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The Lethality of Loneliness (newrepublic.com)
321 points by bitsai 1714 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 157 comments

I thought the most profound thing mentioned in this article was that loneliness was about intimacy. Not necessarily physical intimacy, but social intimacy. This is exceedingly important subtlety. Too often we say things like "go be social, go hang out." You can "be social", but non-intimate relationships (relationships with people you don't trust, people who are cruel, people who aren't authentic) do not have good therapeutic value.

The loneliest period of my life was during my clubbing days in my 20s. I was out doing something almost every night, had a few dozen people I called friends. Sometimes it was alot of fun, but it was ultimately draining... the connections were superficial at best.

Moved away shortly after turning 26, stopped answering almost all calls and had little social interaction for about 6 mos. Then I got a dog and started meeting people again but slowly and in a completely different context. That was probably the most cathartic period in my life.

I know what you mean. A friend of mine was saying he was heavily into the party scene in the years before he met his now fiancée. He said meeting her earlier would have saved him years of going out to clubs for the sake of not feeling lonely.

And of course a lot of use feel like it is easier to meet someone when we don't have our walls up. But most connections made at a club are superficial at best like you said.

Just to be clear - these weren't people I randomly met going out. Most of them started as friends from college, friends from work, friends of those friends, etc. This was a big social circle that was fairly consistant/intact for a period of about 5 years. We did most things together and from an outsider's perspective we were close knit. But really the glue was we partied well and we did it often, perhaps a vibe of mutually ensured self-destruction.

While it produced some of the most exciting moments in my life and most of us acted like we really cared about each other, it just felt forced. Personal bounds were loose. Rumors/talking smack was common. It was caustic and emotionally draining. I didn't realize it much while it was happening because it felt awesome to have this big group of cool friends, but after some time you just realize you feel like total crap - basically you're surrounded by all these people yet you have no one to talk to because whatever you say can be used against you.

I've noticed that it's hard for me to join a group of people that has more than 2-3 people. Thinking back, throughout my entire life, I've always been in groups of 'only' 2-3, or 5 people tops. I tried doing the whole 'going out of your comfort zone' and getting into groups which had 9-10 people but the vibes they gave were exactly like you said - superficial. You had this constant feeling that the other people weren't above backstabbing/trampling you over to achieve their means. It felt kind of hollow, and I slowly started to drift away from them to meet others.

So what's a good solution to shortening the time it takes to meet one's fiancée?

Do things. Do things that bring you into contact with other people: namely, working with colleagues, rather than customers. (So a soup kitchen counts, but being a solo consultant doesn't.) When they invite you out for doing stuff, join in. You can back out the second time if you don't enjoy it. Get to know as many of them as you can. Share your interests; listen to theirs.

You'll run into someone interested in you soon enough.

+1 Take a community college course in something that you enjoy like history or calligraphy, if it's good enough for Steve Jobs it's good enough for you. Join a local theatre company, even if it's just painting scenery and doing scene changes. Take a fitness course at a local gym. Learn Tai Chi. If you're in the US go backpacking round Mayan ruins in Mexico. If you're into a hobby already, become active in it. If you play roleplaying games, volunteer to help run a convention. At least you'll have something to talk to people about.


Possibly not clubbing to begin with. That does not usually lead to marriage.

I guess to be sincere, be kind, be supportive and always be prepared to listen, treat love given to you as rare, so don't spoil and throw it away. Be there for her.

That's just my solution though I haven't met mine.

I am pretty sure this http://www.artofmanliness.com/ helped me a lot. Not thought dating advice but by helping me to become a better man. I know it sound cheezy, but really you don't really want to trick anyone into marriage.

Dont try too hard.

99% of mainstream dating advice is hogwash.

Learn the truth about women. Start reading:

http://dalrock.wordpress.com/ http://heartiste.wordpress.com/

The best dating advice is concentrated on men who are players or aspire to be. But the skills to seduce a fling and a future wife are very similar.

If you want to catch a great woman, you must have the skills to catch any woman.

The above advice is probably really good if you think of women as objects.

If you can have a Class of Human, I don't see the problem having women AND men as objects.

The problem is that it doesn't have a point to it. If you don't treat people like people, instead of puppets, there's very little point to interacting with them. Even if you could "catch any woman", what would you do with her when the superficial fun wears off?

Obviously I wholeheartedly agree with you. I was just trying to make a relevant joke.

On a more serious note, people who treat others (be it men or women) as objects/puppets are themselves devoid of any deeper intelligence. I will go so far to generalize and say that they are pretty shallow morally, and a lot of times, intellectually (not quite, but I don't know a better word).

That second site looks like manipulative bullshit to me.

That's because it _is_ manipulative bullshit! Heartiste is famous for spouting misogynistic garbage. Pretty terrible stuff.

To "catch" a woman?

Stick to fishing... it's not 1973 anymore!

"the skills to seduce a fling and a future wife are very similar"


Besides that those same "skills" you're developing are going to fuck up your future relationship(s) when you continue to behave like a sociopath.

Get. The. Hell. Out.

"Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink". I have definitely been through similar periods in my life. The problem with having a volume of superficial "friends" is that it artificially covers up our loneliness to some degree, which makes seeking out more intimate relationships less of a priority. It's the emotional equivalent of attempting to live on fast food: it makes us feel full, but leaves us starving for what we actually need.

This strikes a chord and speaks something about cultural interactions.

Ages ago, when I was at university, I spent a semester in a Soviet bloc country. There were no clubs other than the Party-run ones; few movies to go see, little to buy in stores, no TVs, no Internet, no cell phones. The isolation could have been profound. But for many people, what this meant was that human relationships became very, very intense and valuable. Friendships with my fellow students became so, as did friendships with other locals I met and got to know.

Upon returning to my home university in the US, I was very happy to see my friends, and quickly joined them on my first day back at one of our usual hangouts, a bar. I was appalled to realize that all the conversations I had had with them for all the nights we'd been going out were utterly superficial and meaningless compared with the relationships and conversations I'd experienced overseas. I gradually withdrew from my friends, trying to stick more to non-party/bar settings so we could have what I considered to be more real, deeper conversations; but I had changed, and they had not. It was very isolating.

I gradually discovered that a few of these friends also were craving deeper interaction (cue jokes, okay, okay) and those friends became not only the people I hung out with more, but the ones whose friendships with me lasted decades until today. But there was a seriously lonely stretch until I discovered that, and it was all about social intimacy -- not physical, not being among people, but sharing our true selves in conversation and companionship.

