Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
The decline of the family has unleashed an epidemic of loneliness (city-journal.org)
1329 points by paulpauper on June 6, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 1183 comments

I felt loneliness acutely this week. I live alone, spend most evenings alone, and on top, work's coding and research has been slow for 2 weeks. Collaborators are at conferences and on vacation, so I had much less work and much less face-to-face contact than usual. Given that I code on my own, distribute analyses via email, and occasionally meet if people are around, I barely talked to people some days this week.

Going home feels so meh... I can watch more Sherlock Holmes videos (Jeremy Brett!), rewatch Parks and Rec or The Office, or work on music or art, but there is no one to share with, no one to quip with, no one to engage with on my passions. I just kinda laze about without more contact and stimulus.

And I do have a better social circle now than I have since I left home at age 18...minus the daily familial, non-work interaction. I can't wait to hit the phase of life with a partner and/or family living with me.

If anyone in Providence, RI wants to hang, let me know!

I had a bout of this about 20 years ago, so I made a rule for myself: I wasn't allowed to decline an invitation. If somebody proposed doing something together and I was able, I had to do it. That made a huge difference in my life. I did a lot of things that were... unexpected. (A few examples: I joined an ultimate frisbee league. I went skydiving. I joined a church group. I went to a strip club. I attended a wedding.) It wasn't all fun or even pleasant, but I wasn't lonely anymore.

The internet was just getting started then, so that experiment might work out differently now, but it's worth considering how much of our modern isolation is just a matter of choices.

I have a similar rule with my wife, that she doesn't know about.

If she wants to do something with me, then I say yes, as long as I don't have a prior commitment, or, you know, am not sick or physically unable. I started this rule with her from the moment we met. I think it is part of why we stayed together all these years, and why we worked out well when so many of my previous relationships didn't.

I love a lot of solitary activities, like reading, writing, single-player games, drawing and painting, learning new things, working on projects that she isn't interested in, etc. Without my self-imposed rule, I would likely decline to do a lot of other activities, especially outside my own interests.

But if she wants to do something or go somewhere or just sit and talk, then I say yes.

My kids are young enough that I don't quite have the same rule with them, and partly because they just want me to do stuff with them and be with them literally all the time, so we are still in boundary-setting phase, but I assume that I will eventually adopt the "as you wish" rule with them as well.

This is a vital rule for partner relationships. I learned it from theater "yes, and" exercises. Really important to do for kids too. Good luck!

I think this is great advice. I'm not particularly lonely, being married and having two kids, but sometimes my wife and I don't do enough together. We instituted a regular babysitter night every two weeks, and we are required to find something and go out that evening.

But only passively saying yes to everything is not enough. I need to take action and organise something to do with her. And also take initiative to organise things with other friends. Sadly, those friends don't seem to follow this "as you wish" rule.

Great advice and in regards to kids I ended up sitting on the floor with our 18 month old today for over an hour, just blowing bubbles. Watching him learn to blow the bubbles himself and seeing the joy on his face was pretty special.

>the "as you wish" rule


> the "as you wish" rule

That's not what it's about. It's about doing things. Together. Marriage isn't just about signing your names on a piece of paper; it's a (supposedly) life-long commitment to a team of two people where you are one of the team members. My wife and I do the same thing (and yes, it goes both ways), and we both agree that's the one reason we're such an awesome team.

I don't think "as you wish" is meant to be in resignation but as a wholly committed and happy gesture of love. I'm assuming it's in reference to The Princess Bride, where the character Westley says it as an expression of love for a girl who first takes it as wry compliance.

Fair enough. I can't say I've seen that movie. :)

My last girlfriend was largely the opposite, especially after the relationship had aged some and she seemed to assume we'd be staying together. She was very independent, and didn't really like doing a lot of things I wanted to do, and kept her own friends separate from me and did things with them on the weekend if I was doing something she didn't want to bother with (such as packing up to move in with her).

I ended up backing out of moving in with her because I didn't feel very close to her and that we didn't do enough together. Shortly after, she dumped me by text and ghosted me.

This guy took that idea to the extreme: built an app to randomly join random Facebook events and forced himself to go wherever it took him.


Considering how Facebook is a haven for right-wing extremists, that sounds like a bad idea.

Interesting link, thanks for posting it

I started something similar about 12 years ago...inspired by the movie “Yes man” I started saying yes to every opportunity that I came across.

Wanna have lunch together? Yes!

Wanna go out with us tonight? Yes!

Wanna help me move? Yes!

It really got me out of my shell and made me realize that the reason I was alone is because I was an asshole. People had been trying to include me all my life, but I had always declined :(

I am much better these days :)

For me it's more the opposite, in the last 2-3 years I said no for the first time in 15-20 years because I was more in the mood to do something on my own or just chill and do nothing.

I'm just saying this because in retrospect I think I've never been lonely because I was going out and meeting people at every opportunity that came up and I could never understand people who said "I'd rather stay at home today.". But because I've not got dozens of friends this was still a manageable level and I'd still often would've gone out more.

HA! Same w/ me, a "silly" movie actually changed my life for the better, thank you for letting me know at least another person got the same out of it.

"Wanna help me move?" is my favorite. Nothing like getting a free workout with a friend or family. You might even get a dinner out of it too.

> "Wanna help me move?" is my favorite. Nothing like getting a free workout with a friend or family. You might even get a dinner out of it too.

Oh cool, nothing like giving up an entire day for the possibility of a permanent back injury or accidentally damaging someone's furniture all because they're too cheap to drop a few hundred dollars on some professional movers.

>I had a bout of this about 20 years ago, so I made a rule for myself: I wasn't allowed to decline an invitation.

That approach works great as long as you are currently getting invited to things. If it's been a year since the last time you were invited to anything, that's not going to solve your loneliness problem.

This is true, but trivial. If nobody ever asks you to spend time with them, you are doing something extraordinary to prevent it: never leaving your house, violent aggression, being drunk all the time, etc. You should definitely deal with that situation first.

But if you have normal interactions with people on a regular basis, you'll get invitations. They might be tiny or tentative or impersonal, but if engage with questions like "Can I talk to you for a second?" or "Would you like a sample of our new Teriyaki Chicken?" or even "Do you have the time?" you'll gradually open yourself up to more possibilities.

I absolutely disagree. Just taking the workplace as an example, I've been at companies where I would hang out with at least one coworker per week and there were companies where I did nothing at all with coworkers outside office hours except maybe the christmas party.

And I do think if you're not in any club (for sports or hobbies or whatever) it gets harder and harder to make friends the older you get (spoken like a true mid-30s person ;). I don't have kids or a dog, so the workplace is next to the best venue to meet new people.

TLDR: I don't think it's in any way rare or weird to not receive invitations if you don't already have a network of friends. This is a catch-22.

Unless you're in solitary confinement, people will invite you to connect with them. It may not take the form of "Hey, let's have a beer after work." It might not be directed specifically at you. But the opportunities are there.

I'm not saying "you must do this, it is the only way." It worked for me at a specific place and time in my life, and that isn't a universal condition. But I don't think we are helpless. Modern urban life may be alienating, but it's not inescapable. If you find that you value human connection more than likes or RSUs or Game of Thrones, you can find a way to have more of it.

So join a club. Clubs are great places to meet people. Find one appropriate for a hobby you have, or explore a new hobby.

Learn a new skill and meet people.

Personally I've no problem right now, but I vehemently disagree with the gp posting that it is per se the person's fault for not being invited.

Don't look at it in terms of fault, see it as ways to create opportunities.

Volunteer! I meet the best people volunteering. People who will do stuff for non-monetary reasons are usually pretty great.

Thanks, I was just about to comment something along those lines. It is relatively easy to get back into society if all you need to do is stop declining offers. It is a completely different game if offers happen very rarely. In my case, I've got yet another challenge: I have a disability. And people tend to treat you like sfrm another star. It is really quite a challenge to stay connected if society treats you like an outcast.

