My friends and I can hang out together easily, but we don't really just hang out anymore, they always want to go to bars and I'm not really into that.

I usually try to find out what passions the other person has. If somebody is passionate about something (no matter what), then they have experienced depth in that topic. I want that depth; it is the underlying treasure of this world. That's why I will steer the conversation in that direction. If somebody I talk to wants to have a shallow pretentious chat, we can safely depart after 3 minutes, him thinking: "ok, that's one of the weird ones, that doesn't believe in the value of a high society chat". I celebrate being different and open-minded and non-elitist (in the sense that I don't feel that I'm better than anybody else) and all my close friends do too.

You probably have a reason for liking those Japanese bands. They excite you somehow. Find out why. If you can articulate it, then people will be able to understand your passion.

or it could be that they are all busy and lonely too. Do they hang out without you ? As another person said, just find your tribe.

personal experience: moving towns I made friendship initially with a group, but didn’t fit, so I changed to a group of friends where I truly fitted

If you don't mind me asking what career did you switch too? I've long thought of leaving software.

I don’t have a career. I don’t want one anymore. I work for low wage at a sign shop part time, and do consulting part time. I have some software side projects but they don’t make much money. I’m saving all the money from consulting and odd jobs to put towards starting some sort of small business, but I don’t know what yet. I sometimes build bikes and sell them.

I applaud the change you’ve made in your life. I think it’s great. However, living like that is pretty difficult if you have to provide for a family.

Thanks for the response. This is exactly where I want to go, I just need to clear existing debt first.

How do you finance your daily living?

Pretty easy to eat a healthy diet of legumes, chick-peas, vegetables, white meat on a low budget. Use a bike to get around.

I guess moving out of a tech city is the first step though. Rent is hard to afford.

Hardest part is actually for most guys putting themselves as a the point of origin as the most important person.

Seems like this should be explored as a blog post by you....please write one

IMO this doesn't have to be controversial to each other. I am software dev as well, however I call friends or even just drive by, I shop most things in actual stores (except things I have to import because my market is rather small and limited), I never gamed, never owned a TV (I do enjoy some series tho), ride my bike everywhere and love to meet people on the way. Hence I even visit (or call if anywhere else) my bank once a month instead of online banking.

I love creating Technologie that contributes to my way of life instead of making me more isolated.

my man ivan illich strongly agreed with you in his 'disabling professions', which you may enjoy. he generally argued that many of our needs are manufactured by various institutionalized forms of care (healthcare, education, transportation) which respectively reduce our abilities to care for, educate, and move ourselves around.

Alternately, if the workplace is a caring one and not sociopathic, it could encourage people to socialize more. I’d bet people socialize a lot more in Europe for example, where there’s a more even contract between worker and business.. but hey may be wrong.

I took a sabbatical from tech (didn't touch a computer, worked as a chef) for several years for this very reason. If I had never taken it I wouldn't have met my wife.

Thanks for sharing this. You're a voice for a lot of people, especially on HN, who feel like they need to be up with the latest trends on tech to be happy or cool or relevant. But when you zoom out and think about the fact that most people on this site, and really a lot of people in society in general, sedentarily stare at a glowing rectangle for 8+ hours a day, you wonder why there aren't more comments like yours.

I've worked in tech for 15+ years and met almost all my friends through it. What about tech did you find to be so harmful socially?

How do you pay the bills comfortably and do you support a family?

I have as few bills as possible. Just rent, phone, gas, and health insurance. No Netflix or other entertainment subscriptions, no amazon prime, no mortgage etc. I don’t have the latest phone or clothing, I don’t buy things I don’t absolutely need. Most of my money goes to rent and food and my health insurance.

No I don’t support a family. But keep in mind my parents raised me waiting on tables.

Keep in mind your parents _could_ support you on waiting tables. That is no longer as viable.

I'm sorry, but your whole experience reeks of the annoying kind of self-righteousness that only people with no real obligations have.

That's not right, he has the obligation to care for himself, as every person on this planet does.

Correct me if I'm wrong but you choose to have children, a partner and other "obligations", so how is he the self-righteous one?

> with no real obligations have.

Because he doesn't have kids?

It is an obligation to take care of oneself, to be self sufficient. What you say is slandering this guy's work.

he's not living at home with his parents paying his rent, he's not living on welfare. He's making his way in the world on his own. "No real obligations"?

I don't see it that way, he found a path that works for him. The path might not be right for everyone, but there might be pieces that everyone could use.

As I often see here, you're missing the spirit of the post. (S)He's not saying that having less or being poor is intrinsically a happier existence. They are referring to a freedom from consumerism and the "need" to have things or chase the newest fad.

I struggle too, with resisting consumerist urges; which have been ingrained in me since birth. But really, they are right. Does purchasing Tom Ford apparel make you happy? It's fine if it does, but what happens if you don't? Nothing at all, actually.

We don't need all the things we're so constantly sold, and recognizing that lifts a weight (or anxiety, if you wanna call it that) from the shoulders. There's freedom in not needing things.

Go outside. It's free and fun.

I would say the lack of family for many (men, especially) in their late 20's and beyond is another issue that the media will be slow to acknowledge.

Let's face it - 33% of males aren't going to have families of their own, and probably 66% or so (very rough figures) will end up spending the majority of their lives without their families (due to ez-divorce and custody laws favoring mothers).

Families are more important than we think today. Everyone now is an Ultra Important Individual. And that's great, but you need a home base from which to operate as an individual, and you need secure relationships. Don't have kids if you don't want kids, but find a partner and a dog, and take your partnerships seriously. Go into your serious relationships with the for-life mindset.

The next step in our little social activism pendulum is looking at custody laws for sure. Men are very much at risk here on the topic of loneliness especially.

Life in your 20s can be more about your friends and going out, but life after 40 is really about family (if you're fortunate enough to have one of your own)... If your numbers are right it is a total catastrophe.

I agree. Less is more. The less you have, the more happier you are -- you spend time more on what counts.

>328. If for company you find a wise and prudent friend who leads a good life, you should, overcoming all impediments, keep his company joyously and mindfully.

329. If for company you cannot find a wise and prudent friend who leads a good life, then, like a king who leaves behind a conquered kingdom, or like a lone elephant in the elephant forest, you should go your way alone.

330. Better it is to live alone; there is no fellowship with a fool. Live alone and do no evil; be carefree like and elephant in the elephant forest.


My problem is def that I do not have enough alone time. I used to have enough alone time before I had kids.

Between work, wife, kids, friends, family, and various drains on my time, squeezing in some quality alone time has become increasingly difficult.

Therefore, I have had to turn my stoicism onto detaching from my former desire for alone-ness (not the same as loneliness, I know).

If anyone knows how to make more time for being alone when you have young kids, let me know! :) I suspect I will mostly have to look forward to that some time in the future.

Figure out what you need and trade off with your partner. You get one evening a week off, and she gets a different evening a week off. On your evening off you can go to a cafe or hackerspace to work on something, or sit and read at the library, or go for a drive, or bike ride, or a walk in the park.

Note that depending exactly what it is you need (or think you need), certain lifestyle changes may be able to get you parts of it "for free". For example, I choose year-round bicycle commuting, which is a hardship in the winter, but it does mean that almost no matter what, I get 5hrs/week of time to myself for fresh air, thinking, and physical exercise.

If you have somewhere you're comfortable cycling with them, stick them in a bike trailer and pull them around behind you.

My son just zones out for an hour or more when I do this with him. We're together of course, but I also have most of the feeling of freedom and solitude that cycling gives me, and he generally has a great time.

One day I realized that for most of my life I had been looking forward to some better future time. I’m trying to appreciate my life in the now instead, since that’s the only time we really have.

As far as finding solitude, I’ve found that a few solo camping trips a year help. They don’t solve the problem and it almost feels hopeless to take a couple weekends out of the year to solve a weekly problem, but it actually helps enough that I wouldn’t want to go without it.

My favorite task is now doing the grocery shopping by myself. A whole hour of wandering the aisles filling up the trolley in (relative) peace and quiet. One of the highlights of the week and its supposed to be a chore.

Comments like this make it seem like it's absolutely miserable to have a family.

It is miserable having a young family.

The first two years of having a child have been 70% crap, 20% sleep, 10% rewarding moments.

There are a couple of up-sides:

- The rewarding moments are pretty cool, and there are more all the time.

- You don't appreciate free time until you have none. I no longer procrastinate and overall I think I get more things done than I did with unlimited free time.

Nah. I miss single life while knowing perfectly that my life is better with my partner. I miss getting lost in video games and having a wide circle of low-stakes friendships, while knowing perfectly well they my life is richer and more rewarding now than it was then. I'm exhausted by the little humans in my life but I wouldn't give them up for anything. Such is life.

It's incredibly rewarding but it's not easy.

Raising the kids is actually the easiest part.

Going into work less productive because you are exhausted and having your boss yell at you for missing deadlines is the hard part.

Struggling with money is the hard part.


Our culture is a lot less family friendly than it was 50 years ago.

>Going into work less productive because you are exhausted and having your boss yell at you for missing deadlines is the hard part. Struggling with money is the hard part.

TIL I have it easy...

lol, reading it again now does look really depressing. I wouldn't want it any other way, just that the house is always full, its like living with roommates all the time except noisier.

Can’t have highs without lows.

Haha, and I take the kids to do it in order to give my partner her hour or so off on a Sunday afternoon.

> I suspect I will mostly have to look forward to that some time in the future.

You will miss them when they grow up and move away. Ignore your longing for "alone" time now. You're going to get plenty of it.

Oh, I'm with you there. I do not wish for them to grow faster, at all.