<edit: fixed a minor typo.>


Believe it or not, this is actually a key insight in meditative/contemplative practices.

In a very good sociology course I took in college the professor drew an upside down bell curve on the board. The y axis was risk for suicide and the x axis was social interaction. The extremes of social interactions, very low or very high amounts, led to being at greater risk for suicide according to research quoted by the professor. Average amounts of social interactions had the lowest risk for suicide. I don't remember the specific studies or evidence, but it still resonates with me today.

FTA: 'Loneliness “is not synonymous with being alone, nor does being with others guarantee protection from feelings of loneliness,” writes John Cacioppo, the leading psychologist on the subject. Cacioppo privileges the emotion over the social fact because—remarkably—he’s sure that it’s the feeling that wreaks havoc on the body and brain. Not everyone agrees with him, of course. Another school of thought insists that loneliness is a failure of social networks. The lonely get sicker than the non-lonely, because they don’t have people to take care of them; they don’t have social support.'

From experience I definitely agree that having very little/no social interaction is not synonymous with loneliness.

I'm curious whether the social interaction/suicide relation is correlation or causation.


This kind of loneliness has as much to do with rejecting oneself as it is being rejected by other people.

Each of us have emotional wounds inside that are sensitive. We typically wrap layers and layers of personality, activities, and rationalizations to protect it. And if it gets through that, it triggers some protective emotional outbursts or behaviors. Or we shut down, like the woman in catatonia.

It is usually painful enough that the mind does not want to be aware of it, and when hitting upon that, will naturally veer away from it.

You can be fundamentally lonely in a crowd of millions. You can be the meditating sage in some isolated cave for years, because you know at the core you are not alone.

Insightful emotional intelligence you don't see often on HN. Where/how did you learn that?

I got my ass kicked several times by a goddess. ;-) Each time, I saw a lot of things about myself I didn't want to see. I got inundated with feelings I didn't want to feel. I've felt what love feels like, and I know it's there even in the most painful and horrible places. I know we're never truly alone or abandoned; I've wept for the people still wandering lost, not knowing what they seek is right there with them. I've learned how to meditate and have been practicing it for a while. This is all still an ongoing transformation. Feel free to email if you want details.

For "too much" interaction, which way does the causality run though? These people could be attempting to compensate for feelings of loneliness or other unhappiness with more social interaction.

I remember anecdotes about increase in stress and social obligations, which makes sense I think. You can imagine maybe a failed business person with unwanted attention as in the case of Bernard Madoff son, or the story of exemplary high achieving students who unfortunately end their life. Such a case was in my local news recently in Albany, CA, and when I heard of her tragedy I thought of this then too.

I was STAR student, national merit scholarship winner, etc and also an abused child who attempted suicide at age 17, which was treated at school like I was an embarrassment and fuck-up rather than being met with concern. I walked away from the limelight and chose a quieter life. I am 47 and (obviously) still alive. Many years later, I also went through lengthy withdrawal from medication rather publically (online). Again, people were mostly assholes rather than supportive.

If you are a "public" figure of some sort, the public is invested in you in a way that makes them feel entitled to an opinion and entitled to an explanation and entitled to butt in, but they do not genuinely care about you. It only compounds any problems you have.

Is there anything positive for you about being in the public with your story? If it were all negative, why continue with it?

edit: this might sound judicial, which is not what i intend. What I want to say is: you do continue to be in the public - what is your motivation to do so?

Yes, there have been positives and continue to be positives. I don't really think I owe you an explanation or justification for my participation here, assuming that is what you are refering to. I currently get a lot less attention (generally) than I used to. I am okay with that changing, but the circus that used to follow me around is substantially quieter.

Could you clarify a) why you are asking and b) where this remark is really coming from since it does not sound to me like it is about just the specific statement I made above.


Maybe he was referring to your blog rather than your comments here.

I have several websites. They get a really piddling amount of traffic, more than they used to but really, really piddling. I don't really think of that as significant public exposure. And I would prefer the OP clarify. I can make wild guesses of my own.


Interesting. This makes sense from a layman's reasoning perspective as well. People who spend an extreme amount of time with others don't spend enough with themselves and probably lose their identity. I guess my question is, what constitutes interaction? Does the brief conversations with my coworkers count? What about a phone call to my mother? Does all of this interaction being analysed have to in person and in depth?

> People who spend an extreme amount of time with others don't spend enough with themselves and probably lose their identity.

It's a bit more nuanced than that: there is a type of person who knows so many people that they really don't know any of them. Thus, it can be desperately lonely to be so well-connected, too: a lot of depression-suicide cases are from people who were major event organizers or well-known micro-celebrities who had completely failed to actually make friends.

> I guess my question is, what constitutes interaction? Does the brief conversations with my coworkers count? What about a phone call to my mother? Does all of this interaction being analysed have to in person and in depth?

It doesn't have to be in person, but it does have to have depth or at least remind you of depth. If you and your mother are close, a phone call probably suffices. (Unless you're the type of person who thrives on physical contact, as I am.) If you never got along and the conversations are always tired retreads of "yes, I'm doing fine", then probably not.

I wonder how romantic relationships fit in. I don't have that many friends, but I have someone to talk to every day and I can be around my family.

But not having been in a relationship for many years, or rather, not ever having been in one that could be called serious has started to occupy a lot of my thinking time. It's something I'm reminded of everyday, like it was a disease.

It is often said that one has to be happy alone to be happy together. But might it be that even someone who is creating happiness for himself loses it because loneliness is its antagonist?

I smile when I walk trough the rain, I laugh when I hear a joke, I cry when I watch a touching movie. Isn't that a sign of happiness? Why does it feel so worthless if I'm not able to share it with someone I love?

> Why does it feel so worthless if I'm not able to share it with someone I love?

Oh man, the answer to that is mysterious and beautiful.

Let's separate two things: romance and love. We think we want romance but we really want love.

We think we need another person to love, but the truth is, Love Is. It's present wherever you are, whatever moment. It's just, we usually have our heads stuck up our asses and so we don't feel it. Then we wander blindly around the world looking for our lost love. Which then gets distorted by notions of romance.