Do you still follow this "never no" rule, or did you come to a point or change in your life to ease up or ease off?

I think it lasted about 6 months before I completely abandoned it, but I had started to cheat even before then. The main reason I quit was "mission accomplished". I had made new friends, discovered some social activities I enjoyed and was generally happier. But also I noticed some downsides.

One was that people will exploit that rule, even if they don't know about it. That church group would have cheerfully turned me into one of their most dedicated and active members just by inviting me to all the things. They meant well, but I was sending mixed signals by accepting all their invitations even though I wasn't interested in their faith. Once I had been to a few events I had to start saying no.

Another was that once I had a bit of a social life going, I didn't want to let happenstance push me around so much. The choice was no longer between do this thing or stay home and mope; I started to have other options and I didn't want to just end up doing the first thing that presented itself.

All in all, it was a great way to change my habits, but not a good way to live life indefinitely.

I was going to specifically ask how the "joined a church group" went because that seemed to be the example that had the most potential for being a slippery slope to a more complete change of life than you may have been looking for.

I have a family member that pretty much went all-in on came-to-it-later-in-life religion. It really felt like their susceptibility to loneliness was successfully exploited.

That sounds like a great plot for a movie.


I thought the link was headed to Fight Club... :)

There is a great always sunny in Philadelphia episode about that

I've made the exact same rule, as well. I've spent more money because of it, but my life has been much better. Sometimes, a trade-off is necessary. It also makes life much more interesting, and it's really made me grow as a person.

Wow, thank you for your advise! This might be interesting to try...

As much as I'd like to follow the rule, I think I have an actual, varied social life now, and this would be... Risky.

I've been invited to a violent sounding orgy of the many male, one female kind (always been a dream of the girl's, but I do have someone I'm seeing). In the last few months, also been invited to an open Satanic book reading sessions. Beginner friendly, I had been told.

It doesn't seem unreasonable to put a limit of "as long as it doesn't violate my ethics/morals or any criminal statutes."

"Hey, I need to dispose of [toxic waste¦a body¦evidence], can you help out?" "Sorry, have to wash my hair."

The second one does not really violate moral or ethical codes, IMO? The first one I know some people might be able to justify, but I brought it up with my girlfriend jokingly, she said I was a dead man if I even thought about it, and that was that :)

It just becomes a slippery slope though, because rules like this are meant to push you towards doing things you don't really want to. Once you start making exceptions, you will find reasons to say no to everything.

Like, I made myself a rule to not buy anything on the first day I see it. All well and good, but yesterday I bought a guitar for about $1500. I had technically seen it in the store before, but this was a different one of the same model, with a much nicer finish, and felt better to play.

Seems like an innocuous exception, but internally I know that I'm going to start impulse spending again. At least now I can (better) afford random bouts of stupidity!

I didn't get into anything that extreme, but I did do some things that made me uncomfortable. That was sort of the point. I stopped when it didn't seem to be serving me well anymore.

Hah, made me remember an activity I did in my youth - male dancer for bachelorette parties. Sure met lots of people doing that!

"Smoke crack with me bro"

Not here, please.

A good longer play to bust out of that is to start working out of an independent cafe. Find one with a lower rate of laptop jockeys but that still has a couple.

Bounce around until you find one that feels right: a good amount of regulars, people doodling, and bullshitting with baristas.

Show up a couple times a week, drop into the odd conversation. And be ready to say “anyone want to grab a beer” come quitting time.

This is just about the fastest (week to a month) way to find yourself a new in person social circle.

This is great advice! (I also agree with OP's sad lack of connection in America. It is there but it is work to find it sometimes)

Also great:

Volunteering. You're guaranteed to meet some good people because these are other people that are interested in (1) working together (2) helping people (3) donating their time. The very worst-case scenario is that you don't make friends, but have helped somebody in need. =)

Sports. Grown-up recreational sports are nothing like the (often hostile) world of sports you might remember as a kid. Generally very supportive places. Co-ed leagues tend to be more easygoing. If you're a beginner, pay for some lessons. For example... lots of tennis coaches out there. If you are healthy enough to move around you can learn to play a pretty decent game of tennis in not much time and with less $$$ than you'd spend on a new Xbox. Obvious direct and indirect benefits as well.

I am allergic to cigarette smoke. Whatever gathering/party it is, some always light up cigarettes and that party literally ends right there for me. So, I have given up on conventional social gatherings. Even people I play sports with (I am a regular at badminton and football/soccer) smoke when we hangout.

I have always loved travelling so that's what I do every weekend - to some town or hills or a beach or trekking somewhere. Treks are where I meet quite some people and they don't smoke, at least not there.

Anecdotal, but I barely know any smokers these days. Most of my smoker friends have quit.

Hiking is great though

Yeah, wow. Can't remember the last time I had to deal with unwanted cigarette smoke.

Plus all the smokers I know (not many left!) smoke outside like considerate, normal human beings so there's no way anybody would be forced to really encounter their smoke.

Being outdoors doesn't help when they're within 50 feet of you; the smoke will still inevitably drift directly to the person who hates it the most.

Smoking seems to be on the upswing among young people too.

When I wasn't working in the office, I did my work in coffee shops during grad school. I still try not to work at home now, and walk to a local coffee shop if I need to work on a weekend. Working in a public place made grad school more tolerable. Even though I was doing my work, I felt like part of my community and I was able to interact with other people. I even did make some friends doing it.

It sounded to me like WhompingWindows is a grad student, so I heartily endorse they try this approach. Just be in public spaces more. It helps.

It's a good idea, but I don't don't know about the fastest. I'd recommend your idea and a series of neutral/specific hobbies/sports that give you a wider breadth

No doubt that you’ll have people to chum around with at a meetup. None whatsoever. And it’s a great thing to do both socially and professionally.

I’d say though that the people you meet while shooting the shit at a cafe are more likely to be “general friends” that are based more on shared personalities and humor than a shared interest. As such, these types of friendships feel/are less utilitarian

I don't know if I understand your first sentence very clearly, but yes I agree. I made a comment on reddit yesterday regarding a very similar topic.


Do you mean like going to lots of cafes literally full-time (~8 hours a day) or something? Otherwise how do you possibly bounce around lots of cafes and figure out who the regulars are within just a week?

A cafe or a bar is nothing but a "third space". Something outside of home and work. So don't take it literally. It can be the gym/dance/music/sports clubs/gardening/church/volunteering/fishing/libraries etc etc. Look for that "third space" which aligns with your interests, needs and values and keep visiting.

I had the same situation. A non sustainable life. With her all changed. I go to the gym so she does not have a skinny boyfriend. When I find something good at netflix I wait until she is home and we can watch it together. When I find a nice place, I remmember it so I can show her the nice bench under that tree in my hometown.

I always have flashback about the time I moved to another city without family bondings. Then I smiley because it's over.

That sounds great! Just be careful not too become too dependent on someone else.

Becoming dependent is part of the deal. It keeps people together through the difficult times.

A life with your significant other shouldn’t be about “dependence” once you start basing your self worth and happiness on your SO, it gets a lot harder when you are upset with each other (it will happen) or even when you want to do something that they don’t - or vice versa.

Either one of you can also start feeling rejected when the other person just wants some alone time.

You’re quibbling about language I think. It sounds like to you, depenence means an incessant need. Like a chemical dependency.

But that’s not implied by dependence. It just means you depend on that person for that thing sometimes. It means life would be tough if they stopped providing it. It doesn’t mean you would fall apart or become unable to function.

Certainly there are things people want to depend on their partner for and things they don’t. But none of it is universal. It’s totally individual. Someone might want to be financially self sufficient. Another person would feel totally safe bringing $0 to the relationship. Neither is a bad choice, it depends on whether that’s something you’re comfortable depending on your partner for, and whether they’re comfortable dependably providing it.