I would suggest getting into endurance sports. Going for long runs or bike rides is an awesome way to clear mental space and no spouse would argue against your personal fitness.

You're being sarcastic maybe? I would interpret it as really selfish if my partner put his personal fitness as a priority above our family functioning.

No, I'm not being sarcastic, nor did I suggest that he put his personal fitness above his families functioning.

That said, I wouldn't enter a partnership with someone who did not respect my need for an hour or so of exercise 3-5 days a week and of course I would make the same effort to provide them that time as well, if they wanted it. In fact, I would argue that a persons physical fitness(to a certain level, of course) is crucial to a partnership and a healthy family. Full disclosure: my wife and I don't have kids- but these are my values and I'm proud enough of them to hope to bestow them on my kids if we ever have them.

I have a 2yr ol, and me and my spouse have the exact same way of functioning. We haven't quite figured out how to get 3-5 days but 1-3 days of exercise each is what we aim for. Or thinking it's the same: you can't have a happy family if your vitals (sleep, exercise, healthy food) are low. We try to combine 1 exercise (running) with going to a playground all of us and then one runs a round while the other cars for our son.

Oh! 3-5 hours a week. You said "extreme sports" or some such, and I was imagining several hours a day!

Endurance - not extreme. Middle distance running covers sprint type runs up to 3 miles. 5k runs (3.12 miles) take about a half an hour to complete for someone who is averagely slow (no offense to anyone who runs 5ks in 30 minutes). That means a 10k run takes about an hour to run. Cycling takes a bit more time to burn the same amount of calories, an equivalent ride to 10k(6.24 miles) would be about a 20 mile ride and would take the same person about an hour and fifteen minutes to ride. I really think this is a healthy way for someone to buy alone time within a family if you can't tell and I think that it's good for all parties involved.

If you're not attending to your personal fitness then the situation you're in is dysfunctional, regardless of whether or not it's a family, a childless relationship, or single life. So it's not possible to sacrifice personal fitness for family function because that is a core part of it.

If you're taking care of others to the exclusion of yourself, you're going to end up in a downward spiral of resentment. Nothing good will come of that.

I can't say i've found a solution. But I have improved the situation. I work remote now, cutting out 2-3hrs a day of commute time. Though we had to move states (CA -> TX) to get a larger home so I could have an office.

I have 3 kids, one of them in diapers. I stay up late and work on side projects / watch dumb shows alone after the family goes to sleep. No matter how later I still get up early to get the older kids ready for school. I'm tired all the time but it's worth it to get that alone time.

Sounds like you're killing yourself by shortchanging your sleep.

Here's what I do: take a day off from work when I know everyone will be gone. Then, I have the house to myself to listen to music loud, read, whatever.

If you have really young kids, you'll need to wait until they are in school. Then, do the day-off trick.

Reminds me of this good read on bad friends: https://aeon.co/essays/when-a-friendship-turns-sour-more-tha.... It concludes by arguing it’s better to have bad friends than no friends at all. Though I’m not entirely convinced.

I can confidently say I disagree with that conclusion.

As Jim Rohn famously said, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. While I don't completely agree because I think think "time" can also be interpreted to include reading-the-works-of, I think those five people (either in-person or remote) exert a lot of influence. They help shape your ideas, and provide boundaries or gateways to your thoughts through their feedback.

> 321. A tamed elephant is led into a crowd, and the king mounts a tamed elephant. Best among men is the subdued one who endures abuse.

Not sure I can agree with this, especially as a man. Essentially saying neuter and emasculate yourself , so the King will ride your ass for the rest of your life and you'll live a content life.

> neuter and emasculate yourself... and you'll live a content life.

A lot of Buddhist advice becomes very strange when taken into a secular context. It feels like there's a sense in the West of Buddhism as "less religious" than other faiths because it's less engaged with a deity, but that's a misleading approach.

It's worth remembering that most Buddhist traditions don't expect enlightenment in one lifetime, and do believe in literal, bodily reincarnation based on your behavior in this life. I can't speak to this specific verse, but "best among men is one who endures abuse" is the sort of sentiment which is very different in a world where the one abused will be reincarnated and seeks an end to that cycle more than they seek present benefit. There are bits worth using in a secular context, but as with most faiths we should also expect some advice that's grossly wrong without its spiritual framework.

(This is also worth remembering when we talk about corporate Buddhist meditation retreats and the like. They seem to assume that if enlightenment is the death of desire and ego, a little Buddhism will be a decrease of greed and selfishness. There are a lot of Buddhist traditions which are very much not about that sort of linear progress.)

Well, not bodily. Transmigration is the term. It means that a human consciousness is said to separate from the person's body once they die (the body stops activities and decomposes); the consciousness is said to be able to remain indepedent by its energy being "installed" onto a certain amount of gas, however strange that sounds at first, and that's what they call a "spirit" or "ghost" in the East. Then when that energy disappears, if the person didn't destroy themselves through some kind of problem they got while being alive the previous time, they are reborn through what is in their "origin", which was composed entirely of what that person has done. They forget all memories from past lives because memories are according to Buddhist teaching said to be stored in the consciousness and once that consciousness deteriorates and disappears, they're are gone. But what the person has done doesn't disappear and it's said that a person can find teachings earned in a past life in their own origin again. That's their explanation for why some people are naturals at some things and others are not. They gain a new body through rebirth but their soul (consciousness) is supposed to stay the same unless they lose themselves and along with it, their ability to be born as a human.

Had a lot of time to read this stuff. It goes pretty deep.

Is that from Tibetan book of the Dead? Never read it, but early Buddhism rejects calling consciousness the “soul” or even supports the concept of a soul.

In fact there is one Sutta in the Pali Canon where one monk went around proclaiming consciousness as “self” or Atman and Gotama was pretty annoyed at him.

No, Tibetan book of the dead is orthogonal to Buddha's teaching. People attempted to mix them but Buddha's teaching was only able to be correctly revealed in each detail by a Buddha due to only him having a high enough level to see things as they are (that's why he called himself a Tathagata), so people can't help but change it by adding their own thoughts and ideas. When we look at cases of a special teacher showing a reaction we must confirm every exact detail in context or we will likely completely miss some critical qualifying detail. Buddha didn't see the concepts which religions of the day promulgated so he didn't teach concepts from them. They were naturally imprecise or wrong in some ways. Each object and each living creature has its own self; for example an apple tree only makes apple fruits, and if it changes what is in itself due to a change in its environment then it's a fact that its own truth changed. People who are not enlightened can't see, so they make things complicated due to thinking and learning others' ideas without knowing the world. That's why someone who could actually see things - the enlightened being - had to come to the human world. No one expected what he told people. Most /wanted/ Atman to be a real thing - perhaps that's why Buddha was shunned while he was alive. Hope that makes some sense for you.

You read it wrong.

The tamed elephant isn't a metaphor for a man, it's literally an elephant.

The notion is you should endure the abuse of the elephant, rather than lash out at the king for reprehensible behavior.

The overall notion, regardless of whether it is a realistic one or not, is if we stop giving the gregarious attention they crave, it'll cease to be a valuable endeavor. Don't let the king rule you emotionally, and you'll never be their subject literally.

The alternative is revolt against the king. But violence begets violence. And the kings usually have the best weapons.

It's akin to Anarchisms "Rules without rulers".

Thank you. I guess I interpreted it literally.

I'm no buddhist, but yes, neutering and emasculating yourself and realizing that your status (which you fear would be tarnished by the king riding you) is worthless would, I think, result in contentment. You can either choose to try to hold on tighter to your imagined status, and possibly succeed and live only with constant fear that it might be taken away... or let it go.

Really depends on interpretation, of which there can be quite a few different ones: Even with a king riding on it, subdued and enduring abuse, it's still the elephant who's best (mightiest) among men exactly because of how it is patiently enduring. Says something about power being independent of social status? How the strong keep enduring to preserve harmony?

If the elephant wanted, it could easily squash the king, regardless of him being a king or not.

Not with a crushed spirit.

A bird that has lived its life in a cage won't leave. It's really quite sad to see.

Men convince themselves they are free by refusing to ackowledge the walls of their own dungeon.

Don't forget, the elephants are almost extinct, men are overpopulated and depressed, while kings have flourished and bicker for the riches of the world. While it's a lovely parable, if you extend it out, the truth of it becomes apparent =P

> Not sure I can agree with this, especially as a man

I'm not sure I understand the qualifier; do you think you'd be more likely to agree with this if you were a woman?

Scriptures are, of course, open to interpretation, but I think 322 and 323 indicate that the passage is about taming/taking control of your mind/perception and subsequent actions.

"find a wise and prudent friend who leads a good life".

By then it is too late. Because you aren't a "friend", you are a protégé at best or an opportunist at worst. You will never relate on a deep level because you missed their struggle, foolish mistakes, and hardships as they journeyed towards a good life and wisdom.

I think we're lonely because we have too many choices. When I can go to any meetup, any concert, any social function, any whatever, it makes me less likely to make friends, not more.

Looking at my own experience, I didn't even particularly like my friends when I first met them. Several of them seemed outright repulsive. It took several months of being in the same "sticky" social situation to bond--long periods of time in the same school, sport, club, neighborhood, etc. If I had the opportunity to transplant myself into another social situation after the first day/week, I'd never have made any of those friendships.

How can we keep the same group of people stuck together for a sufficient amount of time? I think that's the secret for creating friendships and curing loneliness.

It really is ALL about getting stuck together with people. Friendship is more about familiarity and mutual understanding than similar tastes or whatever initial compatibility people over value. Anecdotally some of my most meaningful friendships are people I legitimately hated but were forced to learn how to get along with.

> Friendship is more about familiarity and mutual understanding than similar tastes or whatever initial compatibility people over value.

