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How to Make Billions of Dollars Reducing Loneliness (lesswrong.com)
212 points by astrofinch on Aug 31, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 114 comments

Something that goes unquestioned in this article is that you want to live with people who are like you down to the same taste in video games. I find this not to be true for me, and that I find it easiest to live with people that are different enough that you end up needing to use kindness to relate to each other.

After having felt isolated in my previous living situations, I'm now in a complex where we all hang out in the parking lot most afternoons. I'm a software engineer, my neighbors include bus drivers, clerks, landscapers, those who have no visible means of support, etc. It's a nice relaxed environment, which I don't experience when people who are too similar are around.

This is a problem with a lot of matching systems, sometimes similarity isn't desirable.

Sometimes? How about almost always!

The whole "loneliness epidemic" is a result of people stuck in bubbles with other people like them.

Being compatible and being alike are not synonymous. What people will admit they like and what they truly like are not always the same thing either.

Think about it,why would someone like your own self make for good companionship? You already have your lonely self,why would more of what is like you be less lonely?

I have a very strong opinion on this matter: Symmetrically different people make for a compatible companion. As in the old "opposites attract",but with a requirent that the opposite attributes are symmetic which means they complement and complete the other.

Can you think of a significant stretch of time, before the advent of the loneliness epidemic, when people were any less stuck in their bubbles? Unless we've only just discovered loneliness, there can't be much of a correlation between loneliness and bubbliness.

I think your argument about symmetrically different people being compatible is probably accurate, but this points to happiness in the bubble. A bubble is really a collection of people who perceive the world with the same basis, more so than share all the same opinions. Since the bubble shares a basis, there is more likely to be people in that bubble that are truly symmetric to you on the substituent axes of the bubble's basis, than say a person in any other bubble.

There is an underlying assumption to my argument, that opinions within the bubble are somewhat uniformly distributed along each axis, but this has been the majority case in any bubble I've been in.

I mean certainly a bubble in some form is always present and it always causes societal issues. It just happens to be more precise and effective at isolating you thanks to modern tech.

Before the internet, you exhaust the pool of available people pretty fast due to difficilty of communication. If you want to talk to someone you had to know their phone numbet and you may not know much about them outside of hear-say. Your bubble maybe the area you live in and the activities you enage in but discovering new people meant having to spend a significant amount of time in person interacting with someone. You may know they live somewhat within your bubble you don't get to message them for a while and checkout their various social media profiles.

I think of "Sienfeld",even thou they exaggerate a bit on that show,all the people they meet,date,work with are all within the same social bubble. But they still had to go on dates or interact with people in person before getting to write them off. If that was today, George Costanza would hardly get a tinder match and even then he'd write off those women after a message or two. Or he may use a more bubbled app.

I am just saying communication has gotten a lot easier which allowed us to build better bubbles. Loneliness isn't new but the effectiveness of our bubbles are much better than in the past.

I don't think the article is saying that everyone must match to that level of specifiety, or that your preferences must match your own characteristics. I'm sure some people would try to find people just like them, but you could just list your "must haves", or even exclude people like you.

A good example is OKC (the dating site), which asks you a bunch of questions, and then lets you choose one or more "acceptable" answers, and how strongly you feel about that. You can choose to accept all answers for most questions, or to say the other person must answer exactly one way, it's up to the user.

You don't know what you don't know. Those questions merely isolate you in a bubble. They prevent you from discovering the uncomfortable different which might actually be exactly what you need.

It cuts both ways though. You only have so much time you’ll spend socializing. In a lifetime you’ll meet maybe 0.001% of the people you possibly could have. If you aren’t discerning with who you give your time to, you’ll miss out on more and more of what could have been better relationships.

