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Loneliness is pervasive and rising, particularly among the young (economist.com)
303 points by known 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 222 comments

Another thing I wondered about is the impact of automation and volatility on, for lack of a better word 'involuntary' micro social interactions.

Until fairly recently people had 'forced' social interactions when doing their finances, shopping etc. Even if involuntary they 'trained' people's social skills and withered away at their acquired/innate social anxiety.

Furthermore, even in these situations the persons you interacted with, the cashier at the supermarket, the bank teller, the shop assistant, were often there for a fairly long time, so that all those social-micro-transactions added up over the years. Yes, they were 'strangers', but stangers you to some extend 'knew' or where familiar with. Being around those made you less lonely.

Now you do your banking through an app and a teller machine, you shop online, and if we are to believe the proponents soon your pizza and beer will be delivered by a drone and your online groceries and other purchases by a self driving van. The few contacts in those situations you might still have are not with the same person, but with randos fulfilling a 0 knowledge scripted for efficiency procedure. These interactions can't compound into a latent unspoken social bond and thus contribute nothing to alleviating the feeling of loneliness.

I agree with you 100% but I have an interesting personal anecdote, pretty much the opposite.

When I was young I was very shy, painfully shy even into my early 20s. All social outings were family reunions or church.

But I liked computers. So in the early 1990s I bought a computer and tried this thing called the Internet.

By chance I discovered IRC. It was a world of strangers who interacted in real time. I could converse without facing or looking at a person. And at the time I used it for help when working on my PC so I'm a way it was forced interaction.

I've often thought if it wasnt for IRC and other Internet chat applications my life would be quite different. It helped crack my shell of shyness.

In a way you're right interacting with people is the key. But in my situation it was slightly different.

I don't think that is the opposite though.

We've mostly burnt the bridge you used to get there.

In the 90s BBS's, IRC and even ICQ had sites to connect people where people would list interests etc, people had ICQ or other icons on their home page to connect and just randomly chat. BBS's and interest groups would have meet ups and yearly BBQs etc. There was an openness, perhaps a little naivety, to connecting with strangers who would eventually become close friends. There was a special sort of novelty being in a conversation with 3 people from all around the globe at the same time.

Now it seems to me much more about connecting up your existing networks. Friends on Facebook or whichever chat program, but not much for random new connections. Meetups are rarer too unless you've joined a local Facebook cycling group or similar. People aren't as open to connecting with the unknown as it's probably a scammer/spammer etc.

I can understand why my kid's generation might feel it's more difficult now. Especially if they don't have much in the way of existing networks.

I would like to add games to the list of counterexamples. Still works today.

Even though I never made friends online (as I was not so into it) I know friends who did.

Does it still work?

I don't play online games any more, but my impression is they mostly moved from guild and group style like MMOs, where you got to know people and probably chatted on Teamspeak as well. Now they seem to be mostly random individual match-ups either for pvp or for a dungeon. That seems like it would take away many of the possibilities.

The element that you might not be aware of is Discord. Primarily a chat and voice communication app but its divided up into individual servers run by community members for free where each is like a Slack server if you are familiar with that software.

I'm not in the child age group, but I've made friends this way as a 31 year old.

I think it’s fair to consider IRC a social tool. It’s build around small communities made up of people who both belong to and run the various rooms. So within that you have a social structure, you have familiarity and you have social hierarchies.

This is different from most “social” platforms on the modern web. Reddit, twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, instagram, hackernews and so on are all global villages, operated by a centralized organ which doesn’t really moderate. So you have anarchy, no-familiarity, no structure and no real visible hierarchy.

When you were on IRC you’d meet the same people every day, you got to know them and they you. By contrast we probably won’t ever run into each other again once we finish this specific conversation. You might not even read my post unless you specifically chose to do so.

A lot of the internet is like this now, and there is really nothing social about most social media.

I don't think is has that much to do with technology. Just that the people who got online in the 90s were likely more curious about new things and other people than the general population (while there were certainly exceptions). The opposite is probably true today, especially in things like tech or other general Internet things.

The problem with the facebook analogy is that you can make private groups that you can heavily moderate.

IRC had closed or private channels and the open channels were heavily moderated as well. I was a #linux moderator on EFnet for several years.

I believe the success of IRC is not due to the greatness of the tool but the userbase. It was pretty much university students world-wide and a few others. Similar behaviours, trainings, ideals etc. Facebook has a lot more diversity and thus conflict.

IRC back in the days was literally another world. It was something special. You could bond with other online users like family members even though the only thing you knew about them was their nickname. We have more advance technologies now but we would never be able to experience anything like IRC again. Slack and Discord servers today are not even close.

I think because you're a bit jaded and have had the experience of IRC as your first relay chat makes you bias towards it, whereas a kid experiencing Discord for the first time might have the same feelings as you did towards IRC.

Uh, IRC still exists. Not only that, but you can use IRC in the browser, on places like Freenode and Snoonet.

I'm currently on freenode #reprap right now, talking to 300 some different people. We're still doing exactly what you're nostalgic for. And, I've met a handful of them in person at 3d printing conventions. (Link: http://webchat.freenode.net/?channels=reprap to chat on IRC right now)

Just because shiny new thing's moved in, doesn't mean that the old thing still isn't in use!

I'm also the same nickname on freenode as I am here. And still cranky as ever!

There's a word for the phenomenon you describe: nostalgia.

I remmeber having the same deep interactions on ICQ!

>> Slack and Discord servers today are not even close.

Is it true ? i remember reading that game communities are a very good place to meet new friends. Is it true ? why ?

Also are there any other good places online ?

Or maybe you would have grown out of the shyness naturally over time as you found your place in the world and grew into an adult. Guess we’ll never know eh.

I agree with most of your points but part of this bit is incorrect:

> Even if involuntary they 'trained' people's social skills and withered away at their acquired/innate social anxiety.

Humans don't have a shred of innate social anxiety except perhaps in some odd pathological cases. Any parent who has dealt with a toddler that has yet to learn to talk will tell you that much. Toddlers who can't speak yet try very hard to interact with their parents and whoever else they meet. They've a fascinating ability to get themselves understood by their parents.

Science will tell you that much too. Humans are basically hardwired to communicate. Intensely. So much so that if you gather a bunch of deaf kids together without supervision they invent their own sign language. [0]

With that being said, kids do learn (or unlearn [1]) things at school. Including how to "socialize" (or not).

[0]: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/09/040920071439.h...

[1]: https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_cre...

> Humans don't have a shred of innate social anxiety except perhaps in some odd pathological cases.

This is not true at all. Baby's, even at a few months old, run the gamut from excited to meet new people to shy and withdrawn around strangers.

I have a friend whose son, at 6 months old, was well socialized but completely uneager to interact with people he didn't know.

And I've met plenty of toddlers who hide behind their parents and don't come out, and plenty of toddlers who run up to everyone they come across and say "hi".

Clinical social anxiety is much more than shyness.

Shyness and/or fear around strange adults is a healthy biological response. Even children raised in isolation and who show immediate fear of other new children are still quick to make friends when introduced to pre-school (a terrifying experience altogether).

Children who cannot be socialized effectively by around age four (5% of boys, a much smaller % of girls) usually end up punished explicitly by society in their later youth and early adulthood.

There is a stage, fairly early on, in a typical kid's life where they get very shy about strangers, and hide behind their parents whenever a stranger is there. It's not immediate, that's true, but after they have gotten old enough to know which adults are familiar, anyone who isn't seems to become frightening (until they learn to get over that, which in most cases they do).

As someone with moderate/severe social anxiety, the idea of not having it seems just crazy to me.

How much of your anxiety boils down to just not feeling confident about the appropriate actions to take or words to say in social situations? That's something that can be remedied for anyone with a little focused education.

>How much of your anxiety boils down to just not feeling confident about the appropriate actions to take or words to say in social situations?

You're enabling your own prescription by making the problem easier, viz. reducing the problem of anxiety to "not feeling confident about the appropriate actions to take", which, I might add, is also a redundant claim since its taking an effect of anxiety and elevating it to the cause.

I'm not reducing the problem. I'm defining it, so that it can be solved.

Anxiety, for most people, is not unsolvable but is just tedious because it often comes from multiple sources. I'm diagnosed bipolar, ADHD, OCD, you name it... I am no stranger to anxiety and the physical aspect of it which cannot be dealt with "logically".