This is exactly how Data interprets friendship. I'm not sure what my point is other than I've been hooked on Star Trek TNG recently. I can't get enough ever since I realized it isn't a show about space and aliens -- it's a show in which the entire premise seems to be simply a story of fascinating interrelationships that form when a diverse team faces unique problems. I LOVE IT.

I don't necessarily agree. I Think that does happen, in fact thats more or less how I met my best friend. But I think coincidence plays a far deeper role. I've made some great friends online just by happening to be playing in the same match and accepting an invitation to a group for no reason. I remember how I joined my six man destiny clan - three years ago I was playing in the iron banner and just so happened to party up. We then played all weekend and for the next three years. Same thing happened when I joined a group that messaged me because my gamertag was coincidentally related to their group name.

I agree.

I think you have to force yourself to commit to something. Sign up for a meetup and get that perfect attendance. Go a minimum, say 10 times, before giving it up. We're too interested in instant gratification but connections take time.

This is so true. And we're inundated with images and stories of "better" people who we'd rather be friends with thanks to social media and celebrity idolitry which makes us not want to settle for the healthier, more realistic options we have for friendships. Also "better" isn't actually better, it's only the appearance of better from highly curated public perceptions.

Yes, exactly. I vividly remember the first day I met my cabin mates at summer camp when I was younger. I thought I'd won the reverse lottery--the lamest group of people I'd ever encountered in my entire life. Still friends with some of them nearly two decades later. :)

Allegedly this is how the draft used to work in Sweden.

A little late to the game, but the NYT-accepted wisdom among other things is "repeated, unplanned interactions". That's how most strong friendships work.


in that direction: there was recently a study showing how many hours people needed to spend together to create friendships

> nearly 50 percent of respondents reporting that they feel alone or left out

Self-centeredness runs high these days. Us young people want the world to cater to us. However, two self-centered people don't get along that great.

If I want to make friends, then I have to choose to actively put time and energy into someone else; sometimes without getting much back.

The most lonely I've ever been (or ever seen someone else), is when I am totally self-focused - spending all my time on my plans and situation and looking for ways people can fit into those plans.

This isn't the only problem, but it's certainly a player.

I'm not sure why you're downvoted, this is most definitely contributing towards the problem, along with a (perceived?) lack of tolerance to other people's values and beliefs.

Somewhere we diverged from "live and let live" and "meet the other person half way" to "if you can't handle me at my worst, you don't deserve me at my best" at scale. "Social Selfishness" or "The Peacock Effect", and it seems social networks galvanize attitudes in this direction.

Unsolicited advice: Delete your Facebook and Twitter, leave your phone in your pocket or your car, and enjoy the company of others over a meal or shared activity. Listen more than you speak. Give the benefit of the doubt. Be present in the moment. Be mindful about your emotions when your beliefs or values conflict with those of others. Make the effort to stay in touch with those you love and/or care about (phone or email works, postcards are fun). Empathize.

2/3 of Twitter appears to have no other purpose than to continually identify minor differences of opinion and perceived grievances, and then invite all your followers to castigate the offender.

I can't upvote this enough. The Social Justice Warrior scene seems more concerned about embarrassing anyone that disagrees, posting passive/aggressive meme gifs, and receiving likes/retweets than solving any real issue.

Young kids are full of themselves, that's for sure. Being a selfish little prick is what teenagedom is about. Usually though, it should fade out and people generally become more socially aware and conscious of their surroundings.

However, I'm seeing quite the opposite. I'm 40+ years old and I'm astounded at how many assholes there are of big babies who overcompensate for everything by being a big prick. At least teenagers have an excuse, but what we define as "Adult" these days escape me.

I'd say us middle age are more to blame for the loneliness perpetuating our obsession with things, work, and lifestyles... none of which have done ANYTHING to bring humanity closer together...

Look at the Xbox for example. I have people who hate me because I play games on the xbox. Why? Look at phones, People will assume your identity and personality on whether you own an iPhone or an Android and which expensive model you can buy. Look at cars - your car describes how manly you are. No one buys a Jeep to go explore the country anymore, they buy a Jeep to show how manly they are and to go instagram pictures of places they have been and how much money they dumped in their vehicle that could have gone where they are stock from the factory.

Feeling alone or left out, stop giving a shit what phone people own, what consoles they play, what OS they run, what movies they like, what politics they adhere to and start giving more shits about how YOU feel and how YOU convey yourself to the world and how YOU should be a better member of society.

> No one buys a Jeep to go explore the country anymore, they buy a Jeep to show how manly they are and to go instagram pictures of places they have been and how much money they dumped in their vehicle that could have gone where they are stock from the factory.

Sure they do, you just hear about the latter a lot more because they shout on social media about what they've done, whereas the former just go explore the country.

I went through a period of time where I had a hard time making friends and I think it mostly had to do with my own attitude. Partly it was me not being friendly enough (too tired, not feeling great myself) to others and partly it was me not giving other people enough of a chance (assuming they were jerks/morons at the outset instead of the more likely situation that they have their own stuff going on, or maybe they assumed I would be a jerk before talking to me so I have to show them I'm not). I imagine people just don't have as much time/energy as they get older and become a bit more cynical, both of which would be impediments to making new friends.

Being default jerk/cynical is a shame - and I'm not sure how we got here as things have gotten better - just seems we hold on to the worst rather than focus on the best.

I'll admit, I'm cynical when it comes politics now so I write off people I know I'd normally have no problem with and it's a damn shame we've come to this as a society.

I think its a symptom of us not tackling real issues and working on the real human condition... It's about "my taxes" "my money" "my freedom"... we have lower taxes, more freedom and more money than ever before and yet it's not good enough.

So we don't solve health insurance, housing, population, education or anything that can be a real benefit to humans not being lonely and we focus entirely on what makes us lonely - "me me me... money money money"

Yeah, I'm not certain this isn't how people are by default when encountering someone they view to belong to a different "tribe". The problem in North America may be that we are too individualistic and don't focus enough on what we all have in common.

Of course you can work on overriding your default behavior as well, but part of losing the cynicism is recognizing we all struggle with things in our lives and we all have things we care about. I feel good relationships are founded on trying to have some compassion for other people's struggles and trying to respect what other people care about.

If you didn't nail the "why", you certainly came about as close as one can get.

From my personal experience, I think that we may be missing the "social clubs" from past decades. There's something to being a new person to a club or group that forces people to stop thinking of themselves as special/unique and defer to the group dynamic, and I think this is (in most cases) a healthy process. I've played ice hockey with the same group of guys/gals for ~15 years, and when a person joins our group, you can tell almost immediately if they're going to last: if they keep their mouth shut on the ice and let their playing do the talking, but off the ice they are sociable and have interesting things to add to the conversation, then they will be a long-term member. If they, instead, start whining about this or that on the ice or don't want to join in some of the off-ice socializing, they typically aren't going to last very long.

Why is this downvoted :\

Happiest times in my life have been times when I actively tried to help other people without expecting anything back(other than good feelings).

It doesn't look like there's a distinction between friendship loneliness and romantic loneliness in the article (not sure if there's one in the actual studies).

I'd hypothesis that the difficulty for most isn't making friends (meetups or shared interest groups like dancing, knitting, boardgames, kickboxing, group instrument lessons, etc), but in partnerships.

I think people are really afraid today. Dating sites/apps seem to make it worse, reducing individuals to a photo as a primary interest mechanism.

I'm really curious of the huge disparity between men/women messaging one another on such platforms. Women tend to get inundated with messages where as men are typically responsible for initiating. Some platforms try to flip this around like Bumble, but it doesn't seem to really change the dynamic at all (some men get tons of responses while the rest get zero).

There just isn't enough depth in this article to draw out any real conclusions about loneliness, the various types of alone-ness and what to do about it.

> I'd hypothesis that the difficulty for most isn't making friends (meetups or shared interest groups like dancing, knitting, boardgames, kickboxing, group instrument lessons, etc), but in partnerships.

I've mostly seen the opposite. People whose social lives were centered around dating and meeting people through that, who then settled down, and now don't know how to make just "friend" friends.

Would the two have the same root cause? That's an interesting question - many claim that "tech" (in the abstract, or in the specific eg "facebook likes") are responsible for both, but I don't really buy it.

I don't know what historical rate information we have, but there have always been some loners. They have an easier-to-access platform today, does that skew our perception?

This matches my experience. People get married, settle down, and then the people they mainly interact with are coworkers and parents of their children. If those people don't have a reasonable sampling of people that match your interests, you don't have a lot of opportunities to make friends elsewhere. Meetups are often full of people trying to hook up, so not always useful for people already in a relationship. Plus, just having a single shared interest like knitting, dancing, or kickboxing isn't really a lot to hang a relationship on.

To the GP's point though, are the married people who have less friends the lonely ones? The article doesn't specify and from my own experience I'm much less lonely now with a significant other and less friends than I was when I was single and had many friends.

I suspect the lack of pair bonding and childbirth is driving the majority of the reported loneliness.

The question though is the overall social fabric less lonely? Maybe you benefit by being strongly coupled, but suddenly those "many friends" you had when you were single is utterly impacted by the shift. How many of those friends were only friends with each other through your connection and maybe aren't connected today? How many friends are lonelier without as much interaction with you?

To some extent modern culture has presented us this model of single-family homes and strongly coupled people against the world, and certainly it might minimize loneliness for the strong couples, but does it maximize loneliness for everyone else?

There's a lot to wonder if we've lost something in losing some of the classic "village model" of multiple families and individuals all in close proximity and relationship to each other in multi-family homes. Especially when you start to include individuals that for one reason or another don't "fit" into more traditional "Hollywood" couple relationship roles (asexual and/or aromantic folks don't always fit neatly into a strongly-bound couple role, as one obvious example to me; differently abled people have other challenges; etc).