It’s easiest demonstrated at large events or parties: there might be 200 people you could meet, and you have 3 hours there. If you weren’t discerning, you’ll spend 80% of your time just with whoever happened to be loudest and you’ll not meet lots of the more compatible people there. In reality, you can make snap decisions about whether a relationship is worth pursuing with > 50% chance. “This person is whining about how awful their spouse is”: probably not someone you’ll be able to mutually respect. “This person refuses to make eye contact with me”: probably not someone you’ll have any real intimacy with. And so on. These might be wrong 20% of the time you apply them, but even so you’ve boosted your chance of meeting someone compatible at this 3 hour party. These aren’t questions like “I like to play Super Mario Bros”, these are trying to gauge real deep-seated, fundamental personality traits like “I’m driven by a curiosity of the world around me”, or “I tend to the people in my life”. These are things that really do matter in relationships. I know I want my friends or spouse to tend to the people in their life. I know that without curious people around me I lose my motivation. Take that 0.001% of the world you’ll ever meet and be more discerning about which 0.001% that is. There’s nothing wrong with being selective about who you let into your life.

To explore any vast search space, you have to apply some randomness though.

Precisely because you can never explore more than a tiny bit, you can't know your snap judgements are not systematically blinding you to important stuff without just trying things at random sometimes.

Optimization problems are for robots, not human beings.

Be a good human. And you will attract good humans.

>I'm now in a complex where we all hang out in the parking lot most afternoons.

Sounds like you have something rare and valuable.

Anyway, you make good points. From the point of view of society's health, it's good to create connections between people of different points of view, and this project could end up being harmful if it cloisters likeminded folks together. I would guess that many of the properties listed (such as being a musician or enjoying hiking) cut across fairly wide swaths of society, however.

i want to live in such a complex too.

I live in a mexican neighborhood and I see them talking to each other on the street but my spanish is bad to follow the conversation at their speed.

Just keep at it! When I first moved to Japan, I couldn't have a good conversation with anyone. I eventually met a young woman with Downes syndrome and she kindly chatted with me every time she met me. It was such a huge help! There was an older woman who would see me gardening in containers and come over to give me advice. I couldn't follow what she was saying at all, but she kept coming over and chatting anyway. I kept going in to corner stores and chatting with the staff -- nothing too long. Just a few sentences each time. I went every single day (even now, I know all the staff of every convenience store in town!) Eventually your language gets better and better and better. There is always someone who is lonely, or kind who you can chat to :-) Just keep smiling. Keep making contact. Say hello to everyone you meet. Every day try to have a short conversation with someone. You'll eventually find people who will be happy to chat with you in Spanish.

Personality, while much harder to measure than interests, is a much better way to determine if people can be friends. And “interests”, unless you take them very seriously like being an amateur golfer or musician or something, are quite ephemeral; I tend to share interests with friends because we became friends first and then both got into new hobbies together, not vice versa.

Most people choose friends who are similar to themselves, even at a genetic level: https://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/pressrelease/friends_are_the_famil.... Social homophily is well-studied and I would assume that you are an outlier.

> people that are different enough that you end up needing to use kindness to relate to each other

I've never heard it put quite this way before, and it's so true. Thanks for this.

This is a crucial point,

Indeed, the situation you describe illustrates a lot of things this post misses. That friends and acquaintances are the cure for loneliness, not roommates (back in the forgotten days when people had friends and could easily rent apartments, "never choose friends for roommates" was a common saying - you spend too much time around roommates and have too many petty disagreements with them). That extra time and seemingly random spaces are best places to "hang out", meet people, and enjoy their presence. That different and contrasting interests can sometimes bring people together.

The problem is that the rich complex of relationships involved in friendship tempts the entrepreneurial minded to exploit that richness and destroy those relationships through monetization. And indeed, the last fifty or hundred and fifty years of history is that. So there's really nothing left (at least for the monetizers) and the opportunities for roommate monetization are absurd fantasies of trying to light ashes on fire again ... and so-forth.

>"never choose friends for roommates" was a common saying - you spend too much time around roommates and have too many petty disagreements with them

In my experience, great conversations more than make up for petty disagreements. In any case, if you move into a house with people you aren't currently friends with, you aren't increasing your risk of losing any of your current friends. And if you make friends with your new roommates, that will help you navigate petty disagreements more easily. (Also, roommate matching software could try to identify and prevent the most common causes of petty disagreements.)

>The problem is that the rich complex of relationships involved in friendship tempts the entrepreneurial minded to exploit that richness and destroy those relationships through monetization. And indeed, the last fifty or hundred and fifty years of history is that. So there's really nothing left (at least for the monetizers) and the opportunities for roommate monetization are absurd fantasies of trying to light ashes on fire again ... and so-forth.