I’m definitely no relationship expert, but the “experts” often talk about the difference between “dependence”, “interdependence” and “codependence”.

Edit: Just in case it wasn’t obvious, “interdependence” is the only one that is considered healthy.

I think it’s more in relation to loneliness.

My wife and I have our own lives that we happen to share with each other, but at least from my perspective, if she were to somehow vanish one day, my life would be immeasurably worse for it.

I really don’t want to imagine coming home to a big empty house.

I agree completely. But, it is too easy to lose yourself in your relationship and forget who you are. Lately, I’ve had to make a concerted effort to increase my social circle from basically zero since I got married.

It just “happens”. I moved across town (metro area - across town is literally over an hour away with traffic), my friends and I all became busy with our own lives and i woke up one morning and realize that my family had become my whole life (not in a good way). Between that and my career I had no friendship circle and I stopped just doing things by myself to recharge. It didn’t help that most of friends were female. Of course that doesn’t work out too well when you’re married.

I had to actually start purposefully keeping in touch with friends and former coworkers as I changed jobs every couple of years and when I saw an old high school classmate (from over 20 years ago) that I was “friends” with on Facebook, I made an effort to reach out to him and another classmate to meet for drinks.

No, dependency breeds contempt. If he values the relationship he needs to remain independent, i.e. have his own mission in life and not just live for his partner.

Yeah, I think the term is really "integrate". While I'm not dependent on my wife, there are things that I trust her to do and things she trust me to do, and we don't even think about them anymore because my partner is handling them. You give up stuff because your partner has got them. You sort of sag into each-other as people.

"And the two shall become one flesh."

I thought that was a reference to the joining of the DNA in the progeny.

Like many things, it can probably be read multiple ways.

Yours is an interesting reading, and I must confess it had not occurred to me before.

Stephen Covey used[0] the term "interdependent", which I rather like.

[0] 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

That was my mistake in my last relationship. Everything I did alone and loved it absolutely - sometimes even more, I started doing pretty much "only with her" and after we parted ways that has been the most difficult part - I kind of forgot how I was happy, active, engaged with just being myself and not with anyone else necessarily.

Co-dependency is not 'part of the deal'. It's something toxic to a relationship.

This. Remember to love and invest in yourself for your own sake -- it will make you a better partner too.

Excellent advice. Also, you have to do it for yourself, because you want to be the best version of yourself possible, not because you think it's what someone else wants.

not because you think it's what someone else wants.

But you appreciate the work you went through to attain those heights that much more when you have someone to see the view with, who appreciates it as much as you do.

Which IMO is the best part of "working on yourself", and "improving yourself". Doing it for yourself is absolutely great and can make for a wonderful lived experience. But having someone to share it delivers great sense of validation--as creatures who like to procreate, we're always going to desire that.

100% agree. And sharing that view with someone who has walked (much of) the path with you is infinitely more fulfilling. It makes it real. Otherwise it's just a tree falling in the woods.

Having that kind of deep relationship is so rare these days, to anyone who has the pleasure of experiencing it.. cherish it forever!

Based on my own experience of being with someone for 10+ years, I can attest it takes a lot of patience, compromise, trust and hard work (from both parties).

But it can be incredibly fulfilling.

Otherwise it's just a tree falling in the woods.

That's a GREAT metaphor!

Chances are good that people will become dependent on each other at some point in their lives anyway, especially with those you plan to grow old with. And that is completely fine. Doesn't mean that you need to identify yourself through your partner or friends. I do think this get interpreted wrongly too often, since a fundamental part of a relationship or friendship is having someone you can depend on in times of need.

Of course you're right. Nevertheless I think it's healthy to pursue interests that don't necessarily involve your partner and, perhaps more importantly, not to neglect other friends - otherwise a potentially failing relationship might feel like losing everything, because it actually is.

Then when she develops more serious health or mental problems, and you have nobody to help look after your children, relationship therapy has burned through a couple therapists, and you're telling each other how lonely you each are but avoid real conversations because they inevitably lead to more loneliness, then you will again have a new perspective. Good luck.

Please don't do this here. You're welcome to share your own experience, if that's what you're alluding to here, but not to rhetorically put it onto someone else.

I guess I am going to be the only person to defend this statement. I see where you are coming from and I’m willing to give you the benefit of a doubt that you meant the “hypothetical you”.

But to use the old cliché- it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.

Having the childcare load shift due to a partner's health issue is something that will happen. I have been there and it isn't easy. But personally I was happy to step up and am proud of how I acted in that moment. Sorry to hear about what sounds like your more negative experience.

At least he/she would have lived and dared to love. What a shitty and cynical comment.

I may be wrong, but it sounds like an allusion to some other story, which is probably quite painful.

I hope you can see the light in the world again, some day.

Damn, isn't there enough negativity in the world? You gotta bring that in here?

Well, this entire thread is about loneliness. If we want to understand it and help it then we probably should be talking about it.

> I go to the gym so she does not have a skinny boyfriend.

PSA, there's nothing wrong with being skinny, and some people prefer a skinny partner.

PSA: People happily burbling about what works for them and their partner in their relationship are not judging nor body policing anyone else and should not be treated like they are.

My read on that comment:

"I can't be arsed to go to the gym regularly for my own benefit, but I'm happy to do so to please her and I'm all the healthier for it. win-win!"

There's no need to read aggression in my comment or to reply like that. I was simply stating this for readers who might feel self-conscious about being skinny, as I did when I read the comment. Western culture very much shames skinny, healthy men so I thought it was a useful reminder.

There's no need to read aggression in my comment or to reply like that.

I mirrored the framing of your comment. If it feels ugly to you for me to reply in that manner, maybe think about that. Because that's the crux of my point.

There are good ways to promote body positivity. Making comments that look like a personal attack on someone else for simply being happy about their current choices isn't really one of them.

American culture very much shames thin, healthy men because they're not fat like everyone else. I've been told many times "you need to eat more!" (and they weren't talking about healthy food either), even though my weight is right where it should be. As you might expect, the people saying this are all overweight.

Being fat is normal now in American society, and anyone who isn't is seen as a deviant.

When we met I was skinny AF. I started gym and now I no more feel awkward when I see pictures with me and her. But the main profit of gym is in my mind. I'm more tolerant about everything. When people do shit I can act with a clear mind and without mental agression.

It can be surprising what exercise can do for your head. It seems to be something purely physical, but it has certainly made me more active in other ways. It's easier to say "yes" to activities when you have more energy, and that's what exercise does to you.

While there's nothing wrong with being skinny, if his partner is encouraging him to go to the gym to take care of himself, that's A-OK.

I think of skinny and fat as opposites, backed up by word uses like the "Fattypuffs and Thinifers" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fattypuffs_and_Thinifers - it's amusing that people go to the gym because they don't want to be fat, and people go to the gym because they don't want to be thin.

Are there other things in life where people go to the same place for, at a glance, opposite reasons?

Technically they’re both at the gym, but they’re probably doing mostly non-overlapping activities in separate spaces. (Which is a shame because building muscle mass is an often overlooked way to lose weight)

There are different things you can do at the gym, but more than that, with many things, the best/healthiest place to be is between two extremes rather than on either end.

Not just with weight, but with nearly everything in life: try to find a balance. Between time for yourself and spending time with others, between socialism and capitalism, almost every -ism, belief or drive taken to extremes becomes harmful, but can be a useful contribution to a balance between different concerns.

Some people go to the gym to get skinnier.

In any case, I used to hate working out, and always had terrible posture. I've been doing crossfit for half a year now and improvements are visible to a lot of people around me. I don't want to bulk up, but better posture is good for anyone.

It's all subjective what is what, but "skinny" can easily veer into unhealthy, especially for adults.