Furthermore, a focus on strong coupling discounts the network effects of looser coupling. You may not feel hardly lonely at all always having your significant other around, but that may only be a "local maximum" state. Your maximal happiness may rely on both the reliability of a tight couple and a network of other friends filling other relationship needs. The long tail of strong couple problems from active therapy needs to cheating and divorce rates seems to suggest that it very much could be a local maximum "trap".

Anecdotally, I do feel like an individual that can't win in a game of strong coupling, and it does irk me that the suggestion is simply "be part of a couple". Hollywood and dating companies throw a lot of money at trying to tell people like me that this is the only solution, and it certainly seems like it's not a (workable) solution at all.

In a way a romantic relationship is easier since it's so explicit. The expectations are usually clearer. I'm in my 30's and find making new friends immensely difficult. Everyone is busy with their lives and already have settled into a groove.

The cost of distance and synchronization are also a factors.

It is very easy for me to establish a virtual third space for a topic of interest, but the reality of timezones make establishing connections with those friends sometimes insurmountable; and those friendships do not translate well to the physically limited world.

Conversely, local relationships are also extremely difficult to establish due to the diffuse living areas surrounding larger cities. Those whom you might be inclined to establish a social relationship with can live /hours/ away during the evening commute periods and are often extremely busy on weekends.

Even if time to meet up can be established a stable and sufficiently (warm/private/intimate) meeting place might not exist or might require an economically infeasible increase in rent. The inhospitably to cars (for outsiders of the urban core) and the low quality of public transit in US cities (particularly 'out west') compound the pain of this friction.

The net result is friction on social activities that destroy network effects that are probably expected in larger populations. When combined with a lack of locality stable careers in many fields, at least first hand, I observe a lack of community and the ability to establish social links.

> I'm really curious of the huge disparity between men/women messaging one another on such platforms. Women tend to get inundated with messages where as men are typically responsible for initiating.

You're basically seeing sexual selection and Bateman's principle at an exaggerated scale, because online dating makes it very easy for males to cast wide nets repeatedly thereby allowing women to be even choosier for their partners.

> I'd hypothesis that the difficulty for most isn't making friends

I have not found any group activity that I would want to do regularly. Upon introspection I find that I have created a lot many small hurdles for me. No smartphone due to privacy concerns, no car because I am accustomed to public transport, live too far from the city even though I could move. Combined with no real interest in offline group activities that leads to not having had anyone who I would call friend in more than a decade.

> but in partnerships

Isn't "being social" a prerequisite for dating? I mean when I even think about an online dating site the first question that comes to mind is how blank my profile would look.

It's hard to learn how to spend time with others. Once the external reasons are gone, (mostly school) you're left with the uncomfortable reality that a social life doesn't just make itself. Tools like social media give us more choice, but choice can only lead the horse to water. You have to take a step outside your comfort zone if you want to actually have friends.

I got lucky in some respects, I generally disliked my military coworkers, and I didn't want to only have them in my socializing pool, so I started spending lots of time off base. The habit stuck, and to this day I spend weekend mornings socializing at a coffee shop.

But I can see how lots of people get stuck in a rut of unfulfilling computer friendships and worse, Internet romances. Much as we bemoan the role of social media, I suspect the real issue is that lots of Americans just have higher standards for who they'll spend time with, and just as 15-20 years ago, most people still don't work on their social skills.

Used to be, even if you didn't agree with someone politically, you could still have an amicable conversation. Nowadays it seems like a lost art, nobody wants to even try. Everyone wants dead assurance that they're not "wasting their time."

All this is to say, I'm not all that sympathetic to the "epidemic" of loneliness, especially in young people, it feels like just another form of entitlement. Connecting with others is hard. Do it anyway.

I like this a lot. I also believe that taking complete responsibility for all of the issues in your life (some call it extreme ownership) is better than the inverse. If everything is your fault then at least you can try to change it, but if nothing is your fault then you're hopeless.

> The survey also found that working too little or too much is also associated with the experience of loneliness, suggesting that our workplaces are an important source of our social relationships and also that work-life balance is important for avoiding loneliness.

This paragraph hints at what might be a significant factor in increased loneliness: A lack of community. Community can be a workplace or it could be a neighborhood, but in both it's a place where you feel like you and your colleagues/neighbors "have each-others' back". It's not even important that you are all best friends, just that you trust each-other enough.

These two, work and home, are of particular importance vs the other venues that we inhabit, because for most people, our time is spent either working, or in the neighborhood in which we live. If neither provides a trusting-enough sense of community, you don't have much time left in your life to find that elsewhere.

But for many people a trusted community is inaccessible for a variety of social, cultural, and economic reasons. Many (most?) workplaces don't offer a sense of community (which is fine, they shouldn't have to if that's not what their workers are seeking), and many people - especially younger adults - live in neighborhoods where they don't know many people around them.

Yes and the remaining one (and often the only one) is family.

For many people workplace and neighbourhood have no sense of community at all and if you are single as well effectively you have no one to fall back to.

Sure you can go to a coffee shop with your gym friend or coworker once in a while but when you seriously need someone like if you get sick or need a shoulder to cry on it's not going to work with people with whom you don't have a intimate high priority relationship like partner or family.

Could this be related to the recent rise in tribalism and identity politics in American culture? In the sense that, without genuine connections to other people, some people focus on superficial characteristics as a way of belonging?

> Could this be related to the recent rise in tribalism and identity politics in American culture?

No, because there is no recent rise in tribalism and identity politics in American culture. There is a recent rise in people who aren't sociologists, political scientists, and lay observers with intense interest in those fields talking about the tribalism and identity politics that have long prominently featured in American culture, but that's not the same thing.

It sounds like a lot of people feel like they're missing out. This could be because so many on social media are trying to imitate the image of that lifefaker website that came up here recently. It's no surprise that the 18-22 age group feels the worst. They're the ones cultivating this fake life image the most!

If you're connected to 500 people and each person has 2-3 days a year that are "lifefaker" worthy... then it's pretty obvious how you'd feel left out. Each day you'll see 5 amazing posts that make you feel like you're living a terrible life. This is pretty standard stuff. It's standard by young people to not share sad things or things that won't fetch a lot of likes or envy. It's common to post things that aren't even happening now or recently but to share moments from the past that were great even if your life is pretty crap at the moment. It's about creating the image that your life is fantastic even if it really isn't.

Even worse than this, people start optimizing their life to be lifefaker worthy.

My wife and I bought a drone for, honestly, just this purpose, and as has been repeatedly mentioned, more and more restaurants plate their food to look good photo'd and posted online.

The local cherry blossom season is over crowded with people taking pictures, some of them bring out DSLRs just for the occasion. There is a local tulip festival that has changed over the years from admiring nature to being a great photo op.

The world is becoming optimizing for photo ops, it is now pretty easy to get in more than 2-3 photo-perfect days a year.


Correct! :)

There is only about 4 photo appropriate months around here, but getting a world class photo on any summer day is pretty much child's play.

I don't think this is it at all. I never read facebook/twitter posts (I just use FB for the messenger), and I know I'm not missing out. In my late 20s I took jobs in the South Pacific and spent a year backpacking through Asia/Europe. I've also done a 5 month drive across the US.

I've literally done the world travel thing (and loved it) but I still often feel lonely. Part of that is moving and starting in new cities a lot, but part of it is just difficultly in finding a partner. Within two years of being in a city I usually have a strong core group of friends, but romantic partners are much harder to establish (distinguishing between friendship loneliness vs romantic loneliness).

By your argument, maybe I'm part of the problem. :-P I only use social media to promote my own blog with details about travels or my photography, so maybe I make people feel left out. But then again, I still feel lonely myself.

I think your statement tries to narrow down something that's a much more complicated issue. And what you said may be true for some people experience loneliness, but not all for sure.

I am Norwegian and I believe we also have problems with loneliness in Scandinavia, but perhaps not this severe. While living in the US I did in fact feel very lonely. It was easy to make lots of friends, but most friendships felt fairly shallow. I felt people in America was so into putting on a facade all the time rather than showing their true self and their vulnerabilities.

It could of course just be a cultural difference, the place I was in or whatever. But regardless it was one of the reasons I left the US. I've been able to find deeper friendships in other countries. Although no place has it been so quick to make friends as in the US, getting invited to people's home etc. So Americans are easy to be around and fun to hang around.

But when you are alone in a country without family, you feel a need to have some really close friends.

I might be biased, but try north of Portugal. You have that quick friendliness you get in the USA, but after a few times, they will have no worries opening up to you with any problem or life situation.

ps: I'm from there, and lived in most of Europe and various places in Portugal, even when I was away from Porto for 4 years, coming back, I made a bunch of new friends (and reconnected with older ones) that I have a deep connection with!

It can be really hard for adults to make new friends, especially if they move to a new city/State for work etc which is contributing towards loneliness. Lots of apps like GirlCrew are popping up to help combat loneliness among adults in the US, particularly women aged 25-40. For many the loneliness comes from the fact that all their friends have got married/settled down and they are the last singleton in the group.

My startup, www.thawd.net, is aiming to fix the exact same problem. Move to a new city and we aim to find you groups of people to hang out with. We also support couples finding other couples to spend time with, and arbitrarily sized groups of people who want to meet new people.

It is a space that needs a lot of help, where there is an obvious need to help people live happier lives.

and guess what I'm doing in the next 4 weeks... Really trying to formulate a plan for when I move across the country to try and make friends and have a life.

I think if you force yourself to 'go out' and join activities you enjoy, its easy to meet new people.