I think the interaction between business and friendship is much too complex and heterogenous to be easily summarized as "businesses hurt friendship" or "businesses help friendship". Some businesses harm friendship (multi-level marketing schemes). Others build friendship (bars, sports leagues, adventure travel). You have to look at a particular business to determine whether it hurts or helps. You're making a very strong generalization without any supporting evidence.

Agreed, 100%. People close to you are usually your opposites.

It feels like you are making sweeping generalizations. “Software engineer” applies to a massive variety of people, all across gender & sexual identity spectrums, socioeconomic backgrounds, races, ancestries, religious beliefs, favorite sports teams, food preferences, political opinions, etc.

What you’ve written up sounds like a sanctimonious appeal to make yourself sound more “blue collar” especially by choosing to describe diversity in your apartment building based essentially solely on occupation status and implicitly contrasting engineers with “needing to use kindness to relate to each other” (something all my engineer coworkers seem to be exceptionally good at, for instance).

I’d be willing to wager highly that if you are having trouble socializing with engineering peers, you are probably the reason for the trouble. If you can’t find exceptionally wide diversity in a very generic field like software engineering, it suggests you’re not trying very hard.

"...especially in the Bay Area. ... But there's a palpable lack of social fabric. I worry that this atomization is becoming a world-wide phenomenon – that we might be some of the first generations without the sort of community that it's in human nature to rely on."

Are we talking about a general problem, or about a group of 20-somethings who grew up with families, went to college where they had a lot of free time with a bunch of others in the same situation, and then moved hundreds or thousands of miles to a place that puts emphasis on lack of ties, short terms, mobility, and long work hours?

'Cause I can assure you that most of the lonely people in the world can't afford $100 per month for a friend network.

The most lonely are old people I think.. but the ones that live in senior housing tend to do a lot better. Kids in college also do well since they are among their peers.. One idea to push this forward is mixed use housing. Parents want to find other parents so their kids can play. Teenagers likewise. So you need all ages in your little "village".

Kids in college are also lonely; I go to a school with a relatively large undergraduate populations. The result is that many people have trouble finding friends given that interactions are less frequent. Dorms and free time do help, but in the first week there were a lot of posts asking others on how they made their friends.

This was downvoted a lot, but I think there is something on it. The same value system that makes you see life outside of work as being lazy, prefers short term relationships and generally praise following own interests has higher chance of leaving you without close friends and community in the long term.

and it is also true that lonely poor or sick people or those caring about such relatives can be extremely lonely and isolated too, but with harder or non existent solutions.

Adult fraternities. More commonly known as secret societies or just clubs. Theres already a few of them, but I believe it's pretty uncommon to be in one. Make em so they can choose who to accept as well, something at least slightly exclusive is better for everyone in the end. It can really take any form, a clubhouse, house where some people live and others just come to hang out, etc. But what's really important is a space that a smaller group of people feel comfortable in, responsible for, and feel a strong connection to the other people in the group.

On an anecdotal note I joined my local Freemasonry lodge a year ago and while it’s definitely not universally inclusive I definitely find extreme value in the connections I’m forming.

Freemasonry in general is dying - it had a large spike in membership after WWII and Vietnam as soldiers found connections and brotherly love abroad (in the lodges all enlisted men were equals regardless of ranking) but in the decades since, convincing young men to join the brotherhood is difficult. I’m in my mid 20s and I’m the youngest member by 20 years

Edit: I should clarify that FM isn’t as secret-society as the media makes it out to be. It’s a great social club to meet a wide variety of other people over dinners and outings with a strict ban on all talk of politics or religion (an extremely welcome escape in today’s climate)

My understanding is that the high point of social club membership was in the late 1800s through WW2. Before 1840, urban population was under 20%, and people couldn't get to the cities. Until 1950, under 10% of homes had Television. In that period, between 1840 and 1950, people were close enough together and transportation was available, but entertainment options in the home were more limited (radio was available, but not until the late 1920s). As such, men (and it was largely men), wanted things to do in the evenings and after work, and social clubs were where a lot of that happened.

Freemasons sounds cool, but it's image is an issue, especially for younger people. I kind of see it as a society with much older members, and there really isn't much incentive to join one tbh. Especially since I don't really know what their mission or purpose really is.