There are some good ideas in this thread. I spent a lot of lonely time in my 20s living alone and working from home. One thing is to live in a shared house. That is a way to have people to live with. It worked for me to not be as lonely at times in my adulthood.

The other thing is to get involved with social physical activity, clubs, or volunteering. I played hockey and went to a group fitness gym. I made long term friends there. I am into ham radio and the club where I live is pretty good. I used to volunteer at a kids camp and that was great for making friends with the staff members and doing social things outside of camp.

To me, find where your interests align with social/community activity. Currently, I am trying to get the ham radio club to be more out in the community. We are doing radio communications for a running race this weekend. It is exciting.

I felt very similar but at the age of 20 I shut myself indoors and it's been like that ever since. Everyone has long forgot about me. I turned 31 an hour ago.

I think I just got used to it. I was lucky that I inherented a small flat, although in bad condition and location. I score some freelance gigs time to time to keep myself alive. I have tried online communities or friends so to speak but I don't really get it how it's done. I didn't have a problem in real life.

I read HN always every night before I fall asleep. In 2008 or so my show HN made it to first page. I was very happy that say. Genuine happiness. I might have lacked being a human now.

You have cash, good health, and free time.

Take up an “extreme” sport. Skiing, SCUBA diving, mountaineering, surfing, windsurfing, paragliding. Become a de facto member of your chosen activity’s local scene.

Or just find a girl, ???, propagate your bloodline into the future.

Like, whatever, man. It’s over when they’re packing the dirt in your grave.

You don't sound too thrilled about the way things are going. You can change it if you want.

Volunteering to help with for some in-person activity can provide that essential social connection.

Also, consider talking to a professional. They evaluate situations like the one you describe all the time.

Happy Birthday!

Also, if I may be so presumptuous as to offer a suggestion: try contacting someone from earlier in your life. Many times, people are lost in their own world, their worries and problems and life just happens as it always does. However, they are very likely to be happy to suddenly hear from an old friend. I have been on both sides of this and it was ultimately a good experience. In one case, I also happened to have contacted someone at an opportune moment and saved them from self harm.

Again, a very happy birthday to you and I hope that, this year, you find joy in life.

Happy birthday mate

Hopefully you're using a redshift/flux type app when you read HN immediately before bed, otherwise the blue light from the screen will prevent your body from secreting melatonin, compounding any other issues you might be dealing with.

HN itself isn't so bad - the background is (246,246,239) which means blue is reduced about 3% from pure white or gray.

Can't say the same for any link you might follow though.

Happy bday man. Recently turned 30 myself. Living w some guys i used to work w right now and its really turned my life around - we need people

Happy Birthday, friend!

I can relate to every sentence you wrote, minus certain details.

I like and enjoy my coworkers but our respective interests are too dissimilar. The interactions at work never go deeper than the current objective or niceties. This is completely fine (for now) but in the future I would love to be on a true team.

Going home is indeed meh. As much as it feels nice to unwind, I'd much rather unwind with my gang.

I used to be on a sports team and lived morning, day, and night with my boys. Even though life was chaotic, it was incredible to have a gang. One thing I know for certain is that I could do more to gain that back. Short-term I plan on (1) joining an adult sports league and (2) hit up the super interesting people I've met since moving.

But long-term I believe lifestyle redesign is the only solution to our highly atomized world. I look to the past for ideas.

Do you know how to ride a bike? It's summer and I am sure there are a ton of casual (i.e. non-racing/fitness groups) bike groups that ride around regularly.

Unlike sports or gyms there's a lot more hanging around and chatting, plus you can end up with new destinations. Meanwhile the exercise gives you endorphins.

In my similar sized city there's enough cyclists that there are many different "scenes" depending on what you are looking for, but many overlap so that you'll almost always have a familiar face at one.

Riding a bike for transportation also lets you feel a little more human getting around your city. You may run into people you know.

This is some good advice. Riding a bike gives you a much better sense of community because you see the people and recognise they are the same people you see all the time rather than just another generic car you will never recognise again.

You make music? Go to meetup.com or craigslist to find other musicians with similar skill levels and ambitions. I'm in my mid 50s and my kids are off at college and I finally have free time, and no friends.

A couple years ago I bought a used bass and amp (again, craigslist) for cheap, dusted off my old skills, then found some other people on meetup.com who want to play music socially for fun and improvement, but don't have the ambition to actually be in a performing group. It is nice to socialize for couple hours every couple of weeks with new people on a non-programming activity. One of the guys is especially compatible with me, and we've met up a couple of times outside of the band.

Anecdotal, of course, but I've found the meetup scene to be terrible in a some places. Most I've seen are inactive, aimed at a specific demographic, or are fronts for scams / MLM's.

IIRC, the only Meetups worth going to are meetups where you already know someone or Meetups that friends have recommended.

There are different kinds of loneliness. I suppose the worst is when all apply.

You lack family, you have coworkers, you have random humans in the area, you didn't mention any sort of buddy. So have 2 or 3 out of those 4.

I'm bummed about spending the last quarter century without a buddy. Family and coworkers and random humans do not substitute. Maybe I have no time for it, but I also think it takes a certain kind of environment. The shared environment of an Internet-free childhood neighborhood and school created the right conditions.

> I can't wait to hit the phase of life with a partner and/or family living with me.

You're in a phase of life where you could live with others, although there's no guarantee of there actually being a good opportunity near by.

I spent a chunk of my 20s living in a student housing cooperative in Ann Arbor, MI, and for the most part it was a great experience. It was big enough, and enough of the population was grad students, that it was easy to be left alone when that's what you wanted. But it was also plenty easy to find someone up for a game of chess or whatnot at pretty much any time of day.

It was also inexpensive, I still had some space of my own, and while some work was owed to keep the house running it was in practice substantially less than I spend on my own apartment with typically better results.

As someone in the same area, I'm curious if you did this post-grad-school? I can't imagine the co-ops in e.g. Kerrytown are very welcoming of non-students, but I don't know.

Being a non-student, I needed approval from the house. Being student age and working on campus, it was easy to get - but it's sometimes granted to people for whom neither of those is the case.

I lived next door to the co-op at State and Catherine, and there were a few people who lived there who were in their late thirties and definitely not students. I don't know about _all_ of them, but some definitely don't care if you are a student or not.

Unless things have changed in ways that seem very unlikely, every ICC house "cares" in that non-students need house approval and students (generally?) don't. But houses will certainly vary in terms of how easy it is to get that approval. They will also vary along many, many other axes.

I recommend social hobbies. Mine are BJJ and Magic the Gathering. BJJ is great because it can be highly technical but you will meet people way outside of nerd circles. My kids do it and love it as well. It is a hard thing, too, so it keeps the ego in check. You have no choice but to be extremely, intimately close with other humans. The friends I am making are great. There are plenty of other hobbies, but start there.

Edit: (start by investigating social hobbies)

Seconded. I've been training Brazilian jiu jitsu for 15 years. For most of that time, friends from jiu jitsu has been half of my social life. When I graduated and moved to a new area by myself for a job, jiu jitsu is how I met people.

Don't we all know what BJJ is.

Brazilian jiu jitsu is correct. It’s a wrestling style.

Compared to many martial arts, BJJ is very interactive in that you learn something new and then immediately put it into practice against training partners. BJJ gyms don’t really do katas (lining up the class to practice poses/moves individually).

This is nice because you get immediate feedback on what works. I’m a small guy. In a real fight I would probably get smashed by any average sized dude, but my experience diving into jiu jitsu has been fun and interesting. It’s a very technique based and strategic game, so my size isn’t as much of a factor as it would be in other sports.

Most gyms do a free trial period. You won’t have any idea what you’re doing for the first month or two, but I think it’s healthy to get humbled once in a while.

California (specifically So Cal) is kind of the Mecca of BJJ in the US, so a gym should be easy to find. Give it a try everyone.