But lack of confidence, in one's life, one's friends, one's job, one's ability, etc... this is a major source of anxiety in the modern world and is very treatable.

Asking how much was due to a specific cause isn't "reducing the problem". Anxiety is among the most treatable of all mental illness.

I can handle myself socially, and have been told I’m very gregarious and easy to be around and talk to. I just always think about the absolute worst case and long chains of events that might happen from my input. Combative or argumentative situations are the worst, especially in lower trust situations.

In a way, it boils down to “not feeling confident about words I say”, but the problem is I seem to overvalue bad outcomes, or at least think about them deeply rather than assume the very likely path will happen. Some of it is lack of a quick-witted theory of mind mapped to others (asd, add, who knows) and some is past trauma where many people I knew growing up did a lot of hurtful things. The weights on how must one feels they can trust the average person are very slow to change - and the what-ifs seem to come on nearly automatically.

Coming from childhood trauma, I empathize and agree that it can be frustratingly hard to control the feelings and anxiety caused by it even decades after the fact.

I also have had problems with being too trusting in the past and lately I've been having social anxiety I thought I'd solved return because I've been trying to make conscious changes to my social behavior and it leaves me feeling lost sometimes when I have to ignore my instinctual response and then can't think of anything else to say.

It may comfort you to know that you aren't alone in feeling you need to reevaluate how much you trust those around you.

Social research in the last 3 decades has revealed that, in America, and thus probably other modernized countries, as late as the 80's, people when asked if they could trust most other people generally said that they felt they could. This is not the case anymore. Now, the average person will proclaim that most people are not not trustworthy. People are reporting less friends than ever. I personally have a quite small group of friends, after I carved out most of them after having 4-6k stolen from me in the last couple years from various people I once would consider friends.

Isolation and mistrust have been bred into our society in the last quarter-century, and it has had disastrous implications on our ability to open up to others. We are starting to feel the effects of this as, on a global scale, the isolation people are experiencing causes them to lose empathy and adopt zealous and hyperjudgemental attitudes.

Why has this been happening? What's the motivation? Well that's the homework assignment. ;)

I have similar worries about AI. Example: I never let computer programs reply for me by clicking pre-written responses to emails or messages. The designers of those products are making the mistake that the less you have to think about things the better, but I think that you have to use your brain or you will lose it. Even those simple routine tasks (like talking to a bank teller for three minutes) provide essential cognitive exercise.

I don't refer to tech devices as "smart" any more -- they are "stupid" phones and "stupid" speakers, because that's what they are going to do to people in the long run. Programmers shouldn't try to make computers think for people or automate too much, because even smaller thinking tasks are essential.

What's funny about this statement is I'm similar... but just recently I told the "pre script" to fuck off, then I realized I wrote exactly what was already pre-written.

So, maybe it isn't making you dumber if you think about what you want to say and then pick the one that is closest or exact.

Maybe there are other things around worth thinking? I can think of plenty ... that keeps my brain from becomming a lazy pile of grey cells.

I think AI tends to be a race to the bottom due to human nature. If one isn't paying attention (and most people aren't), all youtube video recommendations lead to things like mindless fail-videos.

Not really want to defend the algorithms here,(I also don't know what videos exactly show up as I am not so into it) but fail videos can be funny. Humor is a sign of intelligence. I would not declare it to be the bottom if it ...

For it to work, your brain needs to recognize the activity and how it is supposed to work the proper way, so you can laugh about the wrong way done. And also learn about how to not do it like this. And simply relax and let go. Needed for the brain from time to time

(but like I said, I also have not seen those videos in a while.. and I like hikes in wild nature for relaxation)

Skillfully creating humor might be a sign of intelligence, but I don't think that mindless consumption of it is. Fail videos are fast-food humor, simple enough for a little kid to laugh at.

Fail videos were just one example. Other examples are listicle videos, gossip videos, and general clickbait. AI tends to drive people towards consumption of mental junk food rather than making them smarter, better people.

I don't know, they used to say the same thing about writting.

Socrates was right in some ways, but there are differences. Writing has caused damage to memory abilities (I work in a related field), but it has large benefits for cultural knowledge. Offloading our thinking about email responses or decisions about what we do with our time into AI doesn't have any real benefits for society. Having computers do your routine thinking for you is like refined sugar for the brain -- it can be attractive and addictive, but I think it's a bad idea in most cases.

Someone once made the same point about fitness, you used to have to roll down your windows manually, but now its automatic. More and more muscle functions being eliminated by automation. Add them all up and it makes a difference.

That's a really interesting point. I recently bought an adjustable (height) desk and I use it on-and-off as a standing desk. I prefer to write code standing, and watch TV/play games sitting. To adjust the desk, I need to pull out a handle and turn it round and round for it to raise or lower. I need to do this a few times a day as I get tired of standing after some hours, which is a convenient stopping point to alternate tasks to take breaks from coding.

I was thinking of building a little motor that can raise and lower the desk, ideally to a voice command. Wouldn't it be neat to say "<assistant of choice>, (raise|lower) the desk"?

Honestly, I'm going to scrap that project right now. While it would be interesting to learn how to build it, you're completely right we're getting lazier every day. Maybe I should be raising and lowering the desk myself.

Thank you.

More and more muscle functions being eliminated by automation.

Only trivially small ones that we'd do a few times a week. There's still lots of physical activity that we do (eg walking around, carrying things like shopping, sex, etc).

Plus, many people have replaced the small manual activities like opening car windows with going to the gym. Anyone who has a sedentary desk job but tries to live a relatively healthy lifestyle probably does far more activity than their parents would have done if they had desk jobs.

> Only trivially small ones that we'd do a few times a week. There's still lots of physical activity that we do (eg walking around, carrying things like shopping, sex, etc).

Not everywhere — one of the major reasons fitness (and BMI) is correlated with walkability of a city is that in many typical US cities, you barely have to walk anymore, while in the more walkable cities driving is less possible, and you’ll walk or cycle much more, and usually use transit more (which means walking to/from the stops).

All this adds up.

> barely have to walk anymore

It's not so much that as that you CAN'T walk around in most cities. The last place I lived Walmart was several miles down the road which had no sidewalks and was trenches for water 3 inches from the road. No bike lanes, no nothing. It isn't that most of America is difficult to walk through, it is impossible (if you don't want to be hit by a car at least).

It adds up a lot. I split my time between a typical suburban car-centric city (Minneapolis), and a place just off the El in Chicago.

The weeks I am in Chicago I lose weight without really trying - simply from walking to/from the train every day and around the neighborhood running errands. Then of course lunch in the office which of course is another walk away. All those little walking trips add up to miles/day without even noticing and add up to a noticeable change in weight loss/gain.

Minneapolis it's rare to walk more than 100ft (to a car and back) to go anywhere - unless you make a concerted conscious effort to take time to walk for the sake of walking.

Most of the US is low-density and built for cars, so not a lot of walking happening. Also some people in the city will take a Bird or Lyft scooter automating out walking

Now that many new cars are coming with have high-def wide-angle rear view cameras, I don't really need my neck muscles anymore. At some point we'll "evolve" to rocks... rocks with wifi.

That reminds me of a TED talk I saw where the speaker was saying that something he's noticed with a lot of academics and tech types is that they only care about flexing their mental muscles; their bodies are only useful for moving their brain from one place to another, so a lot of what they build is done to make it so they have to use their bodies less.

My experience in Silicon Valley is that tech workers are drastically more fit than the general public.

Except for the brain works better when the body is healthier.

I am thinking, evolve more like people in WALL-E. Blobs of flesh with no muscle definition or ability to use them.

"In The Year 2525," from the year 1969: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_the_Year_2525 (youtube link in "External" section is weak, try this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ew01FGfOZdE)

I picture something more like floating, life-extension vats where people spend their whole lives, getting entertainment, VR images, and drugs piped into their brains. Robots will do everything else.

Living involves the acts of experiencing the real world and doing things for yourself.

So basically like the people in WALL•E .

as much as "rocks with wifi" made me giggle, it also made me sad cause its very true.

That's where fat acceptance has brought us.

The cool thing is, you can still do all of those things today.

There's really nothing stopping you from walking into a grocery store and talking to people if you want.

You could also go outside for a walk to get some exercise. You'll meet plenty of people along the way (unless you live in the middle of no where).

>There's really nothing stopping you

OP's point was that there's nothing forcing us to do those things, not that there are now barriers.

> You'll meet plenty of people along the way

If you talk to anyone walking/running in city centers prepare for harsh stares and people walking ever so slightly faster to get away from the presumably crazy guy. At least that's most definitely how I would react.

I think this is a cultural thing. I grew up somewhere around Europe and random people talking to me on the street would be a big nono, I would run for my life; would definitely at least give a weird look and increase my speed. When I moved into the Bay Area for undergrad I saw this is completely normal here. So, I started talking to randoms too, and it usually feels very much when you feel lonely and at the supermarket and some dude asks about what you're cooking tonight.

That's really fascinating to me. I live in LA (for over 3 years now) and literally no one on the street, in a restaurant, or a store has ever just started talking to me. I would be startled and probably expect you to ask me for money if you did that to me here. Is the Bay really that different?

Never lived in LA (been there for a few hours once), so I don't know. In Bay Area I lived in Berkeley for about 4 years and occasionally visited San Francisco and the the South Bay for entertainment etc, I would say the cultural atmosphere is similar. As I said I was talked to by strangers on the street (and especially in a market e.g. Trader Joe's, Safeway, The Dollar Tree etc...) on multiple occasions.

Currently living in Boston, MA. It's definitely not as usual as the Bay Area, people are significantly "colder" (for the lack of a better word) but I wouldn't say talking, or smiling to a stranger would be as weird as in Europe. Maybe LA is different than both the Bay Area and Boston area (although Boston being in itself significantly different than the Bay Area in the first place)

No offense, but it might have to do with the way you seem to strangers. You get a sense of a person and sometimes you feel that you can talk to randoms; that they're interested and/or you're on the same mental wavelength. These senses are important, because even in the USA, where talking to randoms is common, you still want to avoid "bothering" people. So there is still risk of inconveniencing someone with an unwanted conversation, or making them feel uncomfortable, and this is still a big social no-no.

That doesn’t address the point - which is that as a whole, micro-interactions are reducing. Just because you have the option, doesn’t mean people are doing it as much.

> That doesn’t address the point - which is that as a whole, micro-interactions are reducing. Just because you have the option, doesn’t mean people are doing it as much.

It doesn't matter if people aren't doing it as much. It only matters what you're doing.

If you goto the grocery store, or the bank, or a shop or anything like that, there's always going to be tellers handling customers. Your opportunities haven't gone away or have even been diminished.

> It doesn't matter if people aren't doing it as much.

Yes it does. Threads of society are being cut, which is not only causing loneliness, but also emotional distancing, political polarization, demonizing folks in other camps, etc.

> Yes it does. Threads of society are being cut, which is not only causing loneliness, but also emotional distancing, political polarization, demonizing folks in other camps, etc.

The post I replied to mentioned specifically small talk with various clerks and tellers.

Those clerks and tellers are still there today, just like they were 20 years ago. If you walk into any of those stores listed, you'll find human beings present to have micro social interactions with.

I know because I was a teenager back in the mid/late 1990s (no cellphones back then) and I was super shy back then and talked to almost no one except for a small group of close friends. You can't really blame technology for being introverted. It's a lifestyle choice. There's nothing wrong with it too, but you need to be real with yourself and realize you're actively making the choice to live that way.

Nowadays there's an unlimited amount of chances to have micro-conversations. I see it (and do it) every day. I mean just today I went to the post office because I wanted to ship a box. It's a rare occurrence, but I saw some women standing on a separate line waiting for a passport. So I approached her and asked how long do passports last nowadays and we got to talking. Next thing you know, we're 1 minute into talking. It ended when they called her up, and that was it. Micro social interaction complete.

I think blaming technology is just a cop out. If you went to a concert or something, I'm sure you'd have an opportunity to talk to dozens of people, but if you choose to stand there with your face buried in a phone and not talk to anyone then you can't blame your phone for loneliness. It's on you.

> I think blaming technology is just a cop out. If you went to a concert or something, I'm sure you'd have an opportunity to talk to dozens of people,

Agreed, if we're talking about individual people blaming technology for their non-participation. But it's not a cop-out to say that society as a whole is being nudged away from social interactions, and that there are real negative effects on everyone.

Furthermore, there are large groups of people for whom the convenience of online shopping/banking/etc. far outweighs the cost of "getting out", even factoring in the real or perceived benefit of interacting with people at the store or bank -- people with small children, caregivers, poor people, invalids, etc. Although technology has improved quality of life for many such people, society as a whole suffers the effects of the loss of many personal micro-interactions with them and the gradual social fragmentation that results.

> I think blaming technology is just a cop out.

Oh, tech doesn't prevent one from seeking out social interaction. But it really does seem to reduce unplanned & opportunistic interaction.

Maybe I'd chat with people on my way to work. Problem is, they're most likely sitting in a car. Or riding a bike. Or blasting music from their headphones while staring at their phones.. actually, maybe I'm sitting in a car too. Or not, because technology enables remote work and I don't have a commute.

Same phenomenon when I go for a walk or jog. People are preoccupied with their devices.

> Maybe I'd chat with people on my way to work. Problem is, they're most likely sitting in a car. Or riding a bike. Or blasting music from their headphones while staring at their phones.. actually, maybe I'm sitting in a car too. Or not, because technology enables remote work and I don't have a commute.

Sweeping changes like cars vs walking is definitely a big deal but let's not forget about trains too. Technology allows us to group together for decent amounts of time. Every time I take the train to Manhattan there's hundreds of new faces for a ~90min trip each way. I almost always end up in a conversation with someone for a majority of the ride.

A few weeks ago I flew to CA and had ~6 hours of flying in either direction. Ended up talking to a few people (layovers, etc.) and had in depth conversations. Technology helped with that too.

> Same phenomenon when I go for a walk or jog. People are preoccupied with their devices.

I walk ~4 miles a day and have been for 5+ years. There's plenty of opportunities to talk to people and I don't even live in a big city, just a medium populated suburban area in the US. If I really wanted to, I could talk to 15 or 20 people a day. That's just walking past other people walking or people hanging out for lunch outside of the main mini-town area, etc..

If it were a populated area like Manhattan, there would be thousands of opportunities in a few hour time span. Just an endless sea of people waiting to be approached.

As someone with a history of loneliness, I’ve have no shortage of businesslike interactions with strangers and acquantiances. The problem has always been a lack of close relationships with emotional weight. The effect of superficial interactions on my mood is neutral at best, and sometimes negative (as a reminder that my interactions stem from business necessity and institutional circumstances rather than interest and choice).

I recently realized that I am using (overusing) text-chat to compensate for a lack of real face to face interaction. As such I have deleted all my instant messaging accounts, in an attempt to force myself to face the loneliness and get out and meet people. (Also eliminated YouTube and surfing, for the same reason.)

So far, I'm just really sad and lonely, but that's a good thing, because I was already feeling that way, I was just suppressing it with technology.

I'm checking out communities in my area that meet up regularly. Most of my friends hang out very rarely, and I'd like to meet people and join organizations that meet up on a regular basis.

Also have been working on my social skills and limiting beliefs: learning to make small talk, remember people's names, and recognizing unkind thoughts about myself, which create anxiety and prevent me from beginning or continuing conversations -- and choosing to think kinder, more constructive thoughts instead.

The big "aha" moment for me was realizing, there was an age for me (about 9 years old) when I wasn't shy at all! Because I didn't have all these shitty beliefs about myself. So I've been exploring them, and letting them go.

This was commonly understood in medieval times. Aquinas says our mutual dependency forms social ties.

This is kind out of scope, but ever since Deus Ex (the game), I have wondered what the big deal about Aquinas is. Never found his work all that interesting.

I did not understand most of what he wrote. I thought he was being too obtuse. So I have been reading contemporary explanations of his ideas ( like those from Edward Feser ). I have a slightly better opinion of Acquinas today

I read a bit of him in college - what he pushed isn't all that special now nor something that stands out as a "holy crap" like predicting the existence of atoms but he had some influence with theodicy and other catholic foundations. While qualifying that a woman isn't at fault for being raped if she didn't enjoy it is horrifyiny misogynistic it was sadly progressive for his day. One amusing thing he had to argue against was that the Roman Empire fell due to abandoning the old gods and that if God was a real/superior power then they shouldn't have fallen.

Could you explain, for people who don't know that game?