Universal inclusion has risen to the level of religion. You can't join such a club because if your membership is discovered, your employer will be pressured to fire you regardless of how mundane the club.

I don't think this is true. The sibling comment is about Freemasons, but you can join Toastmasters, the Rotary Club, and any number of other social & community groups with no negative consequences (and even positive ones!).

What are you thinking about when you make this statement?

For remote workers in the Bay Area that deal with the added loneliness of working from home, Out Of Office[0] hosts weekly popup coworking sessions at different locations around San Francisco. It's a great way to get out of the house and meet other people while getting your work done.

[0] https://outofoffice.app/workclub

A good roommate situation can be fine, but a bad one can be terrible. We've got to have other options.

Current internet connection tools encourage you to stay on your screen. You could easily design a system that nudges folks to actually get together in real time. Let's say you've been chatting via messenger for 10 minutes. Then you get a popup that says, "{name} is actually only x blocks away -- why don't you continue this over coffee?"

Meanwhile, a real-time idea could be apartments or houses with shared common areas. I miss the common rooms of college where you just happen to run into people. We could do that again as adults without the 9-act dramatic operas that happen when you share too much living space with folks. There's such thing as a happy medium.

Yeah. Developers are motivated to maximize number of properly-priced units in a building. Common spaces are usually not the highlight. Maybe if there were lounges on every floor (just like in dorms), and a bigger common space on the top floor that encourages coffee-shop ambiance but with more opportunities to spontaneously interact, that could be pretty neat.

This way, every unit is still self-contained and you can stay isolated if you want, but you can just as easily go read in the lounge.

Why not have the common space on the bottom floor and make it an actual coffee shop? Then you're no longer working against developer incentives. I guess it would need to be mixed-use zoning.

Living in Japan where mixed-use zoning is the norm, there is often a small local bar within walking distance from where you live that can fulfill this role. This has been one of the best parts of living here for me, I can’t imagine going back to the western world where zoning and local government often makes local meeting places effectively illegal.

Something makes me wonder if this is part of the reason Japan is so safe, as well. If you’re first choice for drinking is a place where everyone knows you and lives nearby, you’ve got a much greater incentive to behave than if you need to drive to the other side of the city. Not to mention that it reduces drink driving, and combined with public transport, makes it possible to have a zero tolerance on drink driving policy.

A simple solution would seem to be an OKCupid clone that is strictly for friends and perhaps another for roommates. It is very good at aligning mutual interests and proximity and giving a sense of personalities. I see a large untapped market for older people as well. Unlike RL, you know going in that anyone on there is looking for companionship, which considerably reduces awkwardness.

If it's a simple solution, why hasn't someone built it?

I suspect that any such product that starts to get a significant user base is quickly overrun by people looking for cheap hookups, on the one hand, or "sugar" relationships (at best) on the other.

Oh, and bots aiming to take advantage of the above-mentioned people.

Roomi is a business centered around connecting roommates


One could discourage cheap hookups by steering online interaction. Eg by not allowing any picture uploads, and having very detailed questionnaires.

It's impossible to successfully steer that (to stop most of that activity). Forgo a native image service on Reddit and you get Imgur. Don't allow picture uploads on the platonic service and people will take care of the problem, they will route around it trivially. You will quickly be right back to people trying to turn it into a dating service. It's too easy to go around.

The best you can probably hope for is to swim with the current. Otherwise it will drown you. Set up a section just for dating to better contain the inevitable pressure in the system.

Acsii art?

The age old tale goes that FriendFinder was intended to be such a website, before gaining the prefix.

Bumble has a BFF feature.

OKC itself lets you say you're only looking for friends. Whether that discourages creeps is anyone's guess.

I've tried that. Turned out that most people took it as code for "friends with benefits" with heavy emphasis on the benefits and very little on the friends part. Which is ok for those who have that as their goal but a bit confusing for those who haven't figured out the code yet.

Yeah, I think the problem is that it’s clearly not the real purpose of the app. Even users seeking friends are sometimes seeking people who they may eventually date once they recover from a breakup.

This is a hard sell when the site is called OkCupid.