The next step is following up with the new people.

My advice- Be okay with failure. Most people will not follow up, but the ones that do are keepers. 9/10 people will let you down, find the 10%.

This is excellent advice. Its really just about trying to spend time doing what you enjoy with other people who enjoy it too. Can be biking, running, video games, dancing, hiking or some sport. The activity makes it enjoyable, sharing with others even more so.

I agree completely. Effort is the largest component in meeting new people IMO.

I had an interesting conversation earlier today.

Let's say that we are in a small team, maybe five or six people. One person comes to work sad, upset.

Nothing has to be said. We stop what we're doing and help, right? We're not schmucks. We take time to listen, we reassure the person they're important, we celebrate their being part of our group.

Now let's expand the scale several orders of magnitude and change the medium. We are now part of some online system: Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, whatever. There are tens of millions of people all in one big virtual room.

Somebody mentions they are upset online. When we see something wrong or something we care about online, we type things in -- somewhere. We feel moved to act. Without something being said, the feelings don't exist to us.

Does that really do what it's supposed to be doing? I know our motivations are good, and in many cases there are fine words provided, but are we really helping and caring about people simply because we're tweeting, retweeting, hashtagging, typing our personal stories in, and so forth?

Is a text message saying "You are important to us" the same as going over to somebody, giving them a hug, having them look around the room at people who care about them, and telling them same thing?

Assuming it is, there's huge bunch of people involved. On any one day, a million people could be living out some horrible experience because of something in their lives. How could we know unless they type things in, and what kinds of things are those folks going to feel if they type things in and nobody responds?

I don't know which is worse. Maybe this type of communication is effectively showing our feelings and makes a difference -- and some people are just going to be ignored. Or maybe it's just so much self-stimulation, telling ourselves we're somehow doing something of importance when in fact all we're doing is making various people internet famous from day to day.

We tech folks keep assuming that human communication somehow all boils down to bits moving over a wire. That may be a terribly lossy way of looking at it.

My wife and I had the same conversation a couple of days ago, and my wife made the exact same concise point: we keep telling ourselves that socializing online is the same as socializing in person, but it's a lie and the sooner that we stop, the better off we'll be.

You're right.

I remember reading some research comparing the emotional value of face-to-face, phone, and textual interactions. Text interactions got zero or near zero value. A phone interaction was better, but still of course, not as good as a face-to-face one.

But i trully wonder if electronic communications(even assuming you can get high quality, face-to-face with eye contact and body language) are a valuable direction to go into for friendship ? maybe we humans aren't supposed to live in such huge groups, and do need the constancy of a tribe around us ?

> are we really helping and caring about people simply because we're tweeting, retweeting, hashtagging, typing our personal stories in, and so forth?

I think the people in the #metoo movement would say that, yes, simply getting the support of a retweet, or being able to tweet about an experience you had that hurt you is very useful and helpful.

Let me tell you how my conversation happened. I stepped away from Twitter for several months. It was always such a dumpster fire. But I had been making these little funny memes about this book I did. Where would I put them? So I went back to see what it was like. (#info_ops hashtag if you're interested)

I saw a couple of friends making a joke about gendered pronouns. I think people trying to control languages are silly, whether it's the Academy Franchaise or some other group. I love language. I collect idioms and quirks of various languages. It's emergent, unpredictable, uncontrollable. That's why it fascinates me.

But this is not something I joke about because some people find the topic terribly serious.

So I saw this tweet between a couple of friends talking about trying to remove gender. Without thinking much, I tweeted to them "Perhaps you should make a manual. Dang! Did it again!" and didn't think any more of it.

I woke up this morning with 40+ notifications on Twitter. Holy cow! My hashtag thing has really taken off!

Nope. It was thousands and thousands of people hearing my name first because of that joke.

I apologized. I tried to mute the conversation. Finally I deleted the Tweet. Suddenly I was in the middle of a discussion around women in tech -- as an example of some jackass who could take things seriously enough.

It still continues.

I had quite a rant about it this morning. My friend pointed out that women in tech was a good cause. It is worthy of discussion. I agree. But this did not feel like a good experience to me. I had spent a lot of time trying entertain and engage people with little pictures and nobody cared. (Fine with me). But accidentally entering a conversation with a lot of emotion already loaded in? I had attention I didn't want. Yikes!

We started talking about cause and effect. The interplay of emotions, intent, and actions among large groups. The internet is turning life from being active, participatory, and requiring observation to one of simple cause and effect. I create this stimulus. I get this result.

I think #metoo has been a great thing. Way overdue. But you're answering a different question. You're answering the question about do some groups overall find social use out of the net? I hope so. I think they do. That's a top-down question and answer. My question was bottom-up and more in line with the article. Does reducing our communication to typing and bits moving around, overt and binary stimulus-response in a tightly-controlled pipe make for each person becoming a slightly better person the more it is done? Or is it fundamentally isolating and cruel, no matter what the content or who is doing it?

Maybe it was just the people I interacted with, but the more time I spent on twitter the more I became convinced that a lot of people were proud of being lonely and miserable. It was big part of why I quit.

There's a danger here of stereotyping, taking people we disagree with, sticking them in a big bag, and then sticking a label on it.

Having said that, there are emotionally ill people in the world. While some people focus on the psychopaths, there are also people who are depressed, sad, angry -- and want to be heard. They continue feeling this way no matter what your interaction with them is.

If they are only 1% of the Twitter population, and Twitter has 100M subscribers, that's a million people. These people are emotionally injured and will remain so no matter how anybody responds. In fact, for some, interaction may exacerbate the problem.

I don't know how you deal with that using automation. Seems like whatever you did would just make the problem worse.

> there are emotionally ill people in the world. While some people focus on the psychopaths, there are also people who are depressed, sad, angry -- and want to be heard. They continue feeling this way no matter what your interaction with them is.

I don't think I agree that emotionally ill people feel the same way no matter how others interact with them, if that's what you mean. In fact, how others interact can have a large effect, IME. These are human beings who, like you and me and all the others, have many complex factors guiding them; they are not automatons, not solely creations of their illness.

yep, I know some shut-ins that spend huge amount of time online...

when chats started (Usenet), mostly geeks used it (myself included), the anti-socials!

Social networks made this happen. They give a feeling of inclusion and conversation while they are just a surrogate and imitation of a real human connection. Previously one had to make itself go out to meet real people and train itself to be social in real life -- being alone at home was too lonely.

Today sitting in front of a screen with a beer in a kitchen and participating in some absolutely irrelevant to our life flame with people one doesn't know and doesn't care about gives a perverted sense of socialization and inclusion. But at the end of a day, a person stays alone without real friends.

Instead, it'd be better to invite friends to go to a bar or a bicycle ride -- but it's so tempting and effortless to just go online and just sit on a sofa.

Wonder how the next generation is even going to breed.

The open question is what technology replaces?

For example what does social media replace? Does it replace real in person interaction between friends? Does it replace calling someone with text? Does it replace opportunities to meet up and connect in person?

What does Netflix and streaming video apps replace, did it replace going with your friends to the video store renting a movie together?

What does online shopping replace? Does it replace real human interaction asking someone in a physical store for advice what to purchase?

These questions are going to get more real as we get more robotics and automation around us.

If you work remote most of the time, then all interactions will be through online chat rooms. Coworking is a solution to that.

Your thoughts reflect my own questions about technology. I feel every year, a tiny bit of my agency is chipped away through automation or simplification.

I feel like every (in person) human interaction we have refreshes our ability to communicate and connect with people, and probably makes the brain happy on some primal/chemical level.

Bit by bit, these brief interactions are being removed from our lives (self checkouts, online shopping, google maps/GPS, online dating etc). I thought having more time to focus on myself would be great--and it was, on the surface. But now I see great importance in smiling and saying hello to a cashier, or stopping a stranger to ask for directions. The eye contact.. the warmth of another human. It's really important.

Sure, it replaces some things, but not what is imho important for shaving off depression and anxiety and probably a lot more than I know.

When people physically hang out, be it at meetups, or something similar, there is a sort of physical activity and energy that reduces (or even removes) depression for days at a time in many people. (I think the trick is to socialize in a non-judgemental atmosphere.)

I'm probably biased as I regularly went to meetups and traveled, but I've worked remote, and I did not have any problems with it on the loneliness front. If anything, it helped reduce my anxiety and depression because I was experiencing less shallow faceless conversations, and instead my social interactions were me being me talking about my day or geeking out about something. When you come to expect social to be that positive experience, instead of a chore, anxiety goes down, and from that depression can too.

Being a secular founder in tech seems exceptionally lonely. Especially when it comes to dating.

You don't have school or church as traditional recurring ways to network with people with your values. You cannot make friends at work (they're your employees, not your buddies, you might have to let them go any day, and often you do), you cannot date at work, and that's the one thing you spend 10-12 hours a day at. Most of social gatherings within your sphere of influence (tech and entrepreneurship) are very male-dominated as well. And you live in the Bay, where you relocated for work, losing your existing network. Your family and old friends are possibly thousands of miles away. And the Bay is again all about tech and a skewed gender ratio.

Even when you do make friends and expand your social circle, it's always more men.

You're stuck with the rather soul-sucking process of online dating and spending hours swiping on strangers who are about as jaded about the process as you are.

I suppose you have to find a co-ed hobby and hope that one day you run into someone who's a match through that. But realistically, how many new people will you meet through that?

Possible causes:

Death of retail: No social record stores, no social book stores, arcades

Internet everywhere: People on laptops at coffeehouse, on mobile phones at bus stop / checkout

Bad Transit/Urbanism/Public policy: Streets for cars, no plazas like the Italians, can't drink a bottle of wine in a public park

How many people really met in record stores or arcades? I'd usually just go there with friends. I knew one person who met their husband in a comic book store.