SoCal is not just the Mecca of BJJ in the US, I think it has become the Mecca of BJJ in the world. IBJJF Worlds has been held in Long Beach, CA since 2007. (And was last weekend!)

But, I also submit that the NY area is the central place for jiu jitsu on the US east coast.

We have some cool things happening in Denver too, but not quite like either coast. I train at the Easton academies and it is pretty great.

It seems to be Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, judging by the lack of any other expansions of the acronym in the first page of DuckDuckGo's results.

I wish you had said DDG

I was sorely tempted.

Its Brazilian Ju Jitsu, for those wondering.

I have some ideas but pretty sure they are wrong.

Seconded on request for clarification.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Sorry for the lack of clarity.

>Going home feels so meh... I can go work through more Sherlock Holmes videos or Netflix series or work on music or art, but there is no one to share with, no one to talk to throughout the day, no one to engage with on my passions. I just kinda laze about without more contact.

Invite someone over!

>If anyone in Providence, RI wants to hang, let me know!

I actually live in Cranston, lol. You like biking? Cryptocurrency? Music production?

Hecks yeah! I bike around East Bay Path, Blackstone River Path, I also love to ride around the Boulevard on the East Side.

What kind of music are you into? I play piano, a buddy of mine is into guitar and Linnstrument. We may be having a board game night tonight actually, been looking forward to it, LMK if you want to stop by.

My friends do more instrumental and hip hop style production. I'll send you a message! I might be busy tonight, but we should keep in touch.

I actually have no clue how to private message people on ycombinator. It seem to be impossible. Send me an email to jason.j.klas@gmail.com

I am biking the MS150 this weekend, so I may be late to reply. Wish me luck! :)

A friend of a friend told me that people, such as diplomat families who have to quickly settle but often relocate, will deliberately but routinely eat at the same restaurant, say, every Thursday evening. After a couple of weeks they'll find staff or other regular diners will engage with them and build relationships.

It's a bit easier as an expat because there are lots of other expats also looking to meet people. Very freshman year of college type vibe in my experience. Your problem becomes less making friends, and instead ensuring you make the right friends. There are a lot of dodgy characters in expat communities.

In some countries, that is a good way to get killed.

Can you expand on this? I'm interpreting this to mean that in some countries opsec dictates that you eat at a different place every night? Why?

Being killed is probably a bit hyperbolic for most countries, but I would imagine it means that keeping such a predictable routine in a country where you are inherently a target (read: white people in many third world countries with high rates of robbery/violence) can make it easy for you to be targeted for robbery. Or, in limited places, terrorist acts. If the dishwasher's cousin is a small time local criminal and mentions the white family arrives and leaves at a super predictable time, his group of friends may get drunk one night and decide it's an easy payday.

I'm a lot like you - work from home, spend most of my time interacting with people through non-physical mediums, get very lonely often.

I've found biking to be an exceptional way to meet new people and break out of the lonliness funk I fell into after moving to a new city where I knew no one. Most shops organize group rides at all skill levels, and most cities have bike groups. It's a wildly social sport, and most rides end at cafes or breweries. It gets me out of the house and there's an instant camaraderie that comes with sweating with a group of people for a couple hours on a long ride.

> but there is no one to share with

The flip side of this is that when you do actively seek out opportunities to share, you can instantly meet a lot of people in one go if you're the one sharing, instead of a spectator.

It does take effort, but opportunities are out there. I went to a "bring your own art" event in SF a couple weeks ago that was a public event on Facebook. I took a photography work I had made. I took a robot I had built to Maker Faire. For tech projects, email event organizers, meetup organizers and ask if you can present at their next event. For art projects consider sharing a unique or interesting story or journey, not just a single piece of art. If you actually do make something cool or you have a good story, you'll be surprised how easy it is to get a few yeses.

When you are the creator/presenter/speaker, you meet people quickly because it's not awkward for others to approach you and ask questions. It's a lot harder to meet people as a mere participant.

Seeking out events you can present or exhibit at is not that easy for everyone. But since you're in Providence, you should be able to find plenty of events an hour away in Boston.

Also, if you have a hard time finding events but you have a critical mass of a few friends in the area, consider hosting an event. It can be as simple as a potluck, which means you basically have to do no work except maybe make 1 dish yourself and clean up afterwards. Let your friends know it's okay to bring +1 or +2. Many times they will. You'll meet a lot of new people that way too.

I'm also single (again), almost 40, do sport twice a week (with people) and usually go outonce a week with somebody. I because I wanna see other people than just the guys on work an friends, I use for example public transportation for going to work.

Makes me wonder - is the abundance of choice that makes us lonely? True, deep relationships take time. Your social circle is larger, but you haven't gotten the chance to develop any deep bond because neither you nor they have enough time for each other - because there's so much else to do.

>Makes me wonder - is the abundance of choice that makes us lonely?

While this would explain loneliness in cities, I doubt it. I believe it's unrealistic expectations from TV, social media, newspapers, both positive and negative, about relationships and people in general. Just like pornographic movies affect one's love life, seeing unrealistic depictions of social life destroy natural curiosity about other people, lead to doubts and suspicions etc. ... The availability of the option to avoid other people does its part.

What you describe sounds more like FOMO. I don't think that's the same. One can be perfectly detached from social media and television and still experience loneliness. It's more a reflection of unmet biological needs. We're physically detached from one another, on the social spectrum.

Human nature is really weird. I can totally relate to everything you've written, and at the same time, I, as a father and husband, would love to experience a week like that really badly every now and then.

It shows that what people think they want is a silly, shifting goalpost and that "happiness" is an untenable, fictional concept the mind uses to distract itself on its meaningless quest to stay alive.

Insofar as it's possible, not taking your feelings or life seriously is the best tactic I've come to use. But I'm relatively young, so I might be wrong.

And it's pretty vacuous: so, what, don't act on chasing happiness? Feel lonely but act like it doesn't matter and do nothing? Try to exist in a psychologically-inert routine until you die? Yes. xDD Or, you know, do small things to improve things, but don't try too hard because it doesn't seem worth it.

(My exception to this would be superego, rather than id, shit like revolutionary action which has the potential to take you and everybody else into new maxima of well-being IN WHICH you otherwise try to exist in psychologically-inert routines until death -- because that's at least more meaningful than neurotically ping-ponging around for personal maxima of well-being. More return on stress investment.)

I don't know that I disagree with everything you've stated, but speaking from experience I do think if you half-ass your attempt at happiness, the grass will definitely be greener on the other side later in life.

Don't make exceptions about the things that make you happy, even if you know the things that make you happy might change down the road.

Thanks for this comment. I had once reached this conclusion (everything is meaningless anyway, stop worrying about being single&lonely), but had forgotten it.

I think its really important to have your own time in a family. I think its a bit weird to go on holiday by yourself but that is maybe the best way. My wife goes home with the children for a while in the Summer and I'm left by myself and its really great - even when you just learn that you miss them.

Strike a deal with your other. We both take solo 1 week trips each year.

Amen. I feel so bad about how much I look forward to the occasional travel I do for work...

I don't know what the music scene is like in your area, but there is a vast plethora of people who want to compose/improvise with others. You can turn your coding/art-fu into a social asset if you see how to use it.

libcinder, openframeworks, pure data, faust, three.js, tone.js, there are a multitude of things regular musicians could use but don't know about.

Also check out processing.org.

Wow, this post made me feel very lonely !

I am in relatively similar situation : I have moved from Europe to SF.

I probably work too much and my main hobbies are movies, video games, books, etc .. all pretty lonely occupations.

Most of the time I don't really mind being alone, not at all, but sometimes it is a painful feeling.

I also have a pretty established routine : -working a lot -working out -watching some movies/playing -sleep

rinse and repeat.

I know I should probably volunteer to some associations doing good.

I do have a girlfriend .. but we are in a long distance relationship, so we can't always be there for each other.