I'm only slightly facetious here, but Twitch and the video gaming industry are already making billions reducing loneliness.. :-)

I'd like to suggest that they are making it worse. We used to play games together on the couch, but now we can be alone in our houses watching strangers instead. Social media in general is making us all more lonely while tricking us into thinking we are interacting with others.

what's the last non-fighting game that even had couch co op?

>Social media in general is making us all more lonely while tricking us into thinking we are interacting with others.

it really feels like maybe we were too successful in solving boredom. why would anyone strike up a conversation at the bus stop anymore when they have instant access to their ingroup and their preferred dopamine drip? the age old wisdom of 'just go ahead, you're not bothering them' is essentially meaningless now. i have apps for networking and finding clients, i have apps for hookups and maybe even relationships, but where do i go just to make a friend who doesn't want sex or business?

Apps want to do too much. Maybe we need apps that let us do our part as human. I don't want to have every match possible presented to me but I'd love to have a notification saying "5 friends down your street are actually going out and are okay to include some new people. One of them loves 80's synth music just like you". After that you decide but you'll have the opportunity to get true IRL interactions...

I think Twitch would occupy the same category of "band-aid" services described in the article. It's a commercial simulation of hanging out with friends but scaled up so one person can provide the experience of a friend for a few hundred or thousands and the price scaled down to match ($0 for most participants, with some people paying for emojis or whatever it is spending money on Twitch gets you).

Start dancing. I started swing and jazz dancing a couple of years ago. The community is awesome, and you get to meet loads of people. There are regular events all over the world.

I just can't go back to a roomie situation due to having a cat (most of those places forbid pets) and wanting to bring girls over without asking for permission and having awkward introductions. The freedom of my own pad is worth the occasional isolation pangs.

I have room mates (by choice) and one of my room mates has two cats and brings a person or two over every other night. He's super extroverted. I'm pretty introverted so I like my privacy. Not once has this extroverted room mate bothered me by bringing one or two people over, though I do have a cat allergy, so I've had to learn to hiss just the right way to speak cat enough to let them know not to walk into my room.

That's true, you can have very tolerable roommates. Then again, to women there's definitely an added appeal to a guy who has his own place, especially when you're over 30.

It depends on the culture. I'm female and I don't care, but then again I have room mates so I might be biased.

That's why you need better roommate matching: to find roommates who are cool with a cat + overnight guests.

My understanding is that our body systems have feedback mechanisms. But the system is complex. One system is this loneliness mechanism that values long term attachments and repeated communal interaction, and makes us feel lonely if we don't get them. But the other system is more immediate -- validation and entertainment trigger dopamine releases for a small happiness boost on the spot, i.e. with social media. And like a Goodhart's Law sort of scenario (i.e. metrics eventually get optimized for and cease to be meaningful) we've gotten really good at optimizing for that dopamine hit without all the other variables that would typically be associated with that validation. For example, perhaps when these feedback mechanisms were developed, you'd typically be physically in person, interacting with and being validated by a community, and hence the anti-loneliness system would've worked in tandem with the dopamine system. So we've actually actively gamed our bodies' systems for the cheap feel-good, and now we pay the price of long term loneliness.

imho loneliness is a systemic problem caused by a lack of understanding of what a friend really is. To demonstrate this, if you walked around and asked random people, or people you know, what a friend is, what is the odds they will answer correctly?

An acquaintance is someone you see in passing and have had a few conversations with. You know a bit about them, and hopefully enjoy their presence. Facebook, as far as I can tell, encourages building networks of acquaintances.

A friend, on the other hand, is an acquaintance you've gotten to know, but it turns out both of you want to one-on-one spend some time together. Catching up from time to time, or just hanging out. Whatever it is, both enjoy each other's presence enough to hang out outside of parties or meetups or whatever it may be. This usually comes from finding common hobbies but can be found through other methods. Sometimes I just like hanging out and watching a movie with people. Everyone has their preferences.

imho this is where American (and possibly Western) culture is failing atm. Many people like the acquaintances they know, but are unaware they can ask to hang out and spend more time together. It doesn't come up as a valid option for many people.

From there, there is degrees of friendship. Is it once or twice a year catching up, or is it someone you want to hang out with once or twice a month? This is often how circles of friends are created. When someone knows multiple people they want to hang out with once a month or less, it becomes easier to create group get togethers. I host movie nights, but go to gaming nights with people. It turns into that sort of thing.