Aristotle's writings were making their way into the European world and were causing a controversy over whether the truths of the scripture were consistent with truths of philosophy. Aquinas provided a comprehensive treatment of the question, demonstrating to the best of his ability the two sources of truth were consistent.

What about compared to that of all his contemporaries?

In general very few things are getting worse in society. What is happening is that things are getting more unequal. When you lack power any excess will be made to serve someone else. It isn't like driving an hour to a busy supermarket was the height of social interaction. And social interaction has always been about your status in society. In the end it is a choice of who is going to give up what.

I find the occasional conversation with an Uber/Lyft driver something that many of my friends actively talk about. It does feel like a very unique social interaction that is distinct from (at least) my experience with taxis or any other form pf transit (i.e. more likely to sit in front, no barrier between rider and driver, more "casual" drivers)

Good points, and I wonder if increasingly interactions with people will be because the automation is breaking down.

Chase can't seem to get emails alerts for my son's CC working. Well, they work everywhere but gas stations. They have a category of alerts for gas stations, so there's just some bug somewhere. I've spent hours trying to get them to fix it, and the conversations are always unpleasant.

This isn't the only interaction like this. I've had similar ones with other banks, Google, and other companies in the last last. All negative. All because automation is failing to do something important.

That's a pretty terrible ending, if the only time we talk to humans will be to correct mistakes that software/hardware make.

What have we wrought?

I also wonder how much of recent 'tech' is due to not very articulated desire to do away with the burden of these social interactions. Something I did want to before[1] but maybe it would be better (and maybe we'll see it this way later) to just revamp the current structure and way we exchange to each other. To make a bold myopic summary, internet is kinda breaking us apart.

I used to always use the automatic check out at the supermarket, because I used to dread being forced to interact with a stranger (who often doesn't even want to be there, or interact with me!)

I recently began doing a job that requires me to smile at and greet strangers all day long, and I found myself doing this automatically off the job as well. So now I find myself having pleasant interactions with supermarket staff, and looking forward to saying hello to them.

The other day, after taking the automatic checkout out of habit, I realized that I had missed a great opportunity to connect with another human being, by choosing to use the machine instead. Then I thought, all of society seems to be headed in this direction, and it seems sad.

On the other hand, making life more efficient in this way does free up the time we previously had to spend interacting with strangers, and we are now free to use that time to create deeper, more meaningful connections with friends.

We agree on both the fact that society is aiming toward that (for various reasons), and that less fulfilling jobs don't .. fulfill the employees (cashier jobs).

For the habit of social interactions, I have an anecdote:

I rarely go out, I was invited to a friend 30th birthday, went there quite nervous, wasn't happy most of the time, bored etc etc. The next day I felt in a much improved mood. I believe that even when slightly negative, being surrounded with people, the random thoughts of everybody, etc has a very profound effect on your brain that reset or refill something that you can't when you're alone, even if you're doing 80% of things you like and enjoy uninterrupted.

For time freed, at least you're using it for friend time :)

It doesn't make any sense to blame technology.

Believe it or not there are plenty of other cultures that have access to the same technology but don't produce the extreme isolation that's common in the US. There's much more powerful forces at work here than online banking and ecommerce. The reality is that in the US and likely the UK traditional social networks and graces have disintegrated. It's a cultural issue which is mostly deliberate.

I don't think technology is necessarily to blame, but it definitely can exacerbate the problem, especially in a highly individualistic culture like that of the United States.

I think urbanization also plays a huge part in the trend. I grew up in a rural area, with pretty much most of my family located within a two-hour drive. This included my mom's side, who all grew up an hour away from where I did (which is where my dad's family is from). So it was easy for me to connect with family and friends, and I knew a lot of their friends' kids, etc.

Urbanization is changing this, though. People are leaving the rural areas (and for good reasons admittedly), but it's destroying the bonds that they form during their childhood and that continue across generations in some cases. Even a short stint away of 4 years, like what I did when I left to go to University, can make the connections difficult to reactivate when you come home (especially based on difference of shared experiences with those who didn't go to university, or who went somewhere local instead of out-of-state, etc.). And that's assuming your friend group from high school/right after stays around and doesn't leave the area themselves.

And, when you get to a new city, especially if it's after university (where you're forced to interact with people and where it's fairly easy to make friends), there's a good chance of knowing so few people it makes it difficult to enter social circles that don't involve work. Having hobbies definitely helps with this, but that also depends on having money in a lot of cases, and time in all cases.

Indeed. Studies are only finding moderate correlations of loneliness and technology use.

The variables with the largest regression coefficients predicting loneliness in this study [0], were poor neighborhood safety (.61), being single (.47, even with children .50). Being married most strongly protected against loneliness (−.42).

I'd bet modern day loneliness is mostly caused by an interplay globalization/automation, stagnating growth and gender equality. All of them diminish the need for all kinds of social interactions in a big way. With improving welfare and increasing economic independence, women less likely need to find a reliable partner. Careerism forces them to marry late (or not at all) and makes men less appealing to them. Simultaneously, globalization and automation are destroying local economic opportunities, thereby lowering the social value of men even more. Deteriorating economic prospects lead to more crime, decreased neighborhood safety…

[0] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2394670/

Exploring datasets from http://next.nomics.world, I'm finding no link between gender equality and population density adjusted loneliness. But, removing outliers with excessive loneliness for their population densities (MT, CZ), I'm getting a moderate correlation (.4) between gender inequality index and male loneliness (male to female loneliness ratio among 24 to 34 year olds), so my model might explain male loneliness in particular. Haven't looked into the other factors I've conjectured.

Ok, I'm an idiot. It's likely women who are less likely lonely. N is small though.

There's no indication in this short write up if they also surveyed how often people get out. I think it'd be a likely hypothesis that people today do hang out more with friends, simply because it is easier.

Remember the 90s? You're waiting in a parking lot to go caving. "Where's Will?" "I don't know." "Call his house, there's a payphone over there." "His mom said he left 30 minutes ago." "Well I guess we'll just wait for him."

Today we can use speech-to-text to quickly tell people we're running late, organize impromptu outings very quickly and probably end up hanging out more. Even those with families and kids probably find it easier to organize events with other families thanks to shared group chats.

I wouldn't be surprised if these two things aren't really correlated and part of me wonders if our interaction may have gone up and our loneliness also gone down. If that's true, it could be more of an indication of us not _really_ talking to one another. Maybe there is less we can say today, or there are other factors that, in the age of acceptance and commodified outrage, make use feel more isolated.

A find thought, another really big factor should be online dating (Tinder, OKCupid, Grinder, POF, etc). Are people romantically lonely? Do average individuals have a harder time now that everything has been reduced to an image? I personally have observed that online dating really only works for attractive people, and for everyone else it's pretty much a wasteland.

I think you’re spot on with online dating. It’s not a stretch that it only works for attractive people, when the whole screening test is attractiveness.

Is the whole screening test attractiveness?

I tried OKCupid a while ago, and came away with the impression that most people have their profile filled with political shibboleths. Maybe that's just because I live in a major coastal city, but...

Tinder for looks.

OKC for ideology.

POF if you like your partner skewed to the wrong aspect ratio.

I think it's all looks. Even OKC has changed their system recently to be more like Tinder. The first impression is never the profile, but the photo. Pretty much everything else is weighted against that in most peoples' minds (either consciously or unconsciously).

Yeah, but a well written profile and message can go a long way even if you look fairly average (for a man).

The messages and profiles most men do on these sites are awful. You don't have to work that hard to stand out from the crowd.

In fact my most recent OKC experience went like this - reviewed all the women in this city (it's not a large city and it's not in America so this is quite possible), picked the one I liked the most, messaged her. Got a reply the next day, first date a few days later.

That said, Tinder is pretty useless for men. But then you can't send high quality messages and the UX makes it annoying to view profiles, so what a big surprise. The number of women who post Tinder profiles saying they don't want hookups is ridiculous - the entire app is optimised for nothing but that. They should be on more traditional dating sites; I suspect they can't be bothered writing or reading profiles however.

Remember the '90s when you made plans and everyone actually showed up instead of cancelling at the last minute because there wasn't any way to do that?

Before everyone had a cell phone we didn't need to "make plans" every time we wanted to hang out. Hanging out with friends was just what you did.

On Facebook events maybe means no and yes means “unless I get a better offer”. The RSVP there is completely useless.

Yeah, back then we would spend massive amount of time hanging around with friends, with few distractions. Cruising was popular, confined to one block, and lots of people, because if you strayed from those physical locations, there was little way to reconnect with the group.

I don't know how it is today.

Have you seen the movie "Shawshank Redemption"? It makes an interesting point about becoming institutionalized. There was an inmate that was released after ~50 years,he committed suicide because he couldn't adopt to living outside of the prison system.

What they call the loneliness epidemic these days is a bit like that. In fact,I would say loneliness is social imprisonment. For one reason or the other individuals end up lacking the skills needed to develop meaningful social relationships,the opportunities are there but the skills are lacking.

Much like becoming institutionalized, prolonged loneliness becomes a dependency in itself. At first you try everything you can to escape from the prison,then you learn to tolerate it,then you can't function outside of it.

I said all this to make one important point: For most people who experience prolonged loneliness,It's not lack of solutions or opportunities that keeps them lonely.

Not just in the US or the west but for all people,the importance of teaching children proper social skills needs to be communicated much like communicating the importance of good nutrition and hygeine has reduced preventable diseases throught the world.

For adults,I honestly don't know of any solution other than to continue creating opportunities for social interactions. It takes a lot of time,patience and practice to learn to make more friends and socialize once you settle down as a working adult.

This is very true and I see it even in myself. I used to have several friends where I live and they subsequently all moved away. Now I have no real friends here and the work required to get more seems to require a huge activation energy to get over. Sure I could go out and have random conversations with people or join clubs, but very few of those are going to result in anything interesting; of those, a few may result in an acquaintance; of those, a few may progress to a friendship; of those, a few may progress to a meaningful friendship. So I could bang my head against the wall generating unhappiness and frustration for years with no guarantee of success at any point, or I could just chill in my room, smoke some weed, and read hacker news / watch Netflix / play games and be guaranteed some base level of immediate happiness. That's a very hard feedback loop to exit once you get started.

I'm willing to put in a lot of work and have had great success at things where there is a clear goal and highly probable success if I put in the work: weight loss, fitness, studying, career changes, financial management, running a business etc. Relationships are so irritating to me because acquisition is a probabilistic, even random process which seems to have a very low success rate. I'm not fundamentally sold on the idea that it's worth the effort.

Are you in a rural area? I've noticed that myself here. Granted, I left for university, which destroyed a lot of the connections I did have, but even with the ones still here, the different life experience has made it where it's odd to hang out with them.

Thankfully some of my friends did move back after going to school, so there are a few people here that I can hang out with, though I do feel like I hound them to do stuff/hang out at times. But, I also moved a half-hour away to a town where there's stuff to do, and I just have to actually take up a new hobby to meet interesting people.

Though that still doesn't change the fact that it's difficult to make long-term, deep friendships from things like that.

Really, I just say that I understand completely where you're coming from, and completely agree.

Also, I just kinda realized that this is also similar to the plot of the movie I Love You, Man, where Rudd's character realizes he doesn't have any deep male friends.

Have/had a similar issue. Many of the good friends I made in this city over the past years have moved, specifically to the more popular ones in Canada. Trying to rebuild that circle hasn’t worked out. I either run into acquisition problems like you or the relationships that do turn into something more end up ending due to them leaving the city as well.

At this point I’ve resigned to believing that the types of people I attract don’t want to stay here, and maybe I should just follow the herd.

Very interesting. I wonder if the shift of placing babies in daycare is a factor.

A Dad or Mom will want to interact with a baby. In a daycare situation it's their job to interact with the babies. And at times if a baby isn't causing a problem, they are left alone.

Could it be an early connection is being missed?

I don't think so, I come from a country where a housewife is not a thing, and I didn't know any growing up. We all went to child care and people socialize a lot, then and now.

Social skills are an interface, a communications protocol. That is necessary but not sufficient. You also have to have something substantive to say over that channel - an attractive personality, an interesting life. When that’s missing, mere presence and conversation don’t make anyone involved any less lonely.

I don't know about that. Even if their lives are boring anf they have a bland personality, I think with the right skills and confidence I can be friends with most HN users(or rather most 'hackers'). What I mean is,having something in common or a common interest might be enough,even if you're not well spoken or well rounded as a person.

Smartphone use is the symptom, not the cause of loneliness. Young people today are forbidden the tools used by past generations to counter loneliness. Ask an urban highschooler how often they just hung out at a friend's house, or in a public place, for more than an hour or two. Teenagers today are busy. They have homework and courses to do after school. They are supervised, chaperoned, by adults far more than previous generations. The smartphone is the place they get to chat with friends out parental earshot.

Even when they have the time, many normal activities are now forbidden. Parents don't leave teenagers home alone on weekends anymore. House parties are unheard of. Teenager-friendly places like arcades, malls, even local movie theaters are disappearing. And the personal transport, cars, that once knitted teenage culture together are disappearing. Cars are expensive, risky, and put kids in more regular contact with police than is safe. So they stay home. All of these things are replaced by the new malls: whatsapp and snapchat.

Teenagers are not being drawn to smartphones, they are fleeing to them,

I think this is a major part of the problem. Kids need their freedom, out of parents' sight.

I was thinking about my youth the other day. Back then (around 2005) in Germany we had youth clubs ("Jugendclubs"). A shared space where the local youth would come together almost daily - in many places these youth clubs where supervised by a someone best described as a municipal social worker, who would open and close the place at specific times. However the youth in my town was lucky enough to have a youth club without supervision, apart from the occassional visit by a municipal offical. A safe space away from parental oversight, open to anyone, but in practice resulted in a large group of tightly knit boys and girls between 16 and early 20s.

We met daily, had discussions, parties, started DJ'ing, had to keep the place clean, TV, gaming, BBQs, drinking, you name it - where there problems from time to time? Sure. To much noise, the occassional drunk. However there was a lot of responsibility involved as we had to solve any issues with neighbors and municipal officials ourselves, we had to keep the place in shape, do chores around the house/garden, renovate from time to time, had to gather and prepare wood for the winter (the place was heated by an oven/chimney).

I understand that we were lucky with this rather generous, liberal arrangement, but I guess it would be unthinkable today, and I simply don't see the local youth meeting at alternative spots, like public areas.

This is an interesting hypothesis. I can definitely see this being true outside of major urban centers. Public transit seems to be the remedy for teenagers doesn't it? When I was a kid, my parents had to drive me everywhere, and I'm thankful they did! I would have had zero friends otherwise.

I'm from outside a major urban center, and I don't really see it being true. Yes, those things are gone, but cars are extremely common, and it's unusual that someone doesn't get one at 16, especially if they're the oldest sibling and can take the younger ones to school, etc. And even when people wreck, they're generally looking for new ones fairly quickly. And this is in a rural area with 20% of the population below the poverty line.

I do think smartphones are a lot of the problem. The kids have grown up not having to interact with anyone, so they rarely do. And they also don't know how, since they never had to learn. It's funny, as you can usually tell which students got their phones first from how they interact with other students.

And they still do hang out together a decent amount. Going to school sporting events, playing Fortnite at each other's houses, going out to eat, or even partying each weekend.

I see the loneliness issue creeping up more in the urban areas for the reasons listed above, actually. Or with those who grow up in an area and then leave it. Even if they come back, not all their friends will, and the people who stayed will have vastly different life experiences, which makes it difficult to make friends.

While I do see smartphones being an issue, as here kids don't really want to talk with each other but just be on their phones, even when "hanging out". That's what increases loneliness. Despite hanging out and doing stuff together, they're not interacting with each other nearly as much, nor on as deep a level.

Not only do the kids not know how to interact, they are repeatedly told that personal interactions are dangerous. Today's kids have grown up with concepts of gangs and mutual accountability. They fear being held responsible when something happens. Relations between the sexes, particularly for young boys, also look like minefields. The line between romantic rejection, and the filing of an incident report, starts looking very slim. So the boys avoid the girls, and everyone avoids unregulated group activities. Playing fortnight is safe. There is nothing you can do in fortnight that will result in the police interviewing anyone. Asking a girl out is risky. Meeting a bunch of other teenagers in a field is downright dangerous.

Are kids allowed to take public transit anymore? The parents I know, admittedly all in the suburbs, drive them to school. Allowing kids on public transport seems to have disappeared along with allowing them to walk to school.

It's the interesting effect of social networks: instead of connecting people they do something else.

Moving to NYC saved my life. I was depressed, lonely, insecure, and starving socially. When I got here, I discovered a city of people who were earnest, open to meeting others, and happy to welcome me into their lives. What makes this city so great for people like me is that it forces you to both strive for better and not take yourself so seriously (because no one fucking cares). It's a city full of selfish, caring, hardworking, arrogant, kind people. It's this balance that makes life great.

Agree with others - some more details or examples would be great. As someone who's been in exactly that kind of rut for years, I would seriously consider dropping everything and moving somewhere like this.

If you can afford it, do it. There are so many people in such a small space that as long as you're willing to put yourself out there you're bound to inevitably meet others you click with. It's ultimately a numbers game and I'd say NYC in particular is inherently a very social place so I'd put it at the top of your list. Good luck!

wonderful summary of NYC

Could you provide some specific examples?

My opinion is that likely mostly impacts men. I see men struggling to find women to date (and the opposite for women, too many men to pick from). The internet and apps have made the dating market very difficult for men in general. Women literally have 100's or 1000's of choices at any given time while men will struggle to have a single option.

There are just more men now than ever it seems, and it's really exaggerated in the Western US tech cities. When I go out, I sometimes count and I'll see 20 men to 1 woman at places.

For people between 25 and 54, in America, there are almost exactly as many men as women, to within less than one percent. [0] So if you see more men than women around you, that's a filter bubble that you've artificially put yourself in. Therefore the converse must be that there are many other places in America where there are more women than men.

So go out, socialize, get away from your bubble, and meet other people.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_sex_ratio

>For people between 25 and 54, in America, there are almost exactly as many men as women, to within less than one percent. [0] So if you see more men than women around you, that's a filter bubble that you've artificially put yourself in. Therefore the converse must be that there are many other places in America where there are more women than men.

Total number of females in the entire population != the number of reproductive aged heterosexual women within my particular socioeconomic level that are single and seeking a relationship. That number is absolutely tiny in comparison. And with even the slightest convolution for racial or looks preference it's down to maybe a few thousand individuals out of millions in a major metro area.

Looking at this, singles between 18 and 44, there's just a massive amount of men compared to women: http://jonathansoma.com/singles/#1/6/2/0

That only charts cities. I strongly suspect that the answer is just that there are unmatched women who lives in more rural/suburban areas.

For people between 18 and 44, the number of men very closely matches the number of women. So, ignoring polyamory, the the proportion of singles across America must be very gender-equal. Since that shows that the proportion of singles in cities in male-skewed, the proportion of singles elsewhere must be female-skewed.

The proportion of single women is not skewed in other cities, its skewed in other age groups.

You can have the same number of men and women and the older women have a hard time finding a man and the young men have a hard time finding a woman.

It makes sense if you think about older men and younger women being able to easily match up and older women and younger men not being able to find anyone.

How is that even possible?

Naturally there are more men born than women.

I'd guess also more men than women migrate to the US for work.

Men used to die in large number from war and work, not so anymore.

So here we are.

Also young women dating older men. Just look at the excess of female singles at the upper end of the age range on that map.

>Naturally there are more men born than women

The ratio of men to women in the US is almost exactly 50/50 (with a slight bias to women!) In fact, that ratio has gone down in favor of women over the years[0], which invalidates your last point. And unless you live in a select few states[1] this holds true.

Instead of there being a secret gender imbalance cover up, it seems much more likely to me that cities with large tech industries (like NYC) are just swimming with sausage.




The website only looks at cities, not at all areas where people live. Simple solution: singles in rural/suburban areas skew female.

Brb starting a tech bros -> rural chicks dating website

> For people between 25 and 54, in America, there are almost exactly as many men as women, to within less than one percent

Even if true, this means nothing w.r.t. men struggling to find women. Like with most other things in life, a few good (looking) men, rich men, charismatic men disproportionately (get to) date several women, whereas most (,not all) women tend to be loyal to 1 guy [1], so that leaves a lot of men with no potential mate...

Natural selection at it's finest.

[1] Because society says that if a man has many women, he is a 'Casanova' / 'Player' whereas if a woman has many men, she's labelled a 'Hoe' / 'Bimbo'. So women, even if they desire to be with more than 1 man at a time, either suppress it, or do it very discretely.

Are you saying that there is an epidemic of polyamorous, rich, good looking men? In my experience, men dating multiple women at once, while it does happen, is not very common. Same goes for women. If people mostly pair off 1:1, this hypothesis that a small percentage of men control a large percentage of women (occupy chad street?) doesn’t really make any sense.

> Because society says

I often wonder if it's society saying it, or if it's reality (e.g. our biology or plain logic) saying it and our society just echoing. For example, society is saying that you should brush your teeth, but science is also saying that, so it's a good thing that society is echoing and amplifying the message.

For the specific example you mentioned, I think it's very likely that society is just echoing what biology is dictating, which is that men have sex/children with as many women as they can, and women to select as good genes for their few children as they can.

I am happily married now of course but when I tried online dating years ago, I remember that many women were hyperspecific about what they wanted in terms of minimum height and minimum income and even make of car in a potential partner. This was written in their profiles. The population of 6-foot-plus BMW driving 6-figures earning men on online dating was probably much, much smaller than the horde of women who would settle for nothing else!

When checking out the norms for men when writing my own profile I never saw any men as detailed about their physical requirements, interestingly.

I suppose I could get a stupid BMW and hit all the desirable points you list, but I doubt it would help. In fact I'm sure it wouldn't.

But you aren't kidding about women's preferences on dating sites. They can actually go on and on and on, sometimes numbering fifty or sixty necessary traits. By contrast, what does a man want? Aside from political men who need a competent hostess, I think just about every man wants:

1. A woman who is passably attractive.

2. A woman who isn't crazy.

That's about it, but damn that narrows down 3.5 billion women mighty fast.

They can actually go on and on and on, sometimes numbering fifty or sixty necessary traits.

I never saw as many as that myself but a dozen or more wouldn’t be unusual. A few might be reasonable such as “must love dogs” but nearly all would be materialistic, or physical traits that no one has any control over. I imagine the authors of these elaborate lists also complain bitterly to anyone who’ll listen that “there are no decent men”.

And I never, ever saw a man list the bra size or handbag brand his match should have...

In the US too there is a trend of women taking over the work force due to the nature of where the economy is headed. The kinds of jobs that need doing are jobs that women excel at. Less and less manual labor, more and more intellectual and social labor.

There is a huge shift taking place in society, and while I don't think it is a bad thing, there will certainly be a lot of discomfort while society adapts.

Try social dancing: salsa, argentine tango, swing.

Where do you think the women are all hiding?

OP probably works in a city packed with male-dominated industries, and works in a male dominated industry himself. As a software engineer myself, I find this perfectly understandable. When I took a work trip to NYC and spent time in the financial sector, I was blown away by how many women were around me.

NYC, DC, and a lot of the south.

If anyone is looking for adventure and connection, I run a group called Founders Hike, which is what it sounds like.

Founders get together to mastermind, hike and support each other about once a month.

We have some really successful and amazing Founders.

Nature is it’s own medicine, the community is great, and the wisdom runs deep.

NYC / SF and chapters forming in other cities.

Email me if you’d like to join, and I’ll gift you a ticket.


>Founders get together to mastermind, hike and support each other about once a month.

Maybe the world "mastermind" is throwing me off, but how do you prevent something like this from devolving into "yet another networking activity"?

There's value in stepping out of the always-on, startup culture and interacting with the other half.

A typical hike is that we hike, stop along the way to do some deeper intimacy and connection work (I coach some of the top tech company founders on empathy, spirituality and leadership), we share what we’ve learned recently and what we are working on, we offer support. We do some meditation.

These are hand curated and I’ve been building communities for over 20 years across a variety of disciplines.

We also have our own Island to adventure and co create on! Majagual.org

This reminds of the saying “During the gold rush, it wasn’t the prospectors who got wealthy, but rather the people selling shovels.”

Do you dance around a giant wooden owl wearing still warm severed sheep heads while 1998 Alex Jones records on VHS in the woods?

Dude. You know the first rule of Founders Hike is not to talk about Founders Hike.

How many non founders do you have?

Everyone is running their own show in some capacity. Startups to billion dollar brands.

I think they were going for an absolute number, not a percent.


I thought the comment above asked how many founders, not how many non founders. Thank you for your simple answer to by dumb comment.

I keep thinking along these lines. Like Friday night run and beer. You do a 5k run and then you all get a beer and you can bond over the run.

This is basically what everyone is doing at these kickball/softball/whatever leagues.

I can think of nothing more insufferable than being surrounded by wealthy people who are business-driven.

Why does it have to be a “founders” hike? Why can’t people just fucking get together and hike?

Everyone knows almost all startups fail, and one group existing doesn't preclude others.

More importantly, please don't be rude on HN.


Who’s being rude? I’m asking a valid question. Being a founder doesn’t preclude someone from liking to hike and this seems exclusive for exclusives’ sake.

Have you ever gone to an EO meeting? Or another event for folks who are in a similar industry or job?

It’s founders because it allows for entrepreneurs to connect around challenges specific to their lives.

I’m confused as to why this bothers you — no one is saying you can’t go on a hike or start your own group.

Nor does it mean non-founders can’t like to hike. I’m simply offering a group that I run that is already running as an option for folks here - many of which are founders.

You said it harsher than I would have, but I go hiking to be alone. 6-8 hours with nothing but some music and your thoughts is amazing to help clear the mind and get re-centered. Sadly, I no longer live near good mountain hiking, so I use surfing as that time to re-center.

I would be very surprised if anyone who would join a Founders Hike is wealthy as a founder, especially if they are suffering from loneliness.

You’d be surprised how many of the billion dollar company founders I coach come in the door with deep loneliness.

You're right, we would be.

Well, I don't doubt that some rich people are very lonely....I doubt you actually come into contact with them.

Feel like you're just a wannabe Bill Campbell. I went to your site - you sell Ultimate T-shirts.

Personal attacks will get you banned here, regardless of how right you are (or feel) about an underlying point. Please don't be a jerk on HN.


Lol. This was the first domain I bought back in 2001 when I was running an ultimate frisbee clothing brand in college. Those were the original designs and are there for friends / fans from college and as a nod to my first online business.

I was also the founding cohost of Summit.co

I created The Love Game (PlayTheLoveGame.com)

AnthonyDavidAdams.com has a video of me coaching the founder of Ben & Jerries, but most of my work is of course confidential.

What I find interesting is that a free offering to help someone that is feeling lonely is met with such vitriol and projection.

Of course, I also go on hikes and you are welcome to do so.

But I’ve found that there are certain problems and issues that come up for founders that non-founders can’t really support.

Probably just a few wannabes. In any case yes, a great way to not have a good time

Be sure to not email me for an invite! But I encourage you to do things that you enjoy doing.

I've watched Friends last year for the first time in my life and it was shocking to me, among other 90s things, how everyone is dating left and right, one after another as if they were in a race or something. I don't know your social circle but in mine, currently it's quite the opposite. I observe that less and less people go out/date/interact with each other socially, which is sad.

My take on Friends gets more reactionary the older I get. I now see it as very much a part of the Sexual Revolution: the drive to normalise dating and casual sex. On the one hand the friends treat sex as no big deal, plenty of humour, no judgement, etc. Just occasionally rationalising it as part of a necessary quest to find a husband or wife. On the other hand you notice from a distance that their whole lives revolve around sex. So it is a big deal, de facto, and of course in real life loneliness can be a very real penalty for messing it up.

To be fair, that's a sitcom. I think modern shows like BoJack Horseman are really good interpretations on how poorly those types of stories represented reality.

While I agree wholeheartedly, I cant help but think how funny it is that an absurdist cartoon with talking animals more accurately represents relationship stories.

It's counterintuitive but a pretty well-known phenomenon. The finest cartoons provide a unique window into some aspect of human culture. The Simpsons, Futurama, King of the Hill—they all were entertaining, but the best episodes talked about something serious under the guise of humor. Science fiction is the same way. Star Trek isn't about aliens; it's about us.

Go back half a step to Seinfeld and consider the dating life of "the perpetual loser" of the show, George Costanza. You could go full Rodgers thinking, "Well this guy is dating chicks left and right whereas I can't even get the time of day".

But you just remember the MST3K advice: "Just repeat to yourself, it's just a show. I should really just relax."

It's a hyper-idealized version of reality intended to highlight ridiculous situations, not an accurate representation of life.

Active sex lives are better to write about and a small element of wish fulfillment like their oversized apartment for their job.

I was too young to notice but I heard the 90s described as prudish as an impact of AIDS. So not having to worry about the spectre of AIDS even if it was less "expel kids with AIDS from school and deny straight people can get it" hysteria.

I agree. I was fortunate to be in an area and group where that sort of dating was still alive; I didn't end up marrying any of those people in that area, but I learned _a_lot_ about people; how they think, what kinds of people there are, a lot about interacting with members of the opposite sex, gained a lot of confidence in just being around people and making social requests. I think it is invaluable experience for understanding people.

In NYC, even the most "undatable" can still have a busy dating calendar.

Same in Seattle. There are people from all walks of life, genders, anything.

Is it different in NYC? Friends was based there right? Different demographics and just the shear number of people means you are more likely to interact with someone.

Friends is quaint.

Thanks to dating applications in major cities (NYC, Paris, London, Bangkok, Shanghai) it's possible for a reasonably attractive man to go on multiple dates a night for weeks on end.

There's also literally endless functions, meetups and places to hang out... if you can afford it.

Outside of the cities, particularly in the US, it's shocking how mechanical and isolated people become. The combination of religion withering away and increasing technological automation means "small-town living" -- with mutually interdependent neighbors gathering each week at Church -- is dead and gone. In its place you find isolated exurb drug-addled dystopias. It's a bit horrifying.

> In its place you find isolated exurb drug-addled dystopias. It's a bit horrifying.

I think you may have spent more time reading Atlantic articles and listening to documentary podcasts about small town America than you’ve actually spent in it.

It is still alive and well, in pretty much the way you describe, in many/most small towns.

> reasonably attractive man to go on multiple dates a night for weeks on end.

Well, fucking and finding friends is not the same.

I have a really hard time finding any kind of social connection that seems genuine and not a front for some kind of business/religious/political pursuit. It's like social connections are seen as merely a resource to exploit rather than being valuable for the actual human connection.

When the explicit goal of the event is social interaction, it usually feels that way to me, too, but when there is something else going on, the social interactions are somewhat optional, and feel way more natural/less forced.

I highly recommend finding something you're sincerely interested in doing, and then finding a group to do that thing with. Could be cycling, robot building, 3d printing, softball, etc. I've had the best luck when it is an event that is not generally attractive to people trying to "network" or hook up, etc; not that it's a problem if some people there are doing those things, but if that's what the majority are doing it detracts from the atmosphere for me, and you, too, from the sound of it.

Wouldn't surprise me that a British publication would note that loneliness is on the rise as American culture norms are being spread around the world through our media and technology.

There are thousands and thousands of books and papers written on American individualism at the root of our very superficial friendships since the early 20th century. A quick Google search returns books that date to the 1970s on the very topic.

How many of your friends have only been along for a part of your life journey and then you lose touch and grow apart? We are driven to pursue our dreams and passions and become as successful as we can in whatever we think that means for us.

I mean, we're the country that invented the nursing home, complete with the expression, "you're born alone and you die alone."

If I was to start a company at this point, it would probably be focused on this problem. I'm not sure what though, because I worry that anything which would be profitable wouldn't be really incrementally solving the problem.

Maybe a MOOC which taught courses like:

- How to arrange an outing with friends: logistics and communication

- How to follow up after you've just met someone

- How to loop a new person into a conversation among folks who know each other

- How to continue a conversation after someone said something awkward about the ever-present march of time and our bodies' unstoppable march toward death

- How to help a friend talk through a problem which is emotionally distressing for them

- How to introduce a friend to someone you think they might be romantically compatible with

- How to tell exceedingly dorky jokes with excellent timing so as to put someone at ease

Or other things.

In that case you might want to take a look at your competition first. Two that I know of:

https://theartofcharm.com/ - more personal connections

https://advancedhumandynamics.com/ - more business networking

This all hits home, and I agree with a lot of the points on social media.

Unfortunately, it's not as easy as just quitting. When I stopped using Facebook at the start of this year, my loneliness got much higher.

There's less ways to meet people outside of the internet now. For awhile, I was visiting a hacker-space outside of $WORK, but everyone is already involved with everyone else and it's tough to break into a social circle.

I feel this really acutely right now. I'm finding that it takes about 3 years of conscious, dedicated, effort to build a small circle of friends as an adult. It feels like all forces are against you in the process because there is nothing tying anyone to anyone else. Everyone is free to just change course, leave town, get into a new hobby. So keeping a group of 10 folks together? Be ready for some monumental effort!

If you have children, it seems that many parents make friends with similar ages to their own. Once those groups are baked in, though, it's harder to crack. People seem to be more open to new friends with their first child than last.

I'm working on a new app to help solve this problem, feel free to sign up for the beta. https://peapods.com

Really excellent work on the graphics. Adorable!

It seems obvious that screen addiction is mostly responsible. Take cigarettes as an analogy- it took decades for everyone to admit they kill you. The fact that so many people immediately recognize the screen problem is huge, and the rest are behaving like addicts who need intervention.

I find a stark and surprising contradiction from some people these days - they simultaneously insist that social media, most specifically Facebook, helps them feels ‘connected’ to their friends and family and yet they feel increasingly lonely.

Maybe if you live your life in Facebook you don’t have as much to talk about with your friends when you interact in person?

My theory is that people put a brave face out in public on social media, but have nobody nearby when they need emotional support.

I recall in a freshman sociology course the text noting refrigeration increased isolation and loneliness as people spent more time indoors.

As I have traveled, I have noticed a lot of further examples of technology doing the same. Especially in countries with less wealth, people go outside and share public spaces/activities/infrastructure with each other more, and that seems to have a lot of positive externalities.

LOL. For an anecdote -- I was working once on an TV-related product, and our product manager was persuaded it would fail in these countries you mention (well he was speaking about the country he was native of). He was saying: "no chance they spend time in front of TV, however good. They will all be out having fun as soon as weather is good enough".

There's also something to be said about extensive rules and regulations really hurting relatively normal social activities.

I really enjoy living in developing nations because you can actually just live. You can go buy some random food from somebody selling stuff off the street, pick up a beer or two..., and go sit down by a lake beside the street and have a little picnic type thing with a friend -- or even cast a fishing line out or go for a swim if the mood strikes. Enjoy yourselves, clean up after yourself, be considerate of others, and nobody cares what you do -- as it should be.

I am going to say something very unpopular just for discussion reasons: What if, IF, by having so much information at hand and telling each other how much live sucks, we've created a situation of mass induced depression based on hypochondria?

I honestly can't bear opening up any sort of social media sites other than HN because it's all absolutely full of people "joking" about how miserable mere existence is and how funny wanting to die is.

There are many people out there with depression and who struggle with this everyday. Some people joke about it as a coping mechanism. But too many people are latching onto it as a joke, and I think they're turning it into their own reality. Seemingly everyone my age "jokes" all the time about wanting to die and it's becoming "normal" humor. That can't be healthy.

Kinda, but note it takes an somewhat willing receiver. These concepts are perversely attractive or addictive, but with a recognition of their negative effects you can cut them out of your life and heal.

> But this need not make them lonelier. Snapchat and Instagram may help them feel more connected with friends.

There is an important difference between being connected in a shallow digital sense and being emotionally connected. Staring at screen looking at attention seeking pictures and clips from peers and then clicking on a like button or writing a comment is not going to come even close to something that will leave participants feeling spiritually connected.

The real culprit, IMO, is the automobile. By allowing people travel further, the frequency your life overlaps with other individuals' decreases exponentially. Relationships with strangers are much easier to start with familiarity. I'd like cities to be planned foremost with walkability in mind.

It takes a lot less work to meet up with friends when everything is a 20 minute drive vs. when everything is a 2 hour walk to bus to once-per-2.5-hours train to bus to walk. In the Bay Area, seeing friends who don’t live in my neighborhood is a special occasion. In car-oriented Midwestern sprawl, it was almost every week. Being in cars together, trading rides, etc. also created a pleasant, low-pressure space for conversation. The audience of one’s fellow train/bus passengers changes that dynamic a lot. I don’t think it’s as drastic a difference as you say. There are tradeoffs all around.

And hyper specialisation which forces many people away from home to find work.

thats the premise for the book "the big disconnect the story of technology and loneliness"

I would have thought that we've lived in a car-centric culture for generations now, though. How would cars explain why loneliness and isolation have risen just recently?

The report doesn't say loneliness is rising recently. It says technology use is rising and then measures individuals' loneliness, following up with a survey on technology use and a self reported ~"Do you think technology is contributing to loneliness?".

I think for a large part the Internet is replacing television. Is there a suggestion that those spending over two hours/day online (correlating more in the report with loneliness) are being affected by the medium or content or they're just using PC rather than TV?

I'd wager that car use is also up significantly too. Better roads, better cars, more two-car families (28% of US households have more cars than people), kids not walking to school...

[] https://newsroom.aaa.com/2016/09/americans-spend-average-176...

Maybe another influencing factor is parents who prefer that their toddlers only have contact with children of other parents who are somewhat like them. Thus, children are encouraged to create fewer friendships from an early age on.

The parents are not overprotective, or rather in a very specific way.

If that is so - (I'm just speculating here) - what we're seeing now is just the beginning of a trend that will continue for a very long time.

This problem seems like it would be perfectly solvable with an app, but one could argue that it's the increased usage of apps (rather than the in-person meeting) that got us here.

Even apps like LivingSocial seemed to fizzle out relatively quickly, but mostly-messaging-and-narcissism apps like Instagram/Snapchat are the ones that came to stay. A part of me still wants to believe that some app that did nothing but match people (friends or otherwise) for in-person events could actually buck this trend of loneliness, but a directly adjacent part of me thinks that after a seed round or two, or some press, that same app would just find some way to actually make the problem worse.

What a time to live in, humanity has access to the greatest amount of knowledge it's ever had, and we're have the greatest ability to connect to each other that we've ever had, yet somehow loneliness is rising.

I read a very insightful comment on a previous similar thread about this:


The short of it is that any platform you build to make friends (at least if you take the naive approach and just build a dating app for friends) turns into a dating platform. It certainly matches how I interested I am in new people I meet online despite having a partner already. My hypothesis is that you typically have friendships with people of the same sex in a group (I certainly hear about people hanging out with "the lads" or "the girls" more than I hear about them hanging out one-on-one with same sex friends) and that isn't something any dating-app-for-friends has provided thus far.

And if that platform doesn't take steps to rate-limit its users, it will likely become a dating platform only for gay men. At least that's what I observed when I tried WeChat's "people nearby" feature in Berlin. The first thing I noticed was that almost everyone was male. The second, that many of those men had a signature that implied they were looking for gay sex.

My guess is that such a feature will be abused by some men who send messages to a large number of women, causing them to feel harassed by the onslaught and leave. Then the straight men notice that there are fewer and fewer women, so they stop using it as well. Then the people left over are mostly gay men.

> The short of it is that any platform you build to make friends (at least if you take the naive approach and just build a dating app for friends) turns into a dating platform.

I think this is largely true.

And the followup is that any dating platform [that shows even a hint of success/growth] tends to turn into a platform for scammers and spammers.

There have always been people who wanted to be lonely though, just as there have always been people who wanted constant socializing. Both have their own problems when taken to extremes, i.e: Extreme socialization leads to group-think and collectivism[1], and extreme loneliness leads to despair and becoming overly withdrawn. I (personally) try to find a balance between the two, often withdrawing back into a hermit existence after some socializing.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collectivism

> There have always been people who wanted to be lonely

I think you’re conflating ‘lonely’ and ‘alone’. Wanting to be alone is healthy, wanting to be lonely would be very unhealthy.

It’s the difference between wanting to sit by the fire and wanting to be burned - the latter invites/desires pain and harm.

Thanks for explaining the subtle difference. I always thought alone & lonely were synonyms!

It's a problem... for now. It's possible natural selection will just cause humans to become increasingly introverted until we're living in a world similar to Asimov's Solaria: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solaria

Anyone knows a book to learn social interaction? I am very awkward and despise office parties. I want to know reasonable modern etiquettes that can improve my interactions.

Atomization and social alienation has long been a charge against capitalism as a system. It's interesting that this trend is similar in both the US and Japan, so can't really be explained by something like American car-centric infrastructure.

A tangentially related article that this brings to mind: http://julesboykoff.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Boykoff_L...

Surprising that HN wasn't included in the survey

I guess I'm involuntary lonely.


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