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Now Both Less Lonely and More Lonely
June 20, 2012 9:06 AM   Subscribe

In October 2011, Jeff Ragsdale went around New York City posting flyers that read "If anyone wants to talk about anything, call me (347) 469-3173. Jeff, One Lonely Guy." So far, he's received more than 70,000 calls, text messages, and photos.

Sonja Chung, discussing (in part) Ragsdale's new book in the essay On Loneliness: Art, Life, and Fucking Human Beings, says that
Jeff’s goal, it seems, is to break down all protective boundaries between those who hide, deny, or manage their loneliness and those who act it out; between creepy privilege and fully-blown desperation.
(Both the website and the essay discuss abuse, sometimes graphically.)
posted by davidjmcgee (16 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Who could have guessed that this 100% sincere effort to forge connections with others would evolve into a book and a tumblr?
posted by brain_drain at 9:16 AM on June 20, 2012 [24 favorites]


Reminds me of what is perhaps the best flier I have ever seen on a telephone pole:
Dinner? Friday? Your place?
I'm also free on Wednesday

Below this were tabs with a phone number on them. No one had taken one and I was too broke (or so I thought) to have dinner guests at the time. I regret that now and think I should have taken one.
posted by Hactar at 9:20 AM on June 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


Very true. Whenever I do anything I think "Would this action be the makings of a tumblr, blog post, tweet or status update?" If the answer is yes, I stop immediately.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:22 AM on June 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


Just came by to say "Ragsdale." Hah. Ragsdale. Ragsdale Ragsdale Ragsdale. Haha.
posted by gonna get a dog at 9:22 AM on June 20, 2012


the best flier I have ever seen on a telephone pole

My favorite is still cortex's.
posted by davidjmcgee at 9:23 AM on June 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


The cynic in me would never have guessed that there really was a "Jeff". I would have assumed that when you dialed that number you'd get a call center for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or a marketing company trying to sell you on a dating service.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 9:27 AM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


You weren't cynical enough about the marketing department's lack of imagination, clearly.
posted by jaduncan at 9:41 AM on June 20, 2012


Who could have guessed that this 100% sincere effort to forge connections with others would evolve into a book and a tumblr?

Usually I hate snarky comments right off the bat, but I gotta admit this one made me chuckle, even though I enjoyed the Sonja Chung article quite a bit. Really though what does the presence of lonely stories say about the world or human beings that we don't know? Do people actually enjoy reading things like this or just reading about them? Miranda July crafts them into fictional art that I enjoy because the characters don't choose to tell their stories, the author shines a light on their lives and they walk through the spotlight, but tumblrs of people holding signs and Post Secret and transcripts of people's childhood traumas... I dunno...it just seems like complaining? I mean god bless em if this helped Jeff or the people who contacted him, I see the argument that it's helpful to have a connection, but therapeutically shouldn't they be connecting on the basis of something other than than the desire to connect? Shouldn't Jeff be making art instead of collecting other people's dysfunctions? Real questions.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:04 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I haven't read Jeff's book so I am going purely on the Chung's essay. It is odd that we passively observe strangers open up and confess to Jeff. I'm not sure what he gets out of it, insignt into human behavior, a voyeuristic thrill, or simply something to do. We become observers, watching him and becoming complicit in his actions. It is really similar to the scene in Blue Velvet where we watch Jeffrey watch Frank beat Dorothy or the passage in white noise where we watch Jack observe Murray observe the throngs of people photographing The Most Photographed Barn in America.

It is a strange and interesting excercise.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:09 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


So here's his number. Call him, maybe?
posted by dr_dank at 10:17 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can't that would make an interesting blog post.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:19 AM on June 20, 2012


The fact that an entirely predictable book emerged from this does not change the rather remarkable fact that 70,000 lonely people made contact.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:14 AM on June 20, 2012


When Barbara Walters asks Jeff about the people who seem to thrive on living alone, Jeff says, "I think that's a very small percentage of people, and those people I would suggest are wired differently. Because it's completely against our instincts."

First, I'd say it's a much larger percentage than you'd expect. Second, way to marginalize people who think differently than you! I'm not a freak, I get the best of both worlds. I live alone and it's seriously pretty great for me to be totally by myself for a few hours a day. It's nourishing. When I want to do things with people, I do things with people. Quite a few of us need a space where we can simply be by ourselves for a while. Even when you live with a partner, that's often the case. Perhaps what he's thinking of is true loneliness - living alone, having absolutely no friends or friendly interactions with anyone. Sure, that'd be hard on just about anyone. But plenty of us love a balance between solitude and socializing. There's a huge difference between "lonely" and "alone." I'm often the latter, but I can't remember the last time I truly felt lonely.
posted by naju at 11:24 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I sent a text from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, mentioned that it was 95 degrees at 10:40 p.m.
posted by ambient2 at 11:45 AM on June 20, 2012


the people who seem to thrive on living alone, Jeff says, "I think that's a very small percentage of people, and those people I would suggest are wired differently.

Looks like Jeff's on his way to a theory of Extraversion and introversion. About 90 years late, but hey.

Personally I become an introvert when the people in my life get weird. Then I wait until the coast's clear and become an extrovert. Rinse and repeat.
posted by Twang at 1:30 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


P.S. Just found this apropos piece: Why Go Out?

I’m always super-conscious of how whenever I go out into the world, whenever I get involved in a relationship, my idea of who I think I am utterly collides with the reality of who I actually am. And I continue to go out even though who I am always comes up short. I always prove myself to be less generous, less charming, less considerate, not as bold or energetic or intelligent or courageous as I imagined in my solitude. And I’m always being insulted, or snubbed, or disappointed. And I’m never in my pyjamas.
And yet, in some way, maybe this is better.

posted by Twang at 1:52 PM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


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