At the end of the day, to have friends, you have to be a friend; you have to take that step of asking people to hang out or catch up. You have to be proactive. Otherwise, how will they know you like their presence? In a world full of people who do not know they can pull people into their social world, the few who do have an easy time choosing their friends and setting up their friend networks.

Not being lonely is important. Loneliness is the single largest precursor to depression. For many knowing how to gain friends is enough to curb or even remove their depression. For others there are other causes, which is why depression is such a complex subject.

Now you know what it is and how to do it. Now you have no excuse. Go make some friends! ^_^

It's not about roommates alone. Many people like myself don't want to share space but enjoy going to a local coworking and having a community there with people who do stuff also outside work. I've found some real friends there.

There's also the notion of getting married and raising a family. When you have children, you almost automatically become part of a new social network that you may never have even been aware of before: parents. You suddenly have a lot in common with other parents and it's not unlike being part of a special club. And of course it's the most fascinating hobby there is.

It's somewhat ironic that not so long ago, we were pretty much all married and making babies by age 20, and now we tend to stay single through our 20s while strategizing ways to avoid becoming lonely.

In my twenties I tried (a couple of times but not really tried) to live in communes / large houses of more than 12 people

It worked ok ish most of the time but I honestly think it is a significant part of the answer - as cities become more crowded just chucking people together to work it out has many positive benefits - child care sharing is easier at some life stages, meeting others, community activism and so on all seemed to flow naturally.

Along with Barcelona style super-blocks I would recommend communes / high density households as a good option

Out of curiosity what made it ok-ish? What were the biggest pain points? I've been tempted to try it myself.

Housing costs - it's expensive finding that big a location and weirdly there is a sort of flip point (in London) where more people stopped reducing the delta cost per person if that makes sense

moving from "just house mates" to "we need some rules as a community" starts all sorts of "oh I don't know if I really want to think of it this way" - and the sort of people who really want to be in a commune with rules turn out to be the sort of people you would not want to have ... earnest and unemployed (see housing cost)

I think "house mates" is a good level to live at - probably for most life stages to be honest.

And we could easily redefine a village (cluster of cave dwellings / Skara Brae / babylonian houses) to be the same house - it was for many ages for many parts of the world one thing we could call a structure

Makes sense, thanks for elaborating. Agreed on the housemates level- living with roommates I am also good friends with seems to have been my best living arrangement so far.

Roam.co is essentially out of business, but having spent several weeks in their Tokyo property it was a great experience. Always someone around to chat or eat with.

Tokyo has a large number of Sharehouses built and managed by the full stack businesses the author mentions (along with smaller co-op styles). Roam Tokyo rented a floor of a sharehouse building which had regular tenants, coworking space, conference rooms, and a large commercial style kitchen.

The model definitely works well enough in Japan, including many with a mix of natives and expats.

Hey, Roam founder here - we’re actually just switching our business model from fake tech company to a more equitable real-estate approach and thus phasing out unsustainable leases. More on that more publicly in about 1-2 months. Thanks for living with us in Tokyo and the kind words tough!

Hi Bruno, I wish you the best. I’m going back to Japan for a couple months this winter and going to miss the Roam experience so much. Most sharehouses don’t do 2-3 months.

Both the community managers were fantastic. Looking forward to see your new business model!

Thank you, truly appreciated. Both Marika, and I assume Krystal, are incredible humans.

The WhatsApp group is still going strong, so at least there’s an informal Roam for the time being - Marika is working on a coworking space at the moment, so there should be a home no matter where you end up this winter.

And yes, looking forward as well, thanks again!

What issues did Roam.co run into?

Mostly supply side, with leases in major cities (hi WeWork!) already inflated because of organic distortions well described in https://medium.com/@sbuss/software-was-eating-the-world-now-... - on top of that just even more excess money in the system propping up too many companies looking for similar buildings and a lot of pressure to buy revenue.

The offering itself, the experience the team provided and the way the spaces where designed, not only aesthetically but also functionally, definitely works. Especially in addressing the issues in the original post.

The way forward for us is developing and owning our own locations together with customers, neighbors, service providers etc, and that in unusual but really interesting locations (think Kigali, Bethlehem, Kathmandu), with a foundation on top developing a common infrastructure for procurement, payments, customer service etc.

>The way forward for us is developing and owning our own locations together with customers, neighbors, service providers etc, and that in unusual but really interesting locations (think Kigali, Bethlehem, Kathmandu), with a foundation on top developing a common infrastructure for procurement, payments, customer service etc.

Nice. I like the idea of cohousing in undiscovered interesting places.

Adult sport leagues. These are very common in Europe, but are fairly rare in the US.

John Vervaeke - Awakening from the Meaning Crisis https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLND1JCRq8Vuh3f0P5qjrS...

It would be helpful to actually give a short explanation of what you are linking to, rather than a bare link with the title.

The Meaning Crisis is John Vervaeke’s term for the Western breakdown in religion, community, family, and ultimately a “meaningful life”, which he traces back to various uniquely Western historical factors. It’s not just an analysis, however, as he makes a heroic attempt to reassemble what was lost with religion, without religion.

Really profound lecture series. Opens your eyes to what we’ve actually lost in the modern world.

Are you saying he presents a new theory somewhere around item 27 or 28 in the playlist? Because prior to that it looks like a survey of Western philosophy, just judging by the titles of the videos.

People don't sing together as much as we used to.

Folk song societies are great. Someone else mentioned ballroom dancing. Wonderful activities that take us out of our technology mindset and engage different parts of the brain.

Print version, if you're into that sorta thing: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/a89qnbm9tsr0hf6/AAC-VxKRjH76D_K94...

In a city like NYC, the only people you really see regularly are the people you live with, the people you work with, and the people you sleep with.

Finding good roommates is definitely one way to solve the problem, but if you’re not knee deep in a community with a strong sense of values and culture (like EA), finding matches can be challenging.

Also, as someone who has been in and around this space, several of the coliving companies you mentioned are not doing well financially.

Especially in NYC, all of the coliving spots (some of which have raised significant capital) have almost all their inventory in deep Brooklyn or Queens. It’s nearly impossible to find a good share in the city unless you stumble into it or create it with friends, which depends on having a wide network of people who have leases ending around the same time (or who are willing to break leases). Also, much of the good housing inventory is either taken or overpriced, so part of this also depends on either having wealthy friends or finding a way to finagle a deal on a place before it hits the market.

Last thing I’ll say is that one of the reasons why people only see roommates, coworkers, and partners regularly is because of lack of religious / school affiliation. It’s hard to get people to commit to something weekly, but if you can do it, it’s way easier to spin up than coordinating a group house.

The past few months I’ve been doing a weekly Monday breakfast with 2 friends —- it’s quickly become the highlight of all of our weeks.

Other than, I think the best choice is to find (or create) something that you’re willing to commit to at least 1x per week. Finding a spiritual institution (even an agnostic friendly one like humanist society or Unitarian church), picking up a martial art, or auditing a course at a local grad school (this is my recent fav) are all ways you can find more depth in city life.

+1 for the idea of community porn, though. 1-off events just aren’t the same.

You mention but don't list in your bullet points the 4th: hobbies... Which is charities, church, or any other shared interest group. Makerspaces, book clubs, matial arts, literally everything you have to do with others.

Probably goes with the culture of flakiness that having too much choice gives. First time someone goes to an event, they don't immediately feel the spark or whatever, off to do other things.

Very true. Too much choice can be a recipe for unhappiness.

>if you’re not knee deep in a community with a strong sense of values and culture (like EA), finding matches can be challenging.

Another comment in this thread expressed the opposite sentiment, that you really want to live with people who are different than you: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20848428

You can't both be right :)

What issues have the coliving companies been running into?

What’s EA?

I think it's probably referring to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effective_altruism

Effective Altruism, Less Wrong's thing.

Started out great and then started talking about roommates and became an advertisement for the roommate matching service. I don’t think that is the answer to loneliness.

For me it was the solution to loneliness. I was never so happy as I am now with roommates. I used to think I prefer to live alone, not really anymore. Of course that is anecdote, but IMHO it helps some groups of people.

It seems like there is an obsession with loneliness as of late. I keep seeing articles on the front page that talk about it. I guess it's a big problem now.

This should be an add-on to companies like Tinder. People will provide a lot of data in the interest of finding a romantic or sexual partner. Tinder could say “sorry about that bad date but here’s this guy you might like living with!”

Oy vey lesswrong

If you're lonely, adopt a dog from your local animal shelter. A cat is fine, too.

Pets are not a replacement for human interaction.

I've noticed that I have far more conversations with strangers when I'm out walking my dog than when I'm out by myself. I've also made acquaintances with the regulars at the dog park. Pets aren't a replacement for human interaction, but they can help facilitate it.

Not that I totally agree with GP, but they can certainly help with a lack of human interaction, even if they don't solve the issue.

Excuse me, this is bad advice. If someone is lonely they will have problem to find anyone who can take care of the pet when they can't (such as when they are away).

There are pet sitters and pet boarding services in most cities.

Which must be usually booked in advance.

Really, pet care can't be handwaved off and downvoted.

Lonely people can still plan their lives and act as adults. I'm one of them, a cat sitter is watching my cat right now. In any case, usually having your friends pet sit has to be discussed in advance as well. You have to hand over the house key etc.


Loneliness seems to be a common thread even in homogenous first world countries like Japan. I think the modern way of people moving all the world for economic opportunity, and the much greater emphasis on "work" probably contributes far more to loneliness than multiculturalism.

Like all problems in the real world, I doubt there is a single, simple explanation like that.

Other factors that I imagine contribute: the rise of social programs (e.g. Social Security) mean that families aren't responsible for elder care anymore.

Young people are encouraged to leave the house asap after graduating high school. Failure to do so is seen to reflect poorly on the person and their parents.

Even among middle and low income earners, sharing households is less common in the past.

The rise of extreme parenting and related reduction in parental friendships.

The housing wealth of previous generations allowing them to sell a house in Boston and relocate to Phoenix, putting grandparents thousands of miles away from their children.

The rise of both spouses working meaning the non-working spouse can't lean on the social networks of the stay at home spouse.

Widespread air conditioning leading to death of outdoor neighborhood life (e.g. sitting on the porch)

The rise of college education and the increase in going to school further from home. (As recently as the 1970s over 55% of Stanford's students came from California.)

Those are just a few off the top of my head. I don't disagree that moving for work plays a role but back in the 1930s lots of people moved around the US for work (more than today) and work was far more all consuming (having only 2 days off the entire year was not uncommon, e.g. working every weekend, no breaks). And loneliness appears to have been less prevalent then than now.

I completely agree.

You can have uniting religion, ethnicity, or purpose and still have multiculturalism. You just have people deeply engaged with separate communities.

The real problem he’s talking about is disaffiliation —- people not feeling connected to any overarching group to which they experience a sense of belonging.

If you’re really committed to proper homogeneity, you should avoid the English language.

It’s fairly easy to build a community of friends.

Also, things like Ultimate Frisbee are free -/ we play every morning in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park; when I was in Palo Alto / SF we played a few days a week; and I even built a league / scene from scratch in my hometown of Erie, PA 20 years ago.

The downvote on this comment is a strong signal.

This is a way to scratch your left foot when your right foot itches.

The way to alleviate loneliness, is to do meaningful work. Meaningful work will inevitably involve other people.

It's not loneliness so much as being so fucking bored, because everything that took up your time in the past centuries, has now been automated, and you're sent to prison for 10+ years to break your spirit as early as 3 years old.

You send children to school where they have no autonomy, have to sit quietly and memorize stupid bullshit through their entire childhood, and then wonder why they go nuts in all kinds of unpredictable ways.

We're not meant to do stupid bullshit we see no value in doing our entire lives. What's a roommate gonna do to alleviate that? Just skip roommate, try heroin to forget this shit existence and plunge into a world of bliss.

Like so many comments on the internet, this would've been great if you had stopped one sentence earlier.

>>We're not meant to do stupid bullshit we see no value in doing our entire lives.

Then stop doing meaningless things. We're all part of a grand story, and we can play our part to move it forward.

When you find a meaningful purpose, then you'll be able to tolerate the years of trudging forward that it can take achieve goals.

Nothing is more meaningless than abandoning your role in the world with chemical distractions.

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