As for transit, that is a huge US problem for sure. But don't blame the Internet or phones. Look at videos from the 50s/60s and you'll see just as many people silent on the train/tram/bus reading magazines or newspapers. By the 80s they'd have newspapers and the nerds would have walkmans. By the 90s it was more common for even-non nerdy types to carry discmans and now, everyone wears headphones. But that's always been there, it's not really new.

> It finds that loneliness is widespread in America, with nearly 50 percent of respondents reporting that they feel alone or left out always or sometimes.

I know this is going to sound a bit hostile to younger generations, but perhaps if they put their phones down and stopped looking at screens they would see the person sitting across the room. Perhaps they might even talk to that person.

Seeing people glued to their phones while out somewhere social infuriates me to no end. If that's their thing, then so be it. At least they're usually quiet while doing it. But hearing them bitch about their shitty social life while not even looking up on their phone to look at the person across from them (who's usually on their phone too) boggles my mind.

I have noticed this happens more to younger people, but I have seen quite a fair share of older people doing the same thing.

The good thing about seeing this in public is that I feel like a jackass if I think about doing it. So I just leave my phone in my car or at home when I'm with someone.

Im skeptical of any study run by an insurance company.

Health insurance providers have every incentive to make people healthier - or at least use medical services less.

No, they have every incentive to reduce claims. That is not the same as making people healthier.

You're right about their incentive, but in this case it's the right thing for the wrong reason. I don't think it makes the article invalid.

This is something I miss about Italy. It was just easier to meet people. I don't know if it's just that people are more sociable, that spaces make it easier (not everyone is walled off in their car/suburban house all the time) or what.

> not everyone is walled off in their car/suburban house all the time

I can't compare to Italy, but I find suburban US bleaker and more isolating than I did living in Germany. My suggestion would be to go to your nearest urban area. Even the worst car-centric US cities have walkable parts - in a pinch, figure out where the local college is to start.

Apologies to those who like them, but suburbs are culture-deprived wastelands[1]. Go somewhere where people actually want to engage with the world and you'll have better luck.

[1] Obviously, I like cities. But even rural life is better - much cheaper, and instead of the illusion of privacy, you can actually be alone.

I would say it's a lot easier to distract yourself than it ever has been before.

No doubt, but it's also much easier to find a date, find an activity group, find an online community for shared interests, and stay in touch with distant friends and relatives.

Anyone wanna grab a beer?

San Mateo, CA

Are you in NYC?

I am and would be down to grab a beer

Cool. Could you send an email to the address on my profile?

I can't find an email in your profile, friend.

My mistake. I have one entered, but I guess the email field is private. I've corrected it now

or Chicago?

Boulder, CO

Palmdale, CA?

Orlando, FL

Buffalo, NY

San Diego

PWLSD (Papers we Love - San Diego) is meeting tomorrow and has some really cool people & beer. I'm a tall white man with black glasses who will likely be wearing a blue sweater - hit me up and ill talk your ear off!

Awesome, thanks! Unfortunately I can’t make it this evening - but I will without a doubt be joining next first Thursday so I hope to see you then.

Cary, NC

I'm in Carrboro, down for a beer or three. I bet there are a fair number of HN readers in the triangle area; maybe we could also try to organize some kind of meetup?

> ", with nearly 50 percent of respondents reporting that they feel alone or left out always or sometimes."

> "The survey found that the average loneliness score in America is 44, which suggests that "most Americans are considered lonely,"

Certainly, mental health has been ignored for far too long. That said, there seems to be a lack of context here.

- Is this an increase or decrease?

- How does it compare to other countries / cultures?

- Was this over time, or a snap shot, that would (I would think) be influenced by the current mental state of the person giving the answer?

I don't mean to sound cold and lacking in empathy but without transparency my first reaction is: C'est la vie. Life, by definition has highs and lows.

I'm not doubting there are people who need treatment / attention. On the other hand, the way this seems to be executed and presented feels like a pitch for more funding, etc.

p.s. Why was it / is it called the Loneliness Index? Or was that a self-fulfilling prophesy? Is that part of the pitch for attention?

I think young boys are being treated terribly. I am so disturbed by this and am to the point where I feel compelled to intercede in the emotional life of a troubled young relative of mine.

In my opinion, the problem is that we're no longer celebrating masculinity, but rather it seems we trash it at every opportunity nowadays.

Not sure how much that weighs on the loneliness problem, but I suspect having young men not acting like men isn't helping with our collective well-being and sociability.

These are pretty loaded statements.

Loaded with truth, yes.

Far, far from it. I am pretty concerned for anyone you could possibly be mentoring or in your words, "interceding." God help him, because that sounds nutty.

Go on.

I think we're trashing the toxic masculinity. The idea that men should always be stoic; should not have any feelings, and are supposed to be the epitome of manliness and power.

I don't think you can relate toxic masculinity to stoicism or suppression of feelings. While there are toxic attitudes that are merely acting out some misunderstood idea of masculinity (Ex: Telling a boy with legitimate issues that he needs to get over it), much of these ideas have merit. Men suppress their feelings so that they can be a strong pillar for their families in times of trouble.

Say a leader in your family, like a father, dies. What good does it do a man to completely break down emotionally and be of no value. In an ideal scenario, a man will step up and become truly useful during this time of trouble. Somebody has to make funeral plans and deal with the logistics of the whole crisis. This is a selfless action that gives others a time to mourn and you will get your time to mourn after everyone else has collected themselves.

Additionally, while deep and dangerous feelings, such as depression, should not be suppressed, many of the things you feel don't need to be shared. Maybe you don't feel like working out, or you feel like going off on an annoying coworker. These feelings do no good for you or the people around you, or are afraid to do the things you know you should be doing, but you still feel them. It would be better to suppress them, face your fears, and do something useful. There are times to share your emotions and there are times to suppress them, and it only takes a little bit of wisdom to tell the difference.

> Men suppress their feelings so that they can be a strong pillar for their families in times of trouble.

These points of yours about feelings are very deep, and speak to my male identity. It might be tempting for some to brush these points off as antiquated patriarchal notions of human relationships. That would be foolish to do.

What I read in your discussion is the value and power of self-control and the positive effects that that consequently has on our relationships. I hear you saying that controlling the natural emotions that well up within us is not an unhealthy repression!

We need to celebrate the quite typical, quite healthy, self-regulated male. That person can lead, and we all crave leadership in the family, office, church, gov't, etc. Self-regulation is not solely a male attribute, but it certainly should be promoted and carefully cultivated in males given their biological free agency.

Emotions are healthy to repress when, as you say, there would be a detriment to self or group in engaging in those emotions. It is competence and being truthful to self and group that lets one know when to emote or not.

Couldn’t you replace man with woman in the context of stepping up and it makes just as much sense? Why is this idea of being strong gender specific?

"What good does it do a man to completely break down emotionally and be of no value."

I believe that view of things is an example of toxic masculinity. The person's father died. It's only human to show some emotion.

"In an ideal scenario, a man will step up and become truly useful during this time of trouble."

Saying that it has to be a man is part of the problem of toxic masculinity. Anyone can do this.

"Additionally, while deep and dangerous feelings, such as depression, should not be suppressed, many of the things you feel don't need to be shared."

They don't need to, but doing so doesn't hurt either.

"These feelings do no good for you or the people around you"

That can be a pretty toxic attitude toward feelings.

I think the "toxic masculinity" label isn't being heard by young males quite the way you intend. Drumming the word 'toxic' in front of 'masculinity' and a lot of kids are going to believe, "it's poisonous to be male". That's because kids lack the insights and knowledge to think beyond the literal meanings of those words. I wonder if you think there won't be consequences to your words? I wonder what you think the consequences might be?

I hope you'll be pleased to learn that aggressive tendencies can encouraged, shepherded, and focused towards the positive. So, perhaps "unfocused aggression" is the more politically correct negative label you were searching for? Your word choice is too full of hurt. (I'm sorry if some men have hurt you.)

It's not a spite thing, but we just cannot let your feelings win the day, and you have to lose this fight for all our sakes. We want our men to be aggressive, competent, and noble creatures after all. We'll silence your "toxic masculinity" messages at every opportunity with our powerful charm and energy. We'll show our young men how to be the boss and love our women too. ;)

> Drumming the word 'toxic' in front of 'masculinity' and a lot of kids are going to believe, "it's poisonous to be male". That's because kids lack the insights and knowledge to think beyond the literal meanings of those words.

The literal meaning of the words is “a subset of the traits traditionally associated with men that is toxic”, not “being male, which is inherently toxic”, as you seem to have interpreted it, which both incorrectly understands the literal meaning of masculinity, and incorrectly understands the literal meaning of applying an adjective to modify a noun: my two year old son has little trouble understanding that the phrase “red cars” refers to the subset of cars which are red rather than asserting that all cars are red.

So, even to the extent that young people might be unable to see past the literal meaning of words, the literal meaning here is exactly what is intended, and entirely unlike the decidedly non-literal interpretation you've misrepresented as the literal meaning.

> We want our men to be aggressive

We who?

> The literal meaning of the words is “a subset of the traits traditionally associated with men that is toxic”.

You are being pedantic. Kids won't hit Wikipedia to get the full nuance of your preferred labels.

I haven't misrepresented anything. Have you ever asked kids if they've heard the term 'toxic masculinity' used and if they have, what they think it means/how it makes them feel? You're going to get some shockingly low resolution answers.

> We who?

