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Ask HN: Feeling Lonely
31 points by thorw on Jan 16, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 27 comments
I have been feeling pretty lonely for the last couple of weeks. My job is contract python work so I stay home all day. I don't really have close friends. The last time I went out with friends was weeks ago. I barely have any communication with others online. I always seem to never have anything to talk about and have trouble keeping a conversation flowing.

I am getting worse at being motivated to do any work, so simple tasks take hours to do. I used to love programming on personal projects but the last time I worked on a personal project was nearly a month ago.

I am 20 and still live with my parents but don't talk to them much, they are restrictive parents. I am a college student on a long holiday.

So, I am not in a super depressing position, but I am not having that much fun either. I would like to be more social to not feel lonely.

Sounds like you're in a rut and burnt out. If you get to the stage that you're experiencing extreme apathy or dark thoughts then definitely call a help line and get some free counseling.

Assuming that you're not depressed but just in a rut here are some things that work for me but your mileage may vary:

- go outside. Go for a walk or a hike in nature.

- invite friends over and cook them dinner. While youre cooking as them about their lives and how they are going. Be interested in how they really are. Once you do that, communication will start flowing.

- block your work up. You could try the Pomodoro technique etc. take blocks of time to relax too.

- get some exercise.

- ask your parents about what it was like growing up for them. You may get a deeper understanding of why they are restrictive.

- get your friend to set you up on a blind date.

- write a page of free form stream of conscious every morning for a week. First thing when you get up. At the end of the week read them.

Good luck buddy

Work from a café.

When I feel that I'm getting bored of coding all day I go to a local Café with my laptop and using my smartphones 3G connection shared on wifi to the laptop. Works great for looking up docs and googling a question if the Cafe dsn't have free Wifi. I'm working from a cafe 2 times a week about 3 hours each time.


Go to the Gym, even if it's not your thing.

When I started going to the gym i definitely felt lost, the big guy where lifting way more than me and I wasn't very sure what exercises I should do. But just going to the gym, doing some basic exercises and looking at others in the gym thought me a lot and now I really like it. It does also have benefits such as feeling better afterwards and making you look more attractive, which is a huge boost for your self-estime.


Help others.

Jump on IRC or the mailing-list for your niche and help others when you feel you want to do other things other than work. This not only gives you the pleasure of helping others with your skills, it's also a great place to find gigs.


Contribute to an opensource project.

Find an open-source project that you are using and understands how it works, look up what reported issues the project have and try to solve them. If you can't find a solution for any of the issues start with the documentation, every project needs better documentation and it's not a very hard task to write if you understand how the code works. The benefits are same as helping others really.

If you have a car, drive to a different coffee shop or café everyday (like Starbucks, Barnes and Noble, Peet's, whatever) and work from there. Spend a few hours there and in the process, try to meet some new people. Talk to them about anything and I guarantee you'll find some way to connect.

In the weekends, there are lots of places (especially if you live in a decently populated city) where people go to to spend time with other people. If you find one of these places (just google it, basically), there's almost always musicians (e.g. Jazz Saxophonists) playing some laid-back music, and tons of people having a great time. Merely being present in a place like that is enough to make you not feel lonely. Your situation might differ but I doubt it would hurt to try these and some of the other ideas other HNers presented.

Don't feel bad about not being able to make small talk, like everything its not for everyone. I can't honestly maintain it either. Social skills are what they seem to be; skills. Like other skills they take time and effort to develop, but if you work and stay committed to them and the people you like it will pay off. I think finding a casual/social hobby is a good idea (like the other guy said) too. All of my close friendships are based on a common insterest that we can discuss or do together. Taking an interest in people is key too, not to be confused with seeming to take an interest. People appreciate your legitimate appreciation of them, and they know when you've made them a real priority or when you make real sacrofices for them. Whatever happens don't give up. I've been at the point multiple times when I literally had 1 friend, who wasn't very close to me, and trust me you can always come back if you stay positive and actually like people. Be happy, its worth the effort, and because you CAN do it!

If you are religiously inclined, joining a church/synagogue can have a profound effect on your social life. I met my fiancee at church, and some of my deepest friendships are with people from my congregation. Also, you'll meet people with interests and backgrounds that are much different from your own, which I find enriching.

All of the suggestions in the thread are great. I have been in a similar position to you and I can say from experience that working in a public place really helped alleviate the pangs of loneliness. I even made a friend because I brought a book along with me to the coffee shop and it happened to be her favorite author (Thomas Pynchon for those curious).

The key is to step away from the computer and realize that it isn't what life is all about. There is so much beauty and wonder in the world that simply cannot be replicated on a screen.

P.s. If you want someone to talk to about Python or books or the future or girls or boys or dreams, please send me an email. I too am working a remote Python job from home on a long winter break so some company would be appreciated! If you are around NYC I'd even grab a coffee or something.

Working from home is lonely; that's just the way it is. Motivation can be easier to come by if you find somewhere else to work sometimes, like a library or cafe. When I was at my greatest depths of despair from living in a new city with no nearby friends and working long hours from home, I found that I could escape if I started attending events in the local entrepreneur community. Just do something...anything to get away from working at home with nobody around. Even a little interaction goes a long way, and being good at conversation takes practice.

I would also suggest surrounding yourself with as much outdoor greenery as you can (time of year permitting). It's really therapeutic.

Thank you. I have been wanting to work outside for a while but never got around to it and didn't really know where I would go but I guess almost anywhere is better then my room.

Since you are into programming, have you ever considered finding a local hacker lab to attend and meet new people with like interests?


If there aren't any in your area, start your own meet up. You can do it at a local coffee shop and take it from there. I am sure you are not the only one in your situation. Give a try!

I was in a similar situation and I found a local group. Best decision I ever made. Got to hang out with people, have lunch, dinner drinks and made a lot of new friends and potential business partners. Good luck!

I was feeling very similarly recently and have been trying to get out of the rut. I found user groups to actually be very helpful. Are there any around you? (Where do you live?)

I actually just posted my experience on this here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5066944

The current answers seem good, but I wonder why you work? Or perhaps: why work so much?

You're pretty young and your parents are supporting you, at least providing housing, which is pretty nice. I'd tackle some of those personal projects you enjoy, and travel (at the very least, explore your own city), and learn to do some new stuff (learn Latin and read Cicero, practice a musical instrument, learn how to bind books, build a tube amplifier, other stuff we never have time to do 'cause working for rent/mortgage gets in the way). Go to the library (w/o a laptop) and sit and read, a lot.

I so wish I were young again...

And yeah, talk to your parents, being sure to let them do lots of the talking.

Great suggestions by djt.

I found myself in a similar space a few years back and these are the three things that brought me out of my rut:

1-I joined a martial arts club. The Aikido community is generally a welcoming group and most dojos have classes 5 - 7 days a week. 2-Wrote brief entries in a journal. 3-Sought out cultural experiences/events that I wouldn't normally attend. Oh and 4-, actually, outside time. Even in the winter. Even a 15 minute walk. The ol' gray matter really likes to hit the trails, or even the pavement.

Just make one change to your routine today and that sense of your own agency can build momentum.

it has been 4 months since I applied this, joined a Karate club , writing my experience on an anonymous blog ,go meeting new people ,I start learning languages and I got many certificates,but at the end it still don't work for me , I'm in a great despair , I still feel empty inside ,I simply don't enjoy life anymore,since going out is not really working (I think its a waste of time) I spend all the days at home working(programming) or playing video games, my relations with people is still not very deep , I call some friends ones a week and we meet for 2 or 3 hours , still don't enjoy going out with them . by the way I'm not depressed , I was depressed in the past years , but the doctor says that I'm fine now , may be when he tries it , it would work for him who knows .

Let me second the suggestion to go outdoors and explore nature. Hiking's good. If you're north enough, and if you haven't already, take up x-country skiing. Lessons from a good instructor are awesome!

An instant mood makeover is to perform a good deed. Just because you can. Examples: Feed some pigeons. Free a rabbit caught in a snare. Drop by the local SPCA to pet some animals. And see if they could use a pair of hands for the day.

I don't really have close friends.

A close friend is like a priceless jewel. Guard 'em with your life.

Exercise is always great. Expand your knowledge in other ways. Try acting in some amateur theater or go to cooking lessons. It is always good to meet other people who are interested in other stuff. Learn juggling. And if the situation is really hard and no one is around, this works often for me. http://750words.com/ and the simple analysis it gives on the end feels like an awesome private conversation.

Oh man, I also work from home and sometimes do feel lonely. So hey, shoot me an email (on profile) and we can talk about whatever. But dont worry. Shit like this happens to a lot of people and it will get better. I'm also a python guy , by the way. Get in touch!

Best thing I have found during times like that is going to a gym every day for a while (keeping it up after that is even better). You meet people, get out of the house, get stronger/healthier, feel better in general.

I would suggest to go get some exercise, getting active and listening to good music gets the negative energy out of your body. If you're lonely at home chat with the guys in irc #startups.

Yeah definitely take a week or so break. Get on a meetup from meetup.com and talk to others.

Seconding this! Meetup.com has been great for me. I've met some really cool people there. It doesn't have to be programming related, even. There are many different activities, so perhaps you could find a hobby that gives you a break from programming so you can go back to it with a fresh mind (biking, chess, atheist or religious groups, etc).

I hope you feel better soon.

I just found some nice looking meetups that I would be interested in going to. What's it like just showing up to one?

A little awkward, but not too bad, even for an extremely introverted person like myself. Chances are the people who are there already were at one point in your shoes when they first attended. If you're nervous you can always post to/comment on some of the group's stuff, so that when you arrive you can be like "hi, I am username so-and-so" and they will be like, "oh, yeah! I saw your comment..." and so on. Not all groups are great, but my experience has overall been quite positive.

Also, it's pretty commonly understood that the site exists so that like minded people can find each other when they otherwise likely wouldn't have crossed paths, so it's a great way to make new friends (and/or social networks). If you still have some anxiety, I would suggest contacting the group admin and saying you're interested but a bit nervous about going to the first meeting. It does take a small amount of money each year to host the group, so the people in charge of it usually care enough to try to make people feel comfortable enough to come and keep coming. (I have a friend who runs a small meetup group for writers, and he's always extremely super thrilled when new people come out to it.)

I also work from home. I think the best way to stay social even working at home is to have internet chatting with friends!! I usually chat with two or three people while working at home. If you want, you can add me on gtalk.

get a hobby where there is some kind of socialization. R/C flying/racing and amateur astronomy are some nice ones that come to mind right now... you could also find a hackerspace in your city.

I think you should find a girlfriend. She will 'start your engine'

Please don't assume heterosexuality.

When I'm in a rut I grab a notepad, go for a walk and only let myself return after writing down 5 observations.

Go work in a public library or café(I prefer library), it`s good because you see people, move around and also get work done.

Besides that, you have to socialize, it`s absolutely imperative to escape depression, not decay your(apparently already low) social skills. Also, don't you communicate with your work friends?

Start an activity like a sport, dancing, painting, whatever, you'll meet new people doing this.

Working remotely is a great thing but you gotta enjoy it's advantages or this sort of stuff will bite you. When I did remote work I went through the same stuff, now I'm working "normal" and I feel it's my fault that I didn't enjoy it as I could and I wished I'd work remotely again.

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