Open to tips in orer to meet new people in San Francisco !

Check out https://www.meetup.com/. There are usually a lot of activities happening there where you can meet new people. I used to go to some photography meetups in south bay and tech meetups too, it was a nice low pressure way to meet new people.

Here's an idea: stay at a hostel. It's the easiest time you'll have making new friends. They won't last long and they will be young and poor but they'll be very friendly almost immediately. It won't give you true fulfilment but it'll make you not feel lonely for a while.

Another idea: be an expat. Move to a foreign country that speaks a different language and take language classes. First, it'll be a big valuable change, and it'll provide plenty of adventure, and expats are quick to make new friends given the shared isolation. I would recommend China or Taiwan.

Roatan, Honduras. With daily cruise ships in port, there's a steady influx of English speakers. Its cheap to live there, too.

Oooooh, thanks for sharing that. I've never heard of Roatan. Heard Honduras is pretty sketchy, but an island like that must be totally different and I'm now adding it on my list of places to visit. It'll help with my travel goals (have to visit another 40 or so countries in 2 years!)

You can go direct via cruise ship out of Houston.

Adopt a dog. Go to the park twice a day. You’ll feel amazing.

I used to live in an area with lots of apartment buildings and had to babysit a friends dog for a couple of weeks. I met a couple of people when I took the dog out at 6:30am because they were doing the same thing. Ran into the same people every day. Plus you always let the dogs visit (sniff each other) so starting a conversation is almost automatic.

Now I have my own dogs. Easy to meet people if you go to obedience, agility, or other dog classes.

With a dog you get all of the above, plus the affection from the dog, plus the additional exercise.

I've had the same experience. There are regulars that I get to talk to most days, and many of them have interesting stories. I'm friends with a retired college professor, lawyer, political activist, journalist, nurse, wedding planner and restaurant manager, fitness instructor. All from hanging out at the same dog park almost every day for a few years now. It only takes 30 minutes a day and makes me feel less lonely.

Dogs are a pain in the ass. They smell bad, and make your home smell bad. They require constant attention. Leaving them at home, locked up, all day long while you're at work working long hours is cruel. Your apartment/condo will require you to pay a big fee to get their poop DNA tested, and when you don't pick up their poop, you'll be slapped with a huge fine. Honestly, it's easier having a child: at least children can go to the bathroom by themselves after a few years, and eventually can feed themselves too.

Dogs don't fit in with every lifestyle.

Not a great idea if you are out at work all day.

Not a great idea to be out at work all day :P

Try yoga at a small studio, communities are often great :>

My anecdote: I went to yoga the same night at the same small studio for years. Mostly the same people showed up every week but I didn't find it to be an atmosphere good for socialization at all. I don't know at what point in a yoga class you'd have time for conversation.

Maybe afterwards when people are gathering up their stuff and heading out. There is always something to talk about, i.e. how you liked the class, was it hard or easy, etc.

This may vary a lot depending on ages, genders and past class experiences. If you're male and the class is largely not, trying to strike up conversations may get you quickly labeled 'creepy pickup artist.'

Some might think that but it doesn't really matter. You can meet tons of people who'll just want to chat and hang out. I do it and I see other males do it.

Exactly! Even before class if there's a reception/waiting room area, as people are less rushed.

I get you, not every studio has that kind of vibe. I go to a few different ones, and I've made tons of friend at one of them, while talking to people at other ones hasn't been as fruitful.

That's not everyone's "fit in" group though.

It's like saying attend local evangelical church. The people you meet will be potential friends for some types of people. For other types, not so much.

Good point. Although maybe a good percentage of people can imagine finding a social group at one or the other, noting that not all churches are evangelical in either theology or culture. Meaningful shared group experiences are important.

Virtually all churches have some sort of theology that they preach, and if you think it's a bunch of BS, it's not going to go well for you there. You can keep your mouth shut about it, but eventually the fact that you're living a lie will get to you.

But yoga is not a religion, although I get your point.

I used the yoga example because people there generally seek self-improvement and cultivate a good vibe, which helps in engaging social interactions

Hey man. I'm in Westerly! Occasionally make it into the city. And I'm very much into cycling. Always down to get beers, ride, check out live music, etc.

I’m in Providence but have no idea how to send a DM on HN; if you can see the email on my profile feel free to send something

HN doesn't have DMs, so no one has an idea how to send them. Thanks for watching out for a fellow user.

You need to put contact information into the 'about' text field of your user account if you want to be contacted, the account email address is hidden.

OK thanks, I added it

Maybe a local book or movie club? I find these are a great way to meet some new people as an adult.

Attend some meetups in your area/start going to the gym regularly if you aren't already, I find the gym is a good way to meet people.

Are they? I usually feel like the last thing I'd ever do at a gym is talk to someone, and someone talking to me would be really surprising...

I find that if I'm going to the gym to work out, I don't much talk to people - when I'm lifting or on the treadmill or whatever, I'm focused on what I'm doing, and everybody else seems to be in the same boat. However, if it's something like a pickup basketball or soccer game, there's always time when you are waiting around between games that there is time for people to interact and chit-chat. Even more so with something like softball, where half the game you have down-time sitting in the dugout waiting to get up to bat.

Pickup Ultimate Frisbee is one of my suggestions, as you're right on about this. There is pickup Ultimate everywhere and people are mellow and friendly. You can use pickupultimate.com to look up local games (it's not complete, but a good start). People will happily teach you how to play -- just stand on the sideline & ask questions. Bring a white shirt and a dark shirt and you're ready to go.

Depends on the gym. If it's just a place where you spend 15 bucks a month and there's a bunch of machines you can use, probably not a meeting place. Would perhaps even be creepy and/or rude to talk to others.

But when you're taking classes with people, or it's a crossfit kinda gym that's totally built around a team concept, great place to meet people.

To me, it seems like gym isn't the place. I've been taking group class for over 4 months. I've not made a single friend in this time. People come on time, do the class, pack up their shit quickly and leave.

It is in bay area, and I go-to my company gym which is fairly busy and big.

I cannot think of anything worse than someone trying to talk to me while I'm at the gym. I'm very regimented, I've got specific exercises (sets and reps) and I'm watching my rest intervals to the second and mentally preparing for the next set. Just thinking about someone interrupting me between sets is giving me anxiety.

I guess it comes down to how you operate at the gym, is it a class, lifting, cardio? For me it would be really frustrating.

Yes and no.

When I worked out at 8 am, there were a lot of retired and semi retired people that LOVED to chat.

When I switched to lunch time, hardly any of that, people were in a rush to get in and out.

At 5:30AM I met a lot of regulars and also meet a lot of my wife's gym friends as she had been going at that time for years. But I couldn't do the 5:30am thing, really messed with my sleep. Too worried about getting to sleep early enough.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a fantastic way to make a ton of friends and feel like you are part of something bigger than yourself. It’s a very “intimate” sport to begin with so forming close relationships is quite natural. The only negative is that serious injuries can and do happen that can take you out of the game for long periods of time (or permanently)

We are the most connected society in the history but still the most depressed and loneliest one. We have lost the significance of physical presence of someone. Over the years we have evolved to live in tribes, that is why depression was quite rare in Joint families.

I had a career change away from tech about two years ago, which happens to be the same time I moved to Providence! If you want to grab a drink sometime in the next couple days and chat about parks and rec, let me know!

Some other things you can do (which worked for me during a time of loneliness) are:

  * be resourceful. For example, reach out to old co-workers or people you enjoyed being with and ask them to lunch or coffee
  * go to coffee shops just to be around people
  * go out to a movie
  * use a dating site or app, if for nothing else but to meet and talk with another person

Replied to a similar sentiment on reddit yesterday. Might be worth a read.


Join something! A band, a chamber group, an orchestra? An artists' collective with shared studio space?