As much 'we' as we can get. On this board, that might tend towards the royal we. ;) Consider that aggression has a positive application. Mastery and domination can occur in and over the self first and then outward in the world as required next, and that's the 'good' kind of aggression we like to foster. Self-control is learned, and boys need guidance channeling their instinct for achievement towards applicable skills development.

I welcome questions like yours though as it spurs these illuminating discussions. I'm hoping you can appreciate a different but logically consistent and legitimate worldview from your own.

I want to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative just as much as the next person. I suspect you and I view typical male attributes differently where you might seek to suppress rather than celebrate/foster appropriately.

> You are being pedantic.

No, the core of the objection is the way adjectives apply to nouns in a way that even toddlers correctly understand without difficulty. Even without a nuanced understanding of “maleness” vs. “masculinity” (which, honestly, I think most kids who have any understanding of what “toxic” means in any sense wouldn't need to look up), modifying a noun with an adjective normally means you are referring to an instance of the the thing named by the noun which also has the trait described by the adjective, not that all instances of the thing named by the noun have that trait.

If I say that colorblind people have problems with a certain site design, it doesn't mean, literally or otherwise, that all people are colorblind, and if I say toxic masculinity produces certain social problems, it doesn't mean either that all masculinity is toxic or that all problems are social. That's just not the way adjectives work, and even very young kids have no problem at all understanding that.

You are absolutely being pedantic. But more importantly, you're no longer making complete sense:

> if I say toxic masculinity produces certain social problems, it doesn't mean either that all masculinity is toxic ...

That is your opinion. That's a taking a very nuanced view.

"Toxic masculinity" is not a specifically addressed term and therefore it may be interpreted as a universal male trait by the young listener.

> ... or that all problems are social

This makes toxic masculinity even worse by your own definition: the toxicity might be understood as a natural and unalterable part of the poor little guy.

The messaging is just sloppy and is quite frankly hurtful, possibly intentionally, though not by you. You've partially conceded this sloppiness in your response even without my cajoling.

> > if I say toxic masculinity produces certain social problems, it doesn't mean either that all masculinity is toxic ...

> That is your opinion

It's just the normal literal meaning of adjectives modifying nouns.

> That's a taking a very nuanced view.

No, it's not. It's the simple literal meaning. Reading any more into such a construct is a non-literal reading which involves some (perhaps incorrectly inferred) nuance.

> This makes toxic masculinity even worse by your own definition:

I have presented no definition by which this barely-coherent claim is true.

You've made such an odd assertion though, I thought I was misreading you. Please forgive my confusion.

You seem to be saying that applying grammar rules to literal word definitions should provide 100% of the information conveyed in a conversation.

The phrase "toxic masculinity" is only a small piece of information in related conversations between people.

There's context, body language, tone, emotional states, memory of past conversations, number of participants, etc that provides all the meaning to the conversation.

Are you not confronting the issue in terms of real human communications especially regarding kids and choosing only to discuss word meanings? That's not very helpful. :shrug:

No. I'm sorry, but your entire message is a shining example of "toxic masculinity". This idea that the man cannot show emotion, cannot be vulnerable, and must be in charge at all times.

And that "and love our women too" bit is really creepy. Especially the "our" part, indicating that they are your property. That is a textbook sign of toxic masculinity, and a big red flag in the advent of the "incel" movement. Far, far too many of those young men see women as property that they are owed.

Do I think I own my wife like chattel? No. Is she 'mine'? Yes, she is; I won her heart, period. I don't share her with other men, and that's not me being facetious. If you don't understand how that works and cannot appreciate this healthy male point of view, then that's your tough lesson to learn.

My wife is a third wave feminist, she wouldn't be dominated by me if I tried. And that's not right to think that way, and I don't act like a dominant a-hole that way, for the record.

But she clearly looks to me for leadership of the family, and I gratefully, joyfully provide that leadership. So I am legitimately dominant in many aspects of our relationship, just not by force.

> Drumming the word 'toxic' in front of 'masculinity' and a lot of kids are going to believe, "it's poisonous to be male".

No they aren't, and they don't. I can garauntee that most kids (who you don't seem have to much experience with) have more than enough intelligence to understand how adjectives and nouns work.

> our women

Please tell me you forgot the /s on this post.

He is not. He's hitting like every disgusting talking point there is.

I think both of these can be true. I think (hope?) most people would agree that the toxically masculine way we often raise boys ("no crying! man up! don't be a wuss!") is abusive and awful. In the critical response to this kind of toxic masculinity, I think some of the rhetoric has been a bit inelegant, and has made some men feel attacked. I think it's especially easy for boys/young men to struggle to grok the necessary nuance to these kinds of discussions.

Displays of emotion from men are quite unwelcome in many contexts. Perhaps that is less true than in the past, but if this is changing it is changing very slowly.

I go to Meetups to make friends and influence people. It has basically become more and more of my social life as time goes on.

Meetups are great because usually nobody's counting on you to be there (no pressure for introverts like me), but after you've attended enough there will always be someone there who you already know and can introduce you to others.

I don't go to software meetups, though. I get enough of that stuff from working/side projects/etc. Nothing against them, I just feel that filling my free/social time with more programming content might cause me to burn out even faster than I already am. My suggestion: find a meetup for something completely unrelated to your work, like bicycling, board/video games, camping.

I find that the programming meetups counteract burn out .

Making friends in the industry means they know the stuff you are going through. The other thing is that if you dislike your job it’s a great way to get a new one.

Which meetups?

Philosophy , software engineering (JS , python , react, solditity ) , cryptocurrencies and machine learning .

Engaging in social media is largely an anti-social activity.

How many times have you been in a restaurant, bar, or other public space, and noticed groups of people all staring at their phones on 'social' media, rather than engaging in the actual social situation around them? Or how many times have you been at someones house, or even in your own home, and looked to find a child, friend, partner, family member, staring at their phone, rather than engaging with the real world? How many times has that person been you, staring blindly into the screen rather than engaging with actual humans around you?


Like people might check their phone if they get a message or need to respond to a spouse. But the majority of my friends, if in a bar or shop or party, rarely ever look at their phones .. unless a good several minutes go by and no one talks to them and it's a way to avoid boredom or awkwardness.

I mean people look at them when they're alone on a bus or train, but I mean before that we just looked at books or magazines. It's like a better book or magazine that's interactive.

I agree, I think people are putting too much stock in this idea that "phones and social media are killing real social interaction!"

It's definitely true that some people have issues "unplugging." One fried of mine comes to mind; I'll go get dinner with this guy and he'll stare at his iPhone grinding away at some mobile MMO or messaging other friends the entire time, while I'm left to eat my food in near silence (until he finds some hilarious image or video I absolutely need to see, at which point his phone gets thrust in my face). I can even ask the dude a question or make some remark and watch him miss it completely, only to ask "oh did you say something?" about 2 minutes later.

People like my friend need some kind of intervention for sure, but I'm not convinced that a majority of people behave like this. I'm very social and this is the only friend I can name with this sort of problem.

And what if a significant portion of these people are actually just terrible people to hang out with in sociable contexts? I see a lot of discussion around blaming tech, or even funnily enough thinking that males aren't somehow allowed to be masculine is the cause for this (well, maybe it's related, though not for reasons the OP wants it to be).

I see it as the opposite. The U.S. with the newer generations is maturing, socially. We don't just associate with people because of where they're from, what they look like (for the most part), or who they want to have in their bed. What I think we're getting better at judging is the actual characteristics of substance that make hanging out with people great. Anecdotally, I know of a few people that I would from an outside perspective consider "lonely." They have a few notable characteristics that make them undesirable to hang out with, let alone be in a relationship with. Maybe it's their politics, maybe it's how they act when it's just them and another in a room, maybe they're just a pretty big bore (due to having a mediocre job, no hobbies, etc).

That's something I don't see being mentioned in great detail. It's just kind of ignored that the people reporting loneliness might just be socially irredeemable (at the moment, anyone can change). Why do these reporters of loneliness deserve the social energy of other people when they can't comparably contribute, or even in some cases actively devalue the social meetings for other groups of people?

There are definitely contributing factors like: how our cities are built, transportation infrastructure, how much we have to work, etc. But I'm willing to wager that a decent portion of people who report loneliness might just have themselves to blame.

I was born in the 90s, and I feel pity seeing my generation adults feeling unhappy because of loneliness, I can perceive happiness in both ways, alone or not, why many other people can't?

Unless we do a comprehensive comparative study across countries, this will be like trying to determine if you’re upside down while spinning in space. You have no concurrent frame of reference other than historical.

Is the trend American only, part of the consequences of an economic system, a society, progress in general, etc.

>More than half of survey respondents — 54 percent — said they always or sometimes feel that no one knows them well. Fifty-six percent reported they sometimes or always felt like the people around them "are not necessarily with them." And 2 in 5 felt like "they lack companionship," that their "relationships aren't meaningful" and that they "are isolated from others."

Well, chasing money and success as ultimate goals, glorifying individualism, being hell bent on branding oneself and selling it, valuing consumerism, and closing into comfort zones etc., comes with a cost.

I'm willing to guess that the single biggest factor is the erosion of civil society i.e. any group someone is a part of and spends time with outside of work.

yeah. gotta have that "third place"

> Well, chasing money and success as ultimate goals, glorifying individualism, being hell bent on branding oneself and selling it, valuing consumerism, and closing into comfort zones etc., comes with a cost.

Yeah, must have been tough for 80s kids. Still, I wonder why the current generation are lonely?

Because the current generation is not doing any of that much less. In fact they continue on the same downward slope on these regards.

My relationships revolve around my activities. Football friends, business/programming friends, weight lifting friends, party friends, etc...

The only person that shares the same ideas universally is my wife, and that took a decade to find all the overlap.

I dont think there is anything wrong with individualism, but it makes it so I have many friends, but few close friends.

South Korea has had the highest suicide rate in the industrialized world for eight consecutive years. Their culture doesn't glorify/promote individualism, but conformity.

I would argue that "chasing money and success" is a trademark characteristic of what young people AREN'T doing, yet this study states they are the Loneliness age group.

It's almost as if you could arrive to similar results in different ways, not only one...

Seriously, though, your comment seems to assume South Korean suicide rate is motivated by loneliness. If that's the case, you might want to give the rest of us an argument to support that assumption.

How do you look at South Korea and conclude that people there aren't chasing money and success?

"In 2014 alone, some 840,000 companies sprang up, in a country with a population of 50 million. This high number of enterprises relative to GDP suggests that opening a business is a poplar economic activity for many South Koreans."


>South Korea has had the highest suicide rate in the industrialized world for eight consecutive years. Their culture doesn't glorify/promote individualism, but conformity.

Did they used to have those suicide rates since forever? Because in the past they were even more conformist (or you think e.g. 50s or feudal Korea was more individualistic?).

And of course they chase after work and money like crazy there...

"Millennials are killing socialness."

I like to refer to Adam ruins everything on Millennials:


TL;DW Generational titles (Boomers, Gen X, Y, whatever) are invented by authors to sell books. They never bring people up and are always used to tear people down. Everything said about Millennials has been said about every generation ever. You can take a Time magazine cover from the 50s about the entitled generation and slap a modern photo on it and it's the same damn thing. It's lazy.

Millennials are the most diverse of any generation. That's about all you can really say, other than we're the most in debt and most likely to take unpaid internships compared to any previous generation. It's a straw man and it needs to die.

I agree with what you have said but there's also no denying that the amount of time at formative ages spent on social media and the internet is unquestionably greater than past generations.

I have trouble believing that hasn't contributed to some idiosyncratic issues that weren't seen in other generations (as well as benefits)

And that might only increase in the future

If "hell is other people," we are that much closer to heaven.

Thanks for the summary, no need to read yet another Millennials are killing ___________ "article"

It merely states that Millennials as a group scored as more lonely than other generations, it doesn't fabricate a reason or cast blame.

This is the price for Americas individualism I guess.

I have an idea: lonely young people can volunteer to spend their time with lonely old people (who there are far more of) instead of having a pity party.

Loneliness is: - When you try so hard to make friends and still they ignore you.

- When you know you have some really good qualities and characteristics, but are not appreciated for them.

- When you realize you're not important to other people; whether you go to school/work/university tomorrow or not doesn't affect others and they won't notice.

- When you see all those couples around you and in the street, and think about "what's wrong with me?" and "why don't I have something like that?"

- When you realize you've put in too much effort and enthusiasm to help people and make contact with them, but haven't received much in return; as if you were just a tool for them.

- When you just want to spend your time with a person and realize they don't like spending their time with you.

- When you are too alone that you don't even know where to begin in order to stop being lonely.

This is what fking loneliness feels like.

"- When you see all those couples around you and in the street, and think about "what's wrong with me?" and "why don't I have something like that?""

Unfortunately, and I count myself in this, a lot of people are unwilling to take that deep look inside to be able to answer that question.

You dont necessarily have to take a deep look into yourself. Instead, imagine meeting yourself and ask yourself whether or not the person you are now is worth putting time and commitment into. If not, why not? Then work on fixing the parts of you that you dont connect with.

By definition (and I share the original post's issues above), a subject in this state is already far enough out of calibration that they cannot self-diagnose issues, let alone work towards correcting them. Also, maybe there aren't actual problems with the subject themselves, but rather with the environment in which they are trying to operate.

As with so many things, any defects must be measured from a wider scope within which comparisons can be made. Corrections can also be incredibly difficult or just costly, if a positive direction can even be identified.

If a guy is very lonely, his chances with women will be nearly zero because he will reek of desperation (and women can smell that a mile away). Fixing a tough situation like that requires a lot of time, effort, and courage. One method for overcoming loneliness is to take some dance lessons and learn to dance. Dance provides an in-your-face experience with plenty of women which should go a long way towards ending that vibe of lonely desperation.

>Also, maybe there aren't actual problems with the subject themselves, but rather with the environment in which they are trying to operate.

This is possible, but I've found many/most adults are observant enough to comprehend their incompatibility with local culture. However, a smaller percentage of them attempt to do anything about it (e.g. too apathetic, depression, etc.).

>By definition (and I share the original post's issues above), a subject in this state is already far enough out of calibration that they cannot self-diagnose issues, let alone work towards correcting them.

I disagree. I would split these people into two groups: Those who have self awareness and those who do not. And then, those in the self awareness group would be split between those who are ready to attempt change, and those who are not. This is harsh, and I hope I'm wrong: I think the non-self-aware are incapable of being helped or changing. I think that's the group you are referring to.

[Note: this assumes we are talking about the subject of the OP/article. More so than less psychologically healthy lonely adults]

That's good advice, but unfortunately I've come to realize this doesn't work. Simply because I don't have the mindset of the opposite sex; I'd care about things that only matter to me (and other guys), not things that a girl would find interesting.

Men and women are more similar than you think and telling yourself that you don't have the mindset of "the opposite sex" already sets yourself up for defeat.

It's however true though that men and women operate in very different social contexts and that can be hard to navigate. A lot of forming a relationship with anyone is becoming mutually comfortable enough to escape such contexts.

You don't necessarily have to find someone that cares about what you find interesting ... you have to be willing to put yourself in a situation in which you experience something you wouldn't find interesting at all. Obviously I'm not saying that you have to dispose of your interests, nor am I saying that it's not possible to eventually find mutual interests (nor am I saying that it's impossible to find a partner that shares your same interests); but that by limiting your potential connections to only things that you find interesting, you by-definition limit your scope.

To give an anecdote ... me and my wife are about literally the most opposite of people. She likes almost nothing that I like, and in many ways, vice-versa (opposites attract, as they say). I've gone to my share of nights out clubbing with her (which I mostly dislike, other than being with her), and she's endured way too many a geeky discussion. Eventually we settled into a groove and found mutually interesting interests :)

>Unfortunately, and I count myself in this, a lot of people are unwilling to take that deep look inside to be able to answer that question.

Often enough, it simply boils down to being unattractive. People automatically like you if you're attractive. People do not automatically like you if you're unattractive, you have to work for it.

Lord, that is the truth.. and I think this is a large part of 'ageism'.

Plenty of ugly people have dated fairly attractive partners. There's much more to attracting a mate than simply being attractive (although it does help).

You're focusing on outliers.

I know everything you're saying. It gets better; your life can change for the better and probably will.

> When you are too alone that you don't even know where to begin in order to stop being lonely.

Here's one place to start: Take care of yourself; be your own best friend - it's essential regardless of how many others you have. Have compassion for yourself, accept that you're flawed like everyone else, and do good things for yourself.

And then try having compassion for others. Don't think of them in relation to yourself, as friends or not friends, but as people with their own lives and problems and vulnerability. Listen to them; accept they will be flawed in how they act, that it is not because of you, and that they still need compassion and love just like you do. They may not show their vulnerabilities and needs, but I guarantee it's true.

That can help put you in a much healthier (and happier) place.

Url changed to that from https://text.npr.org/s.php?sId=606588504.

Well we've rooted our political thought in individualism for decades. Politicians and market actors have viewed people as atomistic and so society has been shaped to reflect that view. Perhaps we are now far enough away from the threat of communism that we can realize there is a balance to be had between the individual and the collective.

I'd go in the opposite direction. I think people are so afraid to be themselves nowadays that it's making interpersonal interactions increasingly fake, which are unlikely to result in anything but the most superficial of relationships. And I think this fear of being yourself is in part driven by the fact that society is splitting itself into groups. Think of the vehement antagonism there is now based on nothing but "I have a different opinion about [insert political topic.]"

People seem to be more and more identifying as members of some group or another, as opposed to individuals. And in turn they adapt their personal views to the views of the group rather than expressing their own 'real' personal views. Of course I could be conflating the direction here and it could be that people are engaging more in 'groupthink' type behavior in a misguided effort to form social bonds, but in either case - I am curious why, in more detail, you think social relationships are suffering for some excess of individualism.

'American individualism' has always been focused on the community, but in a peer to peer connected sense versus a top-down hierarchical sense. It's not like we consider been who just trudge into the woods and live like a hermit to be living the American dream.

That's my point though, it's a view of community as composed of the atomistic unit: the individual. Even your language, 'peer to peer' portrays the community as composed of individuals. I think that individuals are just as composed of their communities as their communities are composed of individuals, there is no 'atomistic' unit to society.

Even Tocqueville wrote about it:

there are more and more people who though neither rich nor powerful enough to have much hold over others, have gained or kept enough wealth and enough understanding to look after their own needs. Such folk owe no man anything and hardly expect anything from anybody. They form the habit of thinking of themselves in isolation and imagine that their whole destiny is in their hands.

and later:

Each man is forever thrown back on himself alone, and there is danger that he may be shut up in the solitude of his own heart.

The hermit isn't just someone who lives in the woods. It's someone who lives in the woods and doesn't come down. A hermit is someone who opts out of the obligations of community. To that extent I think most of us are hermits now. How many groups other than family and the closest friends does the average person now feel a strong obligation to? I'd say very few.

> 'American individualism' has always been focused on the community, but in a peer to peer connected sense versus a top-down hierarchical sense.

Considering how much brutal treatment workers coming together to form unions have faced from their employers and the state alike over the last century-plus, I wouldn’t say that American society is entirely fine with community provided that they are grassroots, peer-to-peer efforts.

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