Or put it in another way

    The minute I heard my first love story,
    I started looking for you, not knowing
    how blind that was.
    Lovers don't finally meet somewhere,
    they're in each other all along.
    -- Rumi

Something that touched me was: "Love is the evidence of the oneness of all things" ... how to say it, there really is only one thing, the universe, and the ego notions that we have of our separateness are an illusion.

When you and your couple "become one" you're just like drops of water running together. Love is the good feeling of like rejoining with like.

When you are in a couple, you still can be "couple lonely" -- you seek out other "couple friends" ... maybe have kids? You want more love, you want to continue joining together with other pieces of the universe.

It's not "interaction".

It's presence of mind. Awareness.

I've seen this happen a lot with ... non-pathological loneliness. I mean that, generally everyone is lonely in the way Fromm-Reichmann is saying, but because it at a socially-acceptable level, then it looks normal.

For example, I've been at parties and places where friends "hang out". No one really talks about much. No one is really engaging in anything. The jokes people are saying are not there to connect with someone, and more to fill the air with something to say.

This is in contrast with, say, you go to this party, and on an off chance, you start talking with someone. And it feels like a very different experience, like you are fully connecting. You're no longer waiting for the other person to shut up so you can say something. The conversation flows, but the content doesn't really matter. It could be a deep discussion about math or philosophy; it could be sharing some life stories; it could be swapping some of your wild, youthful adventures.

You're not going to be able to measure presence of mind. But you know when you are present vs. when you are not.

>>>Does all of this interaction being analysed have to in person and in depth?

I'd say depth matters more. It's not sufficient to just be seen. People want to be understood, or seen fundamentally.

Related, the Principle of Psychological Visibility from Nathaniel Branden (fyi, I am not an Objectivist): http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=...

It could be people who seek out socializing are trying to distract themselves or are seeking for something external when they're needing are internal skills to manage life and the internal issues (emotions, etc) they create.


Generally speaking, the vast majority of people are actually insane. We're just insane in socially-acceptable, normalized ways.

Looking into yourself is hard. It is the hardest thing you will ever do.

Or being hyper-social puts way more pressure on you in the form of keeping up appearances and maintaining expectations.

The Middle Way works for a lot of things (aka goldilocks, all things in moderation).

Everything in moderation.. except moderation.

Including moderation.

Definitely seems to be the least dangerous/boring path.

Suicide is a very narrow thing, however. It's also not necessarily related to "loneliness". The article is (using research) making the argument that loneliness affects medical outcomes for people. Is there a causal link between loneliness as suicide? The little bit I've studied suggests suicide is more closely related to depression. The causes of which remain something of a medical mystery.

But can you not take any (or many) two different data sets that sort of relate and create such graphs? Social interaction and Suicide, Sex and Suicide, Education and Suicide, Work load and Suicide, XYZ and Suicide.

As a recent college-grad who'd moved to suburbia, I think the automobile-centric culture in America is what is killing intimacy. If you were not able to make close friends in college/early-life, than once you live on your own in the suburbs, it often feels impossible to get any sense of intimacy. Intimacy is built up with small moments, and when every interaction has to be a commute-laden ordeal, you lose the opportunity for spontaneous and random social interactions, making the process of building of relationships orders of magnitude slower.

Had a somewhat similar experience (except that my (college) friends lived across the Atlantic).

Ideally suburbia should become a thing of the past (and it might, with rising energy prices). But for now I'd say the best thing you could do is move back to the (inner) city (or back to uni for a post-grad).

It may be a hassle but being unhappy is a drain as well.

I can also highly recommend most European/UK cities, as their cores are where people actually live and thrive, rather than that odd mix of blitz corporate office guests and sniffling economic outcasts.

> It’s tempting to say that the lonely were born that way—it’d let the rest of us off the hook. And, as it turns out, we’d be about half right, because loneliness is about half heritable. A longitudinal study of more than 8,000 identical Dutch twins found that, if one twin reported feeling lonely and unloved, the other twin would report the same thing 48 percent of the time. This figure held so steady across the pairs of twins—young or old, male or female, notwithstanding different upbringings—that researchers concluded that it had to reflect genetic, not environmental, influence. To understand what it means for a personality trait to have 48 percent heritability, consider that the influence of genes on a purely physical trait is 100 percent. Children get the color of their eyes from their parents, and that is that. But although genes may predispose children toward loneliness, they do not account for everything that makes them grow up lonely. Fifty-two percent of that comes from the world.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the math is wrong. Assume prior for being lonely is 50/50. Now, if 100% of twins reported that they are also lonely, this would be proof that loneliness is genetic. If it was 0%, it would imply some sadistic inverse relationship, but one that'd still be genetic. If it's 50%, the same as the prior, it means no relationship. 48% is pretty close.

I see, obviously the math is a bit more involved. I assumed those 8000 were identical twins who were separated at birth. Thank you

The article's explanation of "heritability" of human behavioral traits is poor. For four years now, I've had regular in-person interaction with a "journal club" of researchers and graduate students who are deeply involved in the Minnesota Twin Study. I'm about to go out the door to an in-person meeting of a local nonprofit board, but let me post some links here (embedded in a FAQ file I keep on my personal computer), and invite you to look them up. (They are all peer-reviewed research links that are free to download, by leading researchers on human behavior genetics.) It is well known, on the one hand, that ALL human behavioral characteristics are heritable. (It is an abuse of language to say "heritable" in this context, but the abuse is conventional and standard in the field.) So we can agree with the professional literature that your tendency to vote for one political party rather than another is heritable. Your attribution of causes for human differences (e.g., human differences in IQ) is also heritable. Your opinion about regulation of the Internet is heritable. Everything about human behavior is heritable, including the tendency to loneliness mentioned in the interesting article submitted here.

Eric Turkheimer has recently been president of the Behavior Genetics Association, and he has the very kind habit of posting most of his peer-reviewed journal articles on his faculty website.


Lars Penke is another, younger researcher who posts most of his publications on his personal website.


I have the pleasure of meeting many other researchers in human genetics just about weekly during the school year at the University of Minnesota "journal club" Psychology 8935: Readings in Behavioral Genetics and Individual Differences Psychology. From those sources and other sources, I have learned about current review articles on human behavior genetics that help dispel misconceptions that are even commonplace among medically or scientifically trained persons who aren't keeping up with current research.

An interesting review article,

Turkheimer, E. (2008, Spring). A better way to use twins for developmental research. LIFE Newsletter, 2, 1-5


admits the disappointment of behavior genetics researchers.

"But back to the question: What does heritability mean? Almost everyone who has ever thought about heritability has reached a commonsense intuition about it: One way or another, heritability has to be some kind of index of how genetic a trait is. That intuition explains why so many thousands of heritability coefficients have been calculated over the years. Once the twin registries have been assembled, it's easy and fun, like having a genoscope you can point at one trait after another to take a reading of how genetic things are. Height? Very genetic. Intelligence? Pretty genetic. Schizophrenia? That looks pretty genetic too. Personality? Yep, that too. And over multiple studies and traits the heritabilities go up and down, providing the basis for nearly infinite Talmudic revisions of the grand theories of the heritability of things, perfect grist for the wheels of social science.

"Unfortunately, that fundamental intuition is wrong. Heritability isnӴ an index of how genetic a trait is. A great deal of time has been wasted in the effort of measuring the heritability of traits in the false expectation that somehow the genetic nature of psychological phenomena would be revealed. There are many reasons for making this strong statement, but the most important of them harkens back to the description of heritability as an effect size. An effect size of the R2 family is a standardized estimate of the proportion of the variance in one variable that is reduced when another variable is held constant statistically. In this case it is an estimate of how much the variance of a trait would be reduced if everyone were genetically identical. With a moment's thought you can see that the answer to the question of how much variance would be reduced if everyone was genetically identical depends crucially on how genetically different everyone was in the first place."

Johnson, Wendy; Turkheimer, Eric; Gottesman, Irving I.; Bouchard Jr., Thomas (2009). Beyond Heritability: Twin Studies in Behavioral Research. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18, 4, 217-220


is another interesting review article that includes the statement "Moreover, even highly heritable traits can be strongly manipulated by the environment, so heritability has little if anything to do with controllability. For example, height is on the order of 90% heritable, yet North and South Koreans, who come from the same genetic background, presently differ in average height by a full 6 inches (Pak, 2004; Schwekendiek, 2008)."

The review article "The neuroscience of human intelligence differences" by Deary and Johnson and Penke (2010) relates specifically to human intelligence:


"At this point, it seems unlikely that single genetic loci have major effects on normal-range intelligence. For example, a modestly sized genome-wide study of the general intelligence factor derived from ten separate test scores in the cAnTAB cognitive test battery did not find any important genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphisms or copy number variants, and did not replicate genetic variants that had previously been associated with cognitive ability[note 48]."

(The same would be expected of characteristics like loneliness.)

Johnson, W., Penke, L., & Spinath, F. M. (2011). Understanding Heritability: What it is and What it is Not. European Journal of Personality, 25(4), 287-294. DOI: 10.1002/per.835


responds to psychologists' comments about their earlier review article on heritability. "Our target article was intended to provide background knowledge to psychologists and other social scientists on the subject of heritability. This statistic, in many ways so basic, is both extremely powerful in revealing the presence of genetic influence and very weak in providing much information beyond this. Many forms of measurement error, statistical artefact, violation of underlying assumptions, gene–environment interplay, epigenetic mechanisms and no doubt processes we have not yet even identified can contribute to the magnitudes of heritability estimates. If psychologists and other social scientists want to understand genetic involvement in behavioural traits, we believe that it is going to be necessary to distinguish among these possibilities to at least some degree. Heritability estimates alone are not going to help us do this."

Turkheimer, E. (2011). Genetics and human agency (Commentary on Dar-Nimrod & Heine, 2011). Psychological Bulletin, 137, 825-828. DOI: 10.1037/a0024306


reemphasizes the point that a heritability calculation tells us nothing about subject to environmental influences a human trait is. "That heritability depends on the population in which it is measured is one of the most frequently repeated caveats in the social sciences, but it is nevertheless often forgotten in the breach. (For example, it is nearly meaningless for Dar-Nimrod and Heine to note that 'heritability [of intelligence is] typically estimated to range from .50 to .85' [p. 805]. The heritability of intelligence isn’t anything, and even placing it in a range is misleading. Making a numerical point estimate of the heritability of intelligence is akin to saying, 'Social psychologists usually estimate the F ratio for the fundamental attribution error to be between 2.0 and 4.0.') The observation that genotypic variation accounts for 90% of the variation in height in the modern world depends on the variability of genotype and environment relevant to height. Among cloned animals with widely varying diets, body size is perfectly environmental with heritability of 0; in genetically variable animals raised in identical environments heritability is 1.0. This is no mere statistical fine point: it means that the entire project of assessing how essentially genetic traits are in terms of measured heritability coefficients is a fool’s errand."

The full text of the articles at the links, which in some cases focus on IQ and in other cases are more general, will give you more background in the methods and reasoning used by researchers on the topic of human behavioral genetics.

So what do you folks do to combat loneliness? I've tried meetup.com but the groups I joined haven't quite worked out for me. Outside of work acquaintances and classmates, I don't socialize.

Having gone from a college student who spent many Friday nights in the library studying, listening to others partying not because I preferred the library to partying on Friday nights (though I love learning) but because I didn't know how to get invited to a grown-up who gets invited to so many awesome events friends call me the most social person they know, I find developing social skills one of the most important areas anyone can improve their life.

Commenting on the article, I would not call loneliness lethal. Everybody gets lonely sometimes. I would call not having skills to handle loneliness lethal.

My starting point for combating loneliness is to start by looking inward -- What skills can I develop, how am I holding myself back -- before looking outward, like what resources are out there. Family, hobbies, travel, sites to connect with others... they all help only if I know how to interact. If I don't, they may make me feel more lonely. By contrast, if I know how to interact and attract people to me, those external resources work without intentional effort.

I wrote up my social skills exercises -- http://joshuaspodek.com/communication-skills-exercises-6 -- as a resource for other geeky people to use because I think they'll help others like they helped me. They won't completely transform ones life, but they create internal resources no one can take away.

I also posted about how I believe social skills are among the most important skills to develop http://joshuaspodek.com/model-direction-leadership-personal.

Loneliness is about not feeling connected to other people. Start with your neighbors, if you have any, or any people you meet. Talk to just anybody whom you meet around your place. If you can't talk to them, develop a sense of love for and connectedness with them. Your brain will then believe that you already are in the center of the "herd", and you will feel better, I'm certain. I've known loneliness most of the time between age 8 and 20, then finally opened up (with that came anger at people because they don't work the way I want them to, but that's gone too now). Ask yourself why you have the need to feel lonely when everybody around you finds it easy to connect, and break that bad thinking/feeling habit bit by bit.

We need more comments like this :-)

Family. Religious groups. Neighbors. Sports (participation or fandom). Volunteer at a nearby school, shelter, or community center. I've even done a meetup group that was pretty successful.

"We try things. Occasionally they even work." - Parson Gotti, http://www.erfworld.com/book-1-archive/?px=%2F109.jpg

"Sports (participation"

Note that only team sports get the press coverage, which I pretty much can't stomach, but the world is full of non-team sports group activities. Plenty of "we're hiking this nature/park trail as a group" and please join us in training for the 2/5/26 mile run next month, etc etc.

There are too many meetup groups (locally) that revolve around drinking booze and/or eating donuts and not enough that revolve around taking a 2 mile nature hike together to a picnic or whatever.

Also there's a huge difference socially between "I'm taking calc 223 because its an engineering prereq" all serious and often completely non-social especially if grading on a curve, and "We're all here to learn intro to Japanese because we love Japan and Anime just like you and ... " Another good one is cooking class, really pretty much any non-credit vo-tech classes. Do you know how to TIG weld from the local vo-tec yet? If not, why not? Welding is pretty cool and one way or another I'm going to learn how. I have no interest in doing it 40 hours a week for someone else, but I would be up for a couple hours a month for myself.

FTA: Loneliness isn't necessarily about social interaction or spending time by oneself or with other people. It's the desire for intimacy.

With respect to finding intimacy, I can't be much help. I've never had much luck when I've searched it out. The more meaningful relationships of my life outside of family have been ones I've serendipitously stumbled into.

you need a shared project, mission, experience, goal, or whatever to bond with people.

Meetup is not that - you drink a beer, then just leave after an hour or two. If you work on a project together, though, even on github, you will probably become good friends

Volunteer, get a job you believe in, work on an open source project with someone.

This is a great point, I agree completely.

Sometimes, with Omegle and clones, you get a good, intimate, one to one connection with a basically-anonymous complete stranger. And it's great, a real mood lifter.

It just doesn't happen at all often. Perhaps there's a way to adjust that kind of site design to make them more successful at that kind of connection?

Do you meet good people on Omegle?

Subjectively, yes.

I tend to find echoes of myself, so perhaps no good if you're looking for a life-of-the-party person.

The time investment to return ratio is abysmal, but the good connections happen. This week I had a 3-4 hour conversation (text) with someone. That affects my mood for a day or two afterwards; it's the kind of social interaction I ought to get in real life, but actually don't.

I would recommend the events posted in the CouchSurfing.org forums. Or, if you prefer, can also contact people directly on CS and suggest meeting up.

I joined a weekly hiking group.

I'm considering this myself. Did you find you needed prior experience before partaking?

This is like warning bells that someone is about to buy new boots and then go on their first hike.

Three simple hiking rules:

1) Never wear new boots on a trail. Sittin in the office, sure. Walking around the grocery store, sure. Walk around the block at home, sure. A day of yard work, sure. But never wear new boots on a trail. Many groups will kick you out and send you home if your boots aren't looking old and scruffy enough, nothing personal they just don't want to have to do wilderness rescue on you.

2) Bring more water than you think you'll need. Newbies always guess low. If you're feeling thirsty you've already failed. If you don't end the hike with water leftover you've failed.

3) It's considered very poor form to have to ask someone else for first aid stuff, although its considered even worse form not to help someone who needs it, and the cheapest lightest smallest kit is probably about right. Doesn't have to be some giant backpack a little pocket sized thing is fine.

Everything else you can learn from the group. Leave No Trace philosophy and orienteering and all that stuff. Which is an excellent conversation starter, where did you learn to read topo maps, what kind of plant is that, etc.

Depends very much on the group. Some are super hard core and love nothing more than hiking 30-40 miles at a quick pace over mountainous terrains before building a bivouac and eating a freeze dried meal, while others are super relaxed and love nothing more than taking a leisurely 7 mile walk and ending up at a nice pub. Ask around and try to find a group that fits you.

I'd been biking around 10 miles daily prior to it, but was still hit hard by my first hike. It was about 8 miles with a 2,000 foot climb, and I could barely walk for three days after. A few more hikes, however, and I was reasonably well conditioned. Well worth it, but could even be avoided somewhat with a more reasonable few starting hikes.

it's hiking, not lsd :)

Get a pet.

You are 100% correct in that before my dog died of stomach cancer some years back, I could not walk him down the street without massive attention from pretty much everyone. Note this was a cute Sheltie essentially a miniature hyperactive "Lassie" not a raging pit bull, which might be relevant to discussion.

Aside from street encounters there's a whole "dog subculture" of agility training, which my dog was completely hopeless at although its fun to watch and try and get cheered on.

Depending where you live, "dog parks" where weird as it sounds dog owners go to hang out at and meet other dog owners. Most city parks ban dogs other than at the official dog parks.

Then there's dog shows which are a whole nother almost separate subculture.

Now that I think about it coworkers who were dog people hung out with us socially too, simply because we all had dogs. Very much like how the sports fans hang out.

Most people treat their dogs exactly like they treat their children, interpret that as you may, for better or worse.

Please discontinue the stereotype that pitbulls are raging. :(

Up until they became a favorite in a bad scene, they were known as nanny dogs. If you get them young and from a non-abusive context and train them well, they're absolutely adoring.

In 2013 the percentage with a proper upbringing appears to be very low in the general population. Stereotype stands. This is very relevant to the "trying to socialize" topic in that trying to convince the general populace that your demonized dog breed is an angel kind of misses the point that a cute miniature lassie is a ridiculous effective people magnet.


stop being a pussy and listen to Roth-era Van Halen.


2 chicks at the same time, man. ;)

don't you need a million dollars for that?

Temporary jollies don't get rid of the great chasm of loneliness. When they're gone, it remains.

It's a reference to a similar topic of conversation in the movie Office Space.

I get the reference, with the PUA suggestions elsewhere in the thread, I couldn't tell if it was sincere or not!

You could try getting married and / or having children.

You should do neither of those until you've built a solid, lasting, stable, intimate and trusting relationship with someone.

Most of the people I know with this problem have trouble even meeting people, which tends to be a prerequisite for making friends and forming relationships - let alone successful long-term ones that could become marriages.

As is my case. it's hard enough just greeting someone let alone forming a lasting bond that eventuates into some situation allowing for intimacy.

I recommend a fitness related hobby that will bring you into regular contact with people. Then yes, you have to do the hard work of talking to the humans. Start small - you aren't looking for your soul mate you just want to make small talk for 3 minutes.

I'm in the same boat. I'm also have attracted a lot of, how to put this, people who use other people, since I'm not good at standing up for myself, so that, therefore, makes wary of people.

My belief is being social is a skill and I have to learn to get better at that skill in order to attract more normal people. I've been trying the following recently, although I haven't had enough time with any of it to know how well it will work, but just to give you some ideas:

lang-8.com - this site allows you to correct English of people trying to learn it. You can post a journal as well in another language you're trying to learn. My hope is that speaking another language might change the way I interact with people in my native language. But also, people there are very friendly, since you're helping them.

mmo games - trying to get into eve online. Maybe learn to establish relationships that way.

teamspeak - this has an online chat I've been using to practice smalltalk.

I tried a psychologist as well, but his philosophy of life and the way he related to me seemed so goofy that I quit. Also, it was quite expensive for what I got out of it.

Being social in the real world is a different skill than being social online. You might want to practice both (although, from experience, I'm going to say being social in real life is more important.)

Try a different psychologist, maybe you got the wrong one. But be a little more open to different philosophies of life and goofiness.

I've found EVE to be a double-edged sword in that regard. The game is exponentially more fun when played socially. On the other hand it's easy to hide in it and avoid socializing at all.

EVE takes effort to play "the right way". Make sure you get in a nice corp.

Dude, I'm assuming you're desi, in which case you may avail yourself of the aunti-network that always seems to be a matchmaking service on overdrive. I know quite a few geeks who, while having spent more time staring at a computer than bars, have had quite a bit of success with.

Based on heuristic evidence, I've seen some happy families emerge for guys who may not otherwise have done so well if left to their own communication/social skills. I think there's actual statistical evidence which points to longer lasting marriage thru the somewhat more traditional method of desi matchmaking.

Well yes I am 'desi' but I had to actually look that up. I don't know any language other than English and I've found that doesn't help much.

> Dude, I'm assuming you're desi...

Now I'm curious as to how you arrived at that assumption.

[EDIT] on second thought, probably not a great idea to go into details about how I looked him but, but it wasn't terribly difficult.

There's a difference between being lonely and being alone.

With regard to the latter, it's one of the fundamental insights of human life to, at some point, realize that you've always been and you always will be alone on this planet. There's only one you that is unique and nobody, I say nobody at all, will somehow match you perfectly, or make you fullfilled, or complement you essentially somehow. The only thing you can rely on is to always have your own company so it's better to learn to be friends with yourself.

But being lonely is another thing. Human beings aren't meant to be lonely. Heck, even most animals aren't meant to be that way. The worst kind of loneliness is the one that you experience among a group of people you call your friends. The loneliness may not be obvious until you find the first person who really becomes your friend.

As for "combatting loneliness", I suggest don't. In the worst case you're not only lonely but you're lonely and failing your social goals. Learn to live with loneliness, if not for anything else but for the sake of if you ever must. When you're content, perhaps not entirely happy, but content with loneliness then it's much easier to approach people and make social contacts. That is because you have nothing to lose and you know you'll be just fine even if it doesn't work out. Starting from this context prevents you, out of desperation, from selling your soul for the company of people who don't make you feel good.

> At one point, the psychologists thought of designing a mobile app, a sort of electronic nagging mother, to help people break bad social habits. (You’d check an item off the list, say, if you remembered to talk to anyone that day—a store clerk or a librarian.) But they didn’t get funding for the software, so now they’re focusing on a simpler and more low-tech fix.

This mobile app sounds like something that would be really easy to write.

There are a lot of apps that could be used this way. I think http://lift.do might work well for this. And I know of people using our own http://beeminder.com for things like this.

This is helpful.

This will only help so much - it'll soon become a chore/annoyance, as it would become more of "checking the box" than actually "connecting with people".

This is a problem that can't solved by tech, mobile app etc (tech can only help a bit). I'm not sure simply "talking with store clerk" will help loneliness. If that is the case, talking to our bosses and other colleagues (who really don't care too much about anyone other than themselves - in many cases) should help, but we know it doesn't.

Also, we don't need a mobile app for this - just setting up a reminder on the calendar we use, should be more than enough.

As one grows older, making friends (and genuine connections) becomes more and more difficult. That is a problem worth solving.

I don't know that you can so easily dismiss other people as not being able to help. I have kept a journal for a while of my mood correlated with how many people I talk to. Granted n=1 and totally lacking rigor, the results for me indicate very easily that even simply asking "how are you" to the person who makes my lunch has a large impact.

I have made some quite close friends of the people who I interact with daily -- coworkers, baristas, cashiers etc. In my experience the depth of intimacy available to you depends on how much you're willing to risk. If you reveal yourself first, other people feel more comfortable following your lead.

What you wrote about how relations with others can be expected to be shallow is, IMO, what the article talks about when the researcher says that you have to suspend the beliefs and assumptions you make when approaching other people.

I'm not dismissing other people. I'm simply trying to say that talking to other people, just for the "sake of talking" doesn't help much. 10 minutes with people who we love and care about (and vice versa) is not the same as 10 minutes with a random person. That is why people feel lonely at parties, even though they are surrounded by dozens and dozens of people. Of course, it might very well happen that that 10 mins with a random person might turn into a life long friendship - which would be awesome. Perhaps it is worth trying it a few times (like Jim Carey from the move "Yes man") and see where it takes.

All I am trying to say is - talking to a person just to tick a box on an app, won't help (either of the parties). Being genuinely interested will. And this is not a problem that can be solved by tech. If anything, tech makes it easier to disconnect, rather than connect. It is much easier to spend 6 hours watching 3 movies on netflix on a sunday, back to back, than going out and actually talking to someone.

The key thing about connecting with another person, of being intimate, is being present.

When you "talk to a store clerk", you are talking to the role of a store clerk. The uniform. The representative of a corporate transaction machine. When you use an app and "check the box", generally, people do that as mindlessly as possible.

Technology does not solve this. An individual person's mindfulness extends this.

This leads to a lot of interesting insights. For example, there is a relationship between being "intimate" and "naked", and not necessarily in the physical sense.

We all have inner selves that we protect by layers of masks, rationalizations, and buffers. This is the vulnerable part of ourselves. And to connect with someone else is to bare that open.

Who really wants to open themselves up like that? That's quite a leap of courage and faith. It is also the supreme act of generosity and compassion.

So. You want to solve this? That's great! First solve it for yourself: be fully present. Learn to be mindful. Get in touch with the wounded part of yourself, and in doing so, learn to extend compassion to others around you.

What an app like that needs is /significance/ - it needs to be thought of as a big thing, and not just another annoying little app. Get some names behind it, some studies, something to give it a broader significance. Hell, maybe even make the application by prescription. That way you're not just being annoyed by another app, you're checking in on a prescribed therapy like replacing a band-aid on a wound.

Some of us should probably reach out to them. It does sound like a fairly straight forward app. Might even be a good hackathon project or fun size project which doesn't necessarily need to have monetary rewards.

Then reach out.

This is not solvable with technology.

Even easier, they could probably just provide a list of items to enter in an existing todo/calendar app.

I'm a fan of HabitRPG[1], been using it since the very first public version. It allows you set both positive and negative habits which you then track daily. Mobile app is coming soon, I hear.

[1] http://habitrpg.com

Isn't this exactly what Lift does?

I think Glenda can do recurring todo lists.

I often select text in articles as a visual cue which line I'm reading.

Why oh why does this site needs to pop up a "share" widget when selecting text?

Websites are really popping these "share" things all over the place lately.

Maybe the websites are lonely?

Use something like Evernote Clearly. It presents the content better and you will be able to select text without the widget popping up.


I'm with ya. Select, scroll, know where I was.

Just disable javascript for this page. (in opera at least)

I thought the part about gay men in-the-closet was interesting:

> the closeted man must police every piece of information known about him, live in constant terror of exposure or blackmail, and impose sharp limits on intimacy, or at least friendship

This phrase "police every piece of information known about him" would seem to apply to everyone who wishes to retain even a baseline level of online privacy in spite of the mega-entities seeking to acquire aggregate every possible scrap of online information.


Back in the 1980s, PBS had a science program hosted by Jim Hartz (Wikipedia says it was Innovation). It had a program about how the lack of touch -- physical contact from others -- also affected health. Part of that program showed the same kind of monkey research mentioned in this article. I once had a transcript. Too bad the program isn't online for all to see.

My girlfriend (a psychologyst) is doing a postgraduate course on Attachment.

Among a lot of material, she saw a lot of videos of monkey experiments, like Harlow's (mentioned in the article) and I saw some too :) . It's quite striking:


from the article

"Harlow subjected newborn rhesus macaques to appalling isolation—months spent in cages in the company only of “surrogate mothers” made of wire with cartoonish monkey heads and bottles attached. Luckier monkeys had that and cloth-covered versions of the same thing to cuddle. (It is remarkable what a soft cloth can do to calm an anxious baby monkey down.) In the most extreme cases, the babies languished alone at the bottom of a V-shaped steel container. Cruel as these experiments were, Harlow proved that the absence of mothering destroyed the monkeys’ ability to mingle with other monkeys, though the “cloth mother” could mitigate the worst effects of isolation."

the article goes on to show how there are different gene expressions amongst the differently-raised monkeys, and even posits that medication could help with the physical expressions of loneliness:

"Cole can imagine giving people medications to treat loneliness, particularly when it exacerbates chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. These could be betablockers, which reduce the physical effects of stress; anti-inflammatory medicine; or even Tylenol—since physical and emotional pain overlap, it turns out that Tylenol can reduce the pain of heartbreak."

The ending statement is:

"One message I take away from this is, ‘Hey, it’s not just early life that counts,’ ” he says. “We have to choose our life well.” "

The saddest "disease" ever: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hospitalism

Babies died simply because they were not held enough.

I liked the discussion about "'silos' in health policy, meaning that we see crime and low educational achievement as distinct from medical problems like obesity or heart disease."

It seems like medicine needs to be less short-sighted and integrate loneliness and nutrition and other non-medicinal factors into diagnoses and treatment.

There was a top article recently on how personal visits for chronic patients improves health A LOT:


it's clearly linked to the problems of loneliness - if patients form a bond with their nurse and know that someone cares, they're more likely to follow through with treatment.

and then there are the twinkle eyed ones that spend huge amounts of time alone (hermits, monks/nuns on long term solo retreat). It probably has less to do with being alone than feeling alone.

For lay people, however, living alone in the world goes against the grain; hard not to feel like an odd ball.

Something the article does not touch on is accepting the reality of alone-ness: we're all alone together (quote from an old friend).

It does have more to do with feeling alone.

Hermits, monks, nuns, sages, sadhus, ascetics, cultivators, shamans, mind travellers from all around the world of different wisdom traditions typically have essentially the same practice. Each is looking into themselves to gain insights about the world. This insight is at the core of everything:

    We live in an *illusion* that we are separate from each other.
This is at the core of the loneliness. To be intimate, to be connected, is to realize that how we are already connected.

When you know this, it does not matter whether you are physically isolated or not.

This isn't something that special people called monks or nuns can do. This is a capacity in each of us. That capacity is something we call love. Not "romance". Love. Love that a child has for his parent, love that a mother and father have for their child. Love among lovers and friends. Love for the people in your community. Love for the strangers you don't know.

So of course, "living alone in the world goes against the grain." The grain is to be connected. Anyone, lay or not, who separates themselves find themselves alone.

Separation comes in many forms. It isn't just physical. Being proud or ashamed is separation. Being proud makes you "above" or "better" than someone. That's separation. Being ashamed makes you want to hide away. That's separation. Being so angry and hateful of someone that you want to destroy their standing, status, credibility, resources, life -- yeah, that's a form of separation.

Being disgusted and averting your eyes from the homeless in the street is separation. Being disturbed and fearful of the mentally ill -- that too is separation. Being repulsed by the ugly and deformed, by the lepers and unclean, yeah, that is separation.

Being special: heh, yeah, that's the very essence of separation.

We're not "alone together". In wanting to be special, to be unique, to have our brand of personality, we want to carve out this little corner of "me". And in the very doing so, we create distance.

So get in touch with yourself; get in touch with your family and friends. Start with some affection, that's pretty easy :-)

Best comment of this article IMHO. Posting this just to catch the reader eye and maybe encourage 1 more person to read it.


This is amazing! So insightful.

Can I talk to you sometime via email? I'm interested in your thoughts about how to bring people together and be less lonely.

BTW why can't I follow you on quora?

Sure, feel free to email me.

I don't know why you can't follow me on Quora.

I don't see your email anywhere but sent you an invitation on linkedin. or pop me one.

"So get in touch with yourself; get in touch with your family and friends. Start with some affection, that's pretty easy :-)"

That's an interesting assumption. Perhaps there's another form of separation: playing the role of teacher ;-)

The all alone together expression is a koan, presumably you "get" it.

Sure, ok :-)

great comment


>Something the article does not touch on is accepting the reality of alone-ness: we're all alone together (quote from an old friend).

I don't think this is the same thing. Some people are demonstrably more alone than others, such as closeted men during the AIDS epidemic.

Agreed, but doesn't change the fact that we're all alone together.

Even connected people, with friends, family, and lovers by their side...exit stage left alone.

Loneliness is a layer thrown on top of fundamental alone-ness. Obviously life is more enjoyable when feeling connected, belonging and so on, but for many that's simply not in the cards.

If everyone felt accepted and loved, would it be life? Sounds more like heaven.

I believe you're missing the point: there are people who are way more lonely than the average person. From the article, I believe it is talking about people who are lonely and do not enjoy it (even if unconsciously).

> If everyone felt accepted and loved, would it be life? Sounds more like heaven.

Sounds like a challenge.

>If everyone felt accepted and loved, would it be life?


I'm probably entering the most lonely stage of my life at the moment, having my 3rd alcohol related arrest has really pushed me further down the hole.

Despite all of my legal problems, I'm still holding down the same job, but I feel at my age I've really done myself in. Obviously booze is a problem of which I've completely eradicated from my life over the past 2 months. The really sad part is I'm well adjusted otherwise and I graduated from a top CS program. I've wanted to work abroad but I feel I'm trapped now by my past and I'm really out of options to socialize on any meaningful level. I don't really know what to do at this point. This article spelled out a life of doom for me.

For what its worth I'm 28 and have 2 duis and a public intox charge.

1. Your subjective view of your own situation is very negative - "done myself in", "a life of doom" etc.

2. At the same time your situation is objectively good - you have a good profession and a good job, you're not complaining about health problems other than alcohol dependency, and you kicked the alcohol for two months now. Even if you went to jail you're out free now. The whole life is in front of you.

Given the obvious contradiction here, I suggest that you should not trust your own judgement, and instead defer to someone else until your judgement is repaired. This sort of discrepancy is indicative of anxiety-type disorder, the kind that impairs your ability to evaluate your situation and makes everything looks worse than it is. The best you can do is seek help from a professional psychotherapist, and do exactly as they instruct you. Do not deviate, do not "optimize", do not skip steps. Suspend all judgement and do exactly as you're told. Use your logical side to overrule your emotional side and just follow the program, because it's the right thing to do.

Thanks for the reply. The PI charge can be expunged next year so really I'll only have the 2 duis (one of which is ongoing but the nature of DUI laws its pretty much going to end up a conviction). Even before the first sight of legal trouble I was considering therapy but ive been afraid of being subscribed medication that may disconnect me even further or the social stigmatism of needing mental health help. Having your reply though has offered a much needed outside opinion.

Discuss it with therapist if you would prefer to reserve drugs as a last resort, and try all the other, non-chemical things first, such as CBT. You might even start by looking for a CBT-specializing therapist, as you are more likely to find understanding from them.

"I've wanted to work abroad but I feel I'm trapped now by my past"

Well, perhaps by international law (probably depends on the area) but make sure you're not looking for a geographic escape whenever you find yourself ready, your problems don't end in the US, obviously.

Still, 28 is fairly young to consider yourself "doomed".

> I feel I'm trapped now by my past and I'm really out of options to socialize on any meaningful level.

What's stopping you from socializing?

I just feel as part of being close with someone they should know I've had some problems, and in my experience most people would write me off at that point as there are plenty of others out there who are free and clear.

I think you should reconsider that position. I don't know anyone who lacks baggage. It mostly varies by type and color. That doesn't mean you shouldn't work on your issues. But, really, everyone has crap in their life of some sort, and they still need people. Of course, alone time can have its benefits, if you prefer that.

I do get a good dose of intimacy from online conversations with closes friends, and they do not even have to be in the same continent. In my country, kids in their teens (maybe even 20s) can't imagine a world without the internet (i.e. Facebook and Google). The internet is just that pervasive.

I'd really like to see a study on the effect online social networks have on our collective mental health. My gut feel is that social networks are a positive thing. I'm just happy that I will be able to maintain a certain level of intimacy with friends when I'm older and less mobile.

I wonder is anyone else feeling that the stigma of being alone is much worse than actually being alone? Thing is, if you voluntarily spend your weekends playing games, coding, walking in the nature or any other non-social activity it reflects negatively upon you. I've spent a lot of holidays all by myself doing what I enjoy, eating the holiday candy I like the most, and just relaxing. From what I can tell, "normal" people would feel miserable spending their time like that, so they assume that I too must feel miserable.

This caught my eye:

>In operations performed to relieve chronic pain, doctors have lesioned, or disabled, the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. After the surgery, the patients report that they can still sense where the trouble comes from, but, they add, it just doesn’t bother them anymore.

So there is a surgical procedure that removes the negative feelings of pain, without removing the actual feeling? What are the downsides to this procedure? I'm sure I must be missing something, but as described it sounds like something some, or even a lot of adults without chronic pain would want to get voluntarily. It seems perfect for people that need intense physical therapy in order to walk. Also for people like elite military operatives that may have to undergo extreme circumstances like torture. Would this surgery just make people not care about torture? Also for athletes, who could now push themselves to the physical limit due to now being able to endure great pain without being bothered.

Isolation, not voluntary loneliness. And all the harmful effects, it seems, related to the stress and anxiety.

Voluntary loneliness, on the contrary, is beneficial, at least, to some yogis and Himalayan saints.)

"Did God want us to die when we got stressed? The answer is no. What He wanted is for us not to be alone. Or rather, natural selection favored people who needed people."

These are both the same thing though. Essentially we're herd animals, and as such we're designed to die if we aren't contributing to the herd. Probably so that if we can't pass on our own genes we can at least increase the chances that someone with similar genes can pass theirs along, by virtue of not wasting resources.

We're not herd animals -- more like band or pack animals. We have a more sophisticated social structure with more complex roles than is implied by the term "herd".

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