Hey, you got a bunch of great people giving you suggestions for what to do. Just wanted to add - hang in there. I'm sure you'll get to a place in your life where you'll feel more connected with someone/less lonely in general.

Best of luck!

As crazy as this sounds smoking weed can help if you are feeling lonely. It will help you disconnect from outside stimulus but too much and you'll find social interactions not as desirable as they are now.

It also makes you content with boredom. I'm not sure that's a proper solution, as in the long-term breeds a dependency.

I know this is a bit out of the blue; but going to improv classes, and book clubs, were really good ways to get out and meet interesting people. I wish you the best of luck in your socialization endeavors.

Consider adding a /social/ hobby. The ones I've found have very friendly people are improv and jiu jitsu.

Hey, I'm in prov too. I'm pretty busy but hit me up if you're interested in hanging out sometime.

The email field in your profile isn't visible to other HN users, only to the site admins. If you want to be contactable, you'll need to include contact details in the About field.

Hmm you might be readier to start that partner/ family phase than you think ;)

Boston, MA. Send me an email.

Why don't you make an effort to meet new people and expand your social circle?

Whatever it is today, I fear the future will be much worse. The most devastating existential consequences of loneliness can take decades to manifest. You feel a little lonely in your day to day life now, but wake up twenty years from now and realize you're socially isolated with no meaningful relationships or community and it's "too late" to make up the lost time. Most dangerous of all may be that online social networks provide participants with the feeling of deep social and community engagement that turns out to be a surface-level mirage beneath which we were just each staring at ourselves in the mirror the entire time.

Suicide rates have skyrocketed for middle-aged white men in the US. They are now the highest statistic. [0]

It's happening already.

• Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US.

• The age-adjusted suicide rate in 2017 was 14.0 per 100,000 individuals.

• In 2017, men died by suicide 3.54x more often than women.

• White males accounted for 69.67% of suicide deaths in 2017.

[0] https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/

> men died by suicide 3.54x more often than women

That's a very interesting statistic considering women attempt suicide 1.2x more than men.

Men tend to use firearms more often when attempting suicide whereas women tend to use medication more often. The latter is easier to treat and ambulances are better equipped for overdoses than gunshots.

Firearms is one possible explanation. An other is that women get treatment more than men, particularly for depression. Treatment greatly reduce the risk of completed suicide.

There is a large uncomfortable area within suicide data. In a study, about half who attempt suicide said it was a cry for help. While we can't ask those that die, we do have data that say that those people usually have both a history of suicide attempts and a lack of treatment for it. This combination has a gendered aspect.

So it can be firearms, the culture around treatment, both, or other aspects which explains why men die by suicide 3.54x more often than women while at the same time women attempt suicide 1.2x more than men.

I think the best action to reduce suicide is with the medical profession. Treatment of drug and alcohol addiction, depression, and those who have attempted suicide in the past. We can try to reduce the number of firearms and adding barriers on bridges and subway platforms, but I have my doubts that areas which implement such action actually see a reduction in completed suicides. At best it gives the health care system a bit more time to provide treatment.

Another observation made by a few clinical physiologists I watch was that men are more likely to have a higher propensity for violence, so when they attempt suicide they are more effective at it. A man is more likely to take the more violent "way-out" and by extension the more lethal approach (rope, gunshot etc.), as opposed to a woman who takes the perceived less violent approach (overdose, suffocation etc.)

Whether that is the truth, my verdict is still out, but the literature seems to point that way.

A plausible theory but it smells a bit like the idea that women care more about how they will look when they are dead so they apply suicide methods that won't deform their face.

My verdict leans heavily that suicide is always a failure in treating the underlying issue. Depending a bit on who you ask the wast majority of suicides is caused by untreated mental or emotional disorders, most commonly depression. A untreated disease which definition is the inability to feel happy and recover from feeling sad seems quite relevant in the context of suicide, and when we know there is a difference in treatment and see a difference in outcomes then that should be our first stop in our logical conclusions.

But we have data that show how people die and what sex they are, and we see that some methods are mostly preferred by men and some methods are mostly prefered by women.

Threads about suicide on HN are suboptimal because most people don't really know what they're talking about and the CDC data is fucking impossible to use (compared to data from the UK).

DanBC, no one is contesting the data in outcomes. The data show a clear difference in how women and men die from suicide.

What is discussed is the cause for it. The theory smells that men are violent thus they choose violent methods and women are vain and thus choose vain methods. It just conveniently fit our gender stereotypes perfectly which should be a rather big red flag for anyone looking at social science with a critical view.

There are several contending theories. To the degree that suicide attempts are a cry for help the difference in how society react towards men and women likely impacts the method of choice. An other theory is convenience where more women get opioids prescriptions then men, while more men are involved in activities with high gun ownership.

There are more. Gender differences in mental health, differences in alcohol consumption, and difference in social support networks are all additional suspects in explaining why we see a gender difference in outcomes and methods.

One of the data point that looks a bit odd is that even if we account of difference in method, men are about 60% more likely to still die in the attempt. As far as I know this difference is still there for methods like self-poisoning which is the most "preferred" method for women. Unless we want to go into the bucket of stereotypes again and simply state that men are more competent with suicide regardless of method it seems like we should entertain the idea of other causes for gender differences.

Just because stereotypes exist, does not invalidate them. Most exist because of a common perception, correct or not. While I agree they should be challenged, they likewise can reveal things as well.

Is that an unreasonable assertion, when society pressures women much more heavily to place importance in their physical appearance?

It reads like kitchen psychology. "Wants to leave a pretty corpse" also seems like the worst possible motive, among many. Access to firearms would be a far easier explanation. Just with in the "pretty corpse" theme, I would consider "does not want those finding her to be shocked for life" to be far more important than vanity.

Huh. Didn't know that. The firearm thing makes a lot of sense.

I left out the statistic that mentioned in 2017, firearms accounted for 50.57% of all suicide deaths. Didn't want to get misconstrued because I support the 2nd amendment and people like to use this fact as ammunition against it.

But now I would like to see a breakdown of that statistic by gender, to see how many firearm-related suicides were men vs women.

Poland has virtually no guns, yet there is 6.7:1 male to female suicide ratio.

But the same thing applies - in Poland men will be chosing more violent methods (such as hanging) while women will be chosing poisoning.

The 4th is protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. I assume you meant the 2nd.

I'm curious what the breakdown is in Japan where suicide rate is high but firearms virtually non-existant. However, I understand suicide statistics from there may be unreliable.

Government stats for Japan are here[1]. While there is a stigma around suicide here (particularly families wanting a death to be 'accidental'), I don't think it's common enough to really affect the statistics.

To quote the source: "For men, the most common method is hanging (首つり, 69.3%), followed by jumping (飛降り, 8.8%), and suffocation by burning charcoal or a similar substance (練炭等, 7.3%), and for women the most common method is hanging (59.8%), followed by jumping (14.2%) and drowning (入水, 6.3%)."

For both sexes, jumping appears to be significantly more common for children under 19 than other groups. Train jumping (飛込み) is much less common than you might think, but is common for the "age undermined" (不詳) group (men 14.3%, women 42.9%), presumably because the remains are hard to identify.

[1] https://www.mhlw.go.jp/wp/hakusyo/jisatsu/18/dl/1-6.pdf (page 30)

Thanks for providing this. It's the sort of info that's virtually impossible to find as someone who doesn't speak Japanese. (I tried and only found sources that weren't official or were overly general like WHO stats.)

These all seem like pretty awful ways to die. I don't even know how you go about drowning yourself. I'm surprised medication isn't more common.

do you happen to know how the gender gap works in Japan?

is it still the case that women try more and men die more? By what ratios?

Wow that's an embarrassing typo. Thanks for catching that.

> I understand suicide statistics from there may be unreliable.

Why is that? I know suicide rates are high there, but isn't there information to glean from it?

My guess would be social stigma.

Well there are two possible conclusions from this:

1- Women can't figure out how to effectively commit suicide and fail at the attempt at a rate that is 400% greater than men because they aren't capable - I don't believe this for a minute.


2- Women engage more in the cry for help attempt, while men go through with it all the way more often.

Personally I'd go with 2, but I'd be open to hearing any other alternative explanations.

The 'women do it wrong because they want to look pretty when dead' or 'women can't figure out violence' (a version of #1) seem like condescending conclusions drawn to avoid having to deal with the probability of #2, which sounds simpler.

Some people 'attempt' suicide to attract attention, compassion, whatever. Obviously, dying is not in their plans.

I read once that women tend to do it for attention; like a cry for help in ways likely to fail such as pills, wrist cuts etc.

Men to do it to end their own existence and choose things like hanging, gunshot, jumping off a bridge etc.

Are you assuming that all those suicides are linked to loneliness? What about people with money issues, incurable diseases, mental conditions, etc?

Why would I assume that 100% of suicides are linked to loneliness?

What bearing does that have on whether or not loneliness is a contributing factor to overall depression in the US?

Often life issues are linked to depression so I'd argue yes indeed.

> Whatever it is today, I fear the future will be much worse.

People sleeping in their car at the airport to make their current gig(s) possible in the gig economy are already living in the future. Especially now that Uber has a STFU option. And not all gigs involve face to face clients.

Have you heard about transgenerational stress inheritance?


We are also still learning about the gut-brain axis. The human microbiome is inheritable, and many modern practices (infant formula, C-sections, antibiotics, processed foods) having detrimental effects.

What's worse is humans seem to have an instinctive trend of self-isolation in the face of psychological distress, which worsens the condition.

Add the inevitable downstream effects of climate change (economic uncertainty if not another world war)... and, yeah, it's bleak.

I agree with your first point — like other structural problems, loneliness adds up over time.

But on the second point, I'm really not sure that online social networks are just a "surface-level mirage." I met my spouse online, and many of my closest friendships have developed online, by instant message, etc. I don't think the alternative to "online communication" is necessarily that we will all socialize in person. If we got rid of the internet and instead (just for a random example) we were all alone in our houses reading books by ourselves, I think that would be a step back.

Yes on the second point, I think there's likely a distribution - perhaps 20% of participants use it as a helpful tool and 80% use it as a harmful crutch. I don't know what the actual ratio would be, but anecdotally I know quite a few young people in the latter group for whom many casual relationships seem to have replaced fewer serious ones.

I think the key is how social networks are used. You notably met your spouse online, which means at some point things presumably transitioned to an offline relationship which can't be terminated just by hitting a block button. Online networks can be great ways to meet new people, but there's ample evidence which suggests that having a purely digital social life is bad for mental health.

If we look at Tinder, there was a study of millennial users a while back which found that about 70% of them had never met anyone through it and didn't intend to. Moreover Tinder has economic incentives to keep you on their platform, swiping, texting, paying subscription fees, and viewing ads, all things you stop doing when you meet people and enter into a committed relationship.

Most social networks unfortunately follow this model; they have monetary incentives to keep you as engaged as possible in their all digital, all the time lifestyle, rather than unplugging and physically sharing space with other humans.

Healthier business models can certainly be imagined and maybe they'll even be implemented someday, but they aren't prevalent right now.

The opposite over here. Met less than a dozen at most of people exclusively through various online interactions. Use various online media and platforms only to sustain existing relationships and even this not always works. Dating and social networking applications from the FB platform are so full of attention absorbing people, inflencers, and similar that I have quit these long time ago.

Can't agree more with this. Social media apps kind of force people to post(show off) about their lives constantly; with people feeling the need to broadcast even trivial things in their life like a morning coffee. Things like stories makes it even worse as people viewing/commenting on stories gives you that dopamine fix throughout the day and you crave for more of the same by constantly posting.

I like the idea of these platforms for content creators like photographers, athletes etc. but overall I see a lot more negative than positive for common users.

Online dating apps are the worst and I even found myself getting sucked into the whole attention thing. I quit it when I realized a lot of women I was talking to/went on dates, was just to get the ego boost. It was very unhealthy for me and definitely not fair for the other person.

> Whatever it is today, I fear the future will be much worse.

This is an easy trap for humans to fall into. "The sky is falling" type stuff.

Humans have faced lots of problems over the millenia, but the reality is that our lives continue to improve as a whole..not get worse.

On the other hand, we're now facing situations that we've never faced before, both as a species and as individuals. Increasingly, we're moving towards a future where you will never need to leave your home or interact with anyone. Netflix, and Amazon deliveries. Self-driving cars. Kids will eventually get their education online. Virtual reality is under active development.

Then there's AI, and sex robots. Why bother with a real boyfriend/girlfriend when you can talk to your phone and have an artificial companion? Real humans have their own wants and needs and may not do what you want. Worse, they might leave you. Your robot girlfriend on the other hand, you could have endless conversations with her in which she tells you exactly what you want to hear and never challenges you.

That's far-fetched, you say. In the near term, I tried Tinder and it's pretty addictive. An endless stream of new people I can meet. Most of them want nothing serious though. They don't even want to sleep with you more than once or twice for the most part. It's all about novelty-seeking. It seems to me like increasingly few people want a sustained relationship. Breakups hurt, so let's never risk having one, a constant stream of lovers is emotionally safer in a way, I suppose, but I can tell you it definitely leaves me feeling lonely.

> Humans have faced lots of problems over the millenia, but the reality is that our lives continue to improve as a whole

That's untrue. Human civilizations tend to go through cycles. They rise, eventually stagnate, and then decline over the span of hundreds of years. The Akkadians, the Mycenaeans, the Romans, and the Maya all collapsed and the lives of people living in those empires got worse, often for a very long time.

It's reasonable to think that a similar type of decline is happening in the west today.

I think comparing modern day civilization to the rise and fall of the Roman empire is a mistake, particularly European civilization. We learned our lesson. We’re not building empires, not waging expensive wars, not succumbing to armed revolution. People are for the time being mostly happy and prosperous.

That isn’t to say we don’t face challenges, but they’re fundamentally different from those of the empires of old. Something changed with true global markets, and mutually assured destruction.

I'm using ancient empires as an example because pretty much everyone agrees on what happened in ancient history. It's not a controversial / political issue to talk about Rome falling because nobody who was involved in those empires is alive today.

> We learned our lesson. We’re not building empires, not waging expensive wars

I don't know where you live, but here in America we've been at war with various Middle-Eastern nations for the last 2 decades. About 90% of the history of our nation has been spent involved in some kind of a war. Those are expensive wars too. We've spent trillions on Afghanistan alone. We have around 800 formal military bases in 80 foreign countries.

I think that we are far more imperialistic than the Romans, even though our culture doesn't acknowledge it.

> global markets, and mutually assured destruction

Yeah, we have better technology too and a very different financial system. However, this hasn't saved us from expressing many of the same symptoms that ancient collapsing empires had... Especially the social issues that this article talks about.

> Humans have faced lots of problems over the millenia, but the reality is that our lives continue to improve as a whole..not get worse.

I think this is no longer true. Life expectancy is actually on the decline in developed countries, driven by (among other factors) the loneliness epidemic described in this article.

You can argue over 5,000 years or something things have improved, sure, but in the present day there's a strong argument that quality of life is getting worse.

Wouldn't it be ironic if the reason they continue to improve, is because of our fear that it won't?

A little fear, and skepticism of the future, is a good thing.

> but the reality is that our lives continue to improve as a whole..not get worse.

This is true for some, not others.

"as a whole"

Lookup steven pinker. The short of it is even if there are certain things that seem like a big problem, overall right now is the greatest time to be alive in human history, and in 10 years, or 20 years, or 30 years the same is likely to be true.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact