I'm lonely. Is that so odd?
July 27, 2012 9:37 AM   Subscribe

I'm lonely. Is that so odd? "All these methods of communication and yet nobody's communicating with me."
posted by feelinglistless (72 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Achingly eponysterical.
posted by bicyclefish at 9:50 AM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


This whole article came off as pointless -- humblebrag, sad, humblebrag, sad, ad infinitum -- and then I checked out Marion McGilvary's other articles for the Guardian, which include "My very empty nest" and "Sad, single and sex-starved."

This is less of a startling insight into the 21st-century human condition than it is a bunch of witless shtick.
posted by griphus at 9:53 AM on July 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


woman needs a guy--love, sex, companionshi[p. Why not simply note that?
posted by Postroad at 9:54 AM on July 27, 2012


This is a goddamn melancholy read, but it seems like it has less to do with the internet than it does with the less savory realities of modern adult life. The internet seems to be amplifying her loneliness, but...once you're out of school and most people are married (with or without children), it can be very difficult to make the time to see each other. I just scheduled a meetup with a friend - who lives a half-hour walk from where I do - in September because he has two young kids and works 60 hours a week. For my money, it's the shittiest thing about adulthood.
posted by "But who are the Chefs?" at 9:56 AM on July 27, 2012 [15 favorites]


I do not think it is so odd. But I think the overabundance of communication methods can actually make it harder to connect with people (do I pin pictures? make a tumblr post? make a gif? a short movie? write an article in a reputable news site? a blog post? contribute to a message board or other online community? livejournal? upvotes? put a pretty pic on deviantart? make something for etsy? write ALL the tweets?). With so many options I'm never sure of the best way of saying it. not even sure what I wanted to say in the first place. But if you never say it, you'll never be heard, and no one will talk to you, and..
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 9:56 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nice to see the NYT style section getting some competition in the insufferable, over-written lifestyle piece.
posted by kagredon at 9:57 AM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


woman needs a guy--love, sex, companionshi[p. Why not simply note that?

I wasn't really a fan of the article either, I think it was pretty boring and I tried to get through it but honestly I just couldn't finish it. That said, I think "woman needs a guy" is dismissive in a way that is both not carefully thought out and unfair to women. If a woman is lonely there are other options for companionship. What about "woman needs a puppy and a vibrator?" I think that's also a nice combination of love, sex, and companionship without implying that women need men in order to be complete.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:57 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I do agree the article didn't have a very strong point. Also note that she does mention in this article that she has a lover. So I guess that's not the problem (maybe)
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 9:57 AM on July 27, 2012


"Important update! Area woman who is uninteresting complains about having few friends. More news on this breaking story at 11."
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:01 AM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Last night, Raffi tweeted "Social media mega-use in part due to a craving for connection > may somehow soothe existential angst. right?"

"Humans are good, and want to be around other humans," I said. "This counts, I think?"

"Except social media is the opposite of proximity," said Raffi.

"Physically, yes," I said, suddenly conscious of the fact that I was talking about existential angst with Raffi. "But the idea of being loosely, ambiently aware of what's going on in other people's lives is very humane."

Raffi said nothing, but tweeted out a Moody Blues song called "I Know You're Out There Somewhere."
posted by bicyclefish at 10:03 AM on July 27, 2012 [11 favorites]


It's brilliant that she's developed a way to write extended-length singles ads for herself and at the same time be paid as a columnist.
posted by MegoSteve at 10:04 AM on July 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Could be an Onion article with minor edits. Area Woman Remains Uncommunicated With.

Not to be flippant about her feelings, but sometimes feeling lonely is part of being alive and human, yes? Are we really supposed to be social, or even happy, ALL the damn time?
posted by Sing Or Swim at 10:05 AM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Expecting all lifestyle pieces to be scintillatingly, provokingly awesome is missing the point. I like that someone felt that these small complaints - complaints the author herself notes are small! - were worth complaining about.

Misery loves company, even small misery. We probably aren't supposed to be happy ALL the damn time, and a good way to change the norms around what constitutes an acceptable level of happiness is to allow people the space to talk about their feelings - even the bad ones - without being mocked or put down.

People who overuse 'insufferable' in reference to lifestyle articles need to get some more fucking compassion.
posted by Fraxas at 10:10 AM on July 27, 2012 [19 favorites]


Really? I don't think it's inappropriate to expect paid writing for public consumption to be some combination of interesting, insightful, or informative. Otherwise you've just put your diary online. And honestly, I don't get a sense of genuine feeling from this article: it's a hash of old cliches, attempted wit, and the kind of self-pity that is always more indulgent than enlightening. When I say insufferable, I mean that phrases like "I'm reading a thriller, which is living up to its name" and "My life is too big for me. I've shrunk in the wash. I'm a desperate housewife, without the rest of the cast." make me wonder what money went into this that the Guardian could've spent on something better.
posted by kagredon at 10:18 AM on July 27, 2012


Its perfectly possible to be lonely while in close proximity to other people, if you have very little in common with them. I am a 40 year old woman with two small kids, who works in a large open-plan office filled mainly with single, childless 20-something men. I often feel lonely at work, being unable to join in their social chats, and knowing that topics that interest me will not interest them. When I am at home, I love being with my kids, but I can't have adult social chit-chat with them. My partner is frequently working late, so we don't get much time to chat any more. I interact mainly online with my friends, some of whom live in the same city, some live on the other side of the world. When I go online and find posts/tweets/emails from my friends and a little conversation springs up, I feel happy and warm. When there's nothing new going on online, I can feel lonely.
posted by Joh at 10:19 AM on July 27, 2012 [16 favorites]


I made some good points about this in a conversation on twitter the other day.
posted by straight at 10:24 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sounds like she needs a therapist.

She has children, who at least from her perspective, don't ignore her completely. She has social activities. She has people she calls friends, and she has a "lover," which I assume to be a sexual relationship, and not a euphemism for a vibrator.

So basically, if she feels lonely, she needs someone to help her figure out why. Why is there a hole in her life that cannot be filled by any of this?
posted by explosion at 10:24 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


but sometimes feeling lonely is part of being alive and human, yes?

I think she would agree with you and that the point of her article is that loneliness is a part of life but that being lonely and admitting you're lonely has become socially unacceptable, and that is a worthwhile point to be made.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 10:30 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


People who overuse 'insufferable' in reference to lifestyle articles need to get some more fucking compassion.

I do not see that the author is seeking compassion. Rather, I join her in cheering her success as a modern, independent woman. A review of her columns is an ode to triumph:

I'm lonely. Is that so odd?

My very empty nest
Sad, single and sex-starved
posted by Tanizaki at 10:33 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rather, I join her in cheering her success as a modern, independent woman.

Okay, yeah, I (obviously) didn't like the article either, but I'm with Mrs Pterodactyl in wondering why people are going into weirdly gendered places with their slams.
posted by kagredon at 10:35 AM on July 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


Are we really supposed to be social, or even happy, ALL the damn time?
No, but I mean, we're (most of us) wired to need long term, meaningful relationships with other human beings that can't be completely fulfilled through puppies, vibrators or social networks, however great two out of those three may be; and, for the most part, we've pretty much made it a staple of Western culture to ignore that and deride people who bring it up.

I'd very much prefer living in a society in which relationships and human beings are valued over work and "productivity." I think it's sad that--at least here in the US--we put an emphasis on romantic/sexual relationships as almost necessary, but don't really value relationships in a deeper sense.

I've spent most of my adult life alone, with maybe a year or two here and there rekindling old relationships and forming new relationships. Only this year have I gotten to a point where other people call/text me on a semiregular basis, and I have a bittersweet awareness that, once the semester is over, all my friends are going to scatter and we'll lose contact with one another.

I just can't shake the feeling that this isn't the way it's supposed to be. I wasn't made for this.
posted by byanyothername at 10:43 AM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


If a woman is lonely there are other options for companionship. What about "woman needs a puppy and a vibrator?"

Because that is no more accurate than saying all a man needs from the world is a pet fish and access to internet porn.

It's not about gender; it's about humanity and the need for meaningful social contact that the overwhelming majority of humans both seek and need.
posted by modernnomad at 10:46 AM on July 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


So she has friends. She has children. She's comfortably off. Excuse my heart for failing to bleed.
posted by Decani at 10:47 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm Lonely (And I Love It)
posted by Rangeboy at 10:49 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not about gender; it's about humanity and the need for meaningful social contact that the overwhelming majority of humans both seek and need.

Right, but the "puppy and a vibrator" comment was responding to the notion that for women, that contact can only come in the form of a romantic/sexual relationship with a man.
posted by kagredon at 10:57 AM on July 27, 2012


She should get some hobbies that involve other people.
posted by frenetic at 11:12 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know, it's not wow what a great read, there's something a bit too fluffy and unconvincing about it, but I guess there are lots of women in similar situations who could relate (and there were in the comments to her previous article on the 'empty nest'). I don't see all this insufferability - she's well aware she has nothing to complain about, but she's talking about missing someone to come home to. I think some people either haven't read the whole thing or are mistaking the (attempt at) self-deprecation/irony for straightforward whining.

Anyway, if this is too depressing here's the antidote from the same Lifestyle/Family section of the same paper - a heartwarming story complete with an open plug for their own dating service. It'll be a while before those two get to the empty nest problem...
posted by bitteschoen at 11:17 AM on July 27, 2012


There's certainly nothing wrong with admitting to being lonely. Hobbies pass the time, but certainly don't replace companionship, which is what this woman is likely referring to. A lover isn't a companion, simply a person you've come to an understanding with about sex. Adult children, busy with their own lives, are certainly not the daily companionship that staves off loneliness.

It sounds like this woman is divorced and hasn't quite moved on--or is reluctant to try and find herself a companion, be it a dog or another boyfriend (or girlfriend...you never know).

But to sympathize with her statements, you can be surrounded by hundreds of people yet still be utterly alone.

For all our technology that allows us to keep in touch with one another, it seems increasingly difficult to actually forge friendships in a meaningful way. Or perhaps our standards have risen along with technology and merely talking is no longer sufficient to sate our desire for companionship and comfort.
posted by stubbehtail at 11:20 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's a general feeling of uselessness and alienation that isn't solved that having a job, a good fuck, or a puppy. I have to admit I'm somewhat surprised at a lot of the dismissive comments here. Yes, positive feelings about your life and importance to others are not survival level concerns but, jesus, this woman just spent a couple hundred words saying she's not only in pain but feels "embarrassed" for being in pain. Show some kindness.
posted by cheap paper at 11:26 AM on July 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


I've managed to get through about a quarter of the article so far, and all the emphasis is on a lack of - for want of a better word - electronic friends. Just because social media is trendy doesn't mean that Meatspace has suddenly disappeared. As frenetic pointed out, she could get a hobby, or take a yoga class, or go to a pub, or something, and (*gasp* the audacity!) try talking to someone she doesn't know. Old-school style!

All of this assumes, of course, that this is a real-life issue for the author, rather than her simply having inventing a "problem" for the sake of column inches.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:32 AM on July 27, 2012


So basically, if she feels lonely, she needs someone to help her figure out why.
Being lonely is mostly mental, so I agree with this. Honestly, she sounds like she's fighting depression or something else if she has family, friends and a lover that she can't connect with.

Being alone is circumstantial, being lonely is a choice.
posted by peacrow at 11:35 AM on July 27, 2012


Reading further: "I volunteer, I write, I belong to a choir, a quiz team, an evening class and Chelsea football club...." And apparently, all without speaking to her fellow humans. Yeah, ok, invented column-fodder problem, and I'm done.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:37 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm so lonely, I wish everyone would just leave me alone.
posted by Debaser626 at 11:51 AM on July 27, 2012


Reading her column history as linked by griphus up there near the top is illuminating. Every damn one of them is about the gentle ennui she feels about the current state of her life. One such article, if thoughtful and insightful, can be a good thing. Several are self-indulgence. If they're all like that then frankly, the source of your problem is self-illuminating: you're a crashing, self-absorbed bore.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:55 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, I'm the only one who liked the article and found it an interesting commentary on modern life? Thanks, feelinglistless, for posting this.
posted by Houstonian at 11:58 AM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


"All these methods of communication and yet nobody's communicating with me."

I was at a party recently where some people had brought their teenage kids. This is what I imagined I was seeing.

Yes, I'm old and I don't have kids, how could you tell?
posted by mmrtnt at 12:05 PM on July 27, 2012


I liked it and I think it points to an aspect of our society that many people feel but can't clearly articulate.
posted by byanyothername at 12:07 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, I want to join the "oh em gee 1st world problems stop whining" brigade, but almost against my will I found this article emotionally affecting. Her writing is not good and I would probably find her deadly dull (or even actively infuriating) in person, and I suppose it is an injustice (though a very slight one) that a boring person has got a better platform to speak from than other, more interesting people do, but the article did manage to leave me thinking hard about that particular nagging dissatisfaction that I feel when there's not enough I-don't-know-what in my life, and I count that as a big point to its favor.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that she's a very bad no good boring writer, but that she's picked what seems to me to be a Very Important Topic, in unironic caps, and so I feel like I can give her a pass for not being David Foster Wallace or whatever.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:08 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


The article started out going someplace very interesting, but then wandered off into self-pity. But this line about raising children did stand out to me.

You raise them to be confident, caring, well-adjusted, independent adults with rich, fulfilled lives and friends of their own. You can't whine about being lonely if they then do just that.

My mom has said this to me in a variety of ways as I have become an adult. She's both proud of me and a little frustrated that my version of success does not involve living in the town I grew up in and being close to home. She sees my cousins, who have made vastly different educational and vocational choices, and their geographical closeness to their parents and is somewhat envious. But at the same time, she's proud that I've lived on my own and been financially stable for most of my adult life.

And as I get older, it seems like this is a tradeoff that many adult children and parents have to deal with. On one hand, we are encouraged to be our own people, pursue our own dreams, and explore our worlds, but at the same time being physically distant from one's family is something to be pitied.

Or as my aunt put it, "They go off to college, they get a job, they meet someone and fall in love. That's all fine and good to do some place else. But when they start giving me grandbabies, I expect them to be here. Where home is."
posted by teleri025 at 12:10 PM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Its a pity that the era of paid companions for Dowagers in their dotage is past.
posted by infini at 12:12 PM on July 27, 2012


Oops.

I guess I should have read the article before linking that cartoon.

Not really the same thing... sorry
posted by mmrtnt at 12:16 PM on July 27, 2012


Because that is no more accurate than saying all a man needs from the world is a pet fish and access to internet porn.

It's not about gender; it's about humanity and the need for meaningful social contact that the overwhelming majority of humans both seek and need.


Yeah, sorry, my point was that "finding a man" isn't a panacea for female ills and suggesting that this woman just needs to acquire someone she can use for sex and hanging out doesn't really address that point. Also although I wasn't a fan I really don't like the dismissal of female concern as "woman needs a man blah blah blah" which I think happens fairly frequently.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:16 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


It sounds like this woman is divorced and hasn't quite moved on--or is reluctant to try and find herself a companion, be it a dog or another boyfriend (or girlfriend...you never know).

woman needs a guy--love, sex, companionshi[p. Why not simply note that?

It's brilliant that she's developed a way to write extended-length singles ads for herself

She should get some hobbies that involve other people.

As frenetic pointed out, she could get a hobby, or take a yoga class, or go to a pub, or something...


It's frustrating to see people commenting without seemingly reading the article. It's as if the writer is saying something that doesn't fit neatly into a certain category, so there's outright dismissal of what's she saying. Even though the article started off with her happily sinking into a chair and reading a book when she got home. So she's clearly happy with being alone.

But I think the writer hits on a point of modern life. When she looks up from the book after a few hours and realizes there's no one there and there's been no attempt for anyone to communicate with her, despite the addition of numerous new ways of communicating. The joy of solitude has grown weaker, at least for this person. Because in a 24 hour cycle of overlapping social circles, it can be sometimes be disquieting, to find no one is talking to you. There are numerous and constant parties going on, both in real life and online. What does it mean when one can disappear from that party and not be missed?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:25 PM on July 27, 2012 [20 favorites]


It's probably the cat's fault.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:29 PM on July 27, 2012


I kept expecting her to mention how hard it is to make close friends when you get older.

Maybe it's just me, but I have very few friends I've known for less than 20 years.

posted by mmrtnt at 12:36 PM on July 27, 2012


I know I get sick of always being the one to reach out to people and everyone is just so busy, but damned if they won't call me when they want to have the emotional satisfaction of everyone coming to their massive party, so they can put a bunch of pictures on Facebook and look popular to all their other fake buddies.

I understand that there are other priorities; SOs, children, work, parents, community service, time alone, but damn, really? I can't contact someone I thought was a friend just to shoot the shit a couple times a week? A whole week can go by and if I don't call other people, no one calls me? That's B-effin'-S . Then when I see them at some place or other, it's "Ohmigawd, HIIIIIIII! I totally meant to call you back from that time before! But, you know, I'm so busy!"

While I feel this woman's article did a rather poor job of putting a finger on the pulse of it, this is what I'm finding to be true as I get older, especially once people enter into romantic relationships, only to have phone calls come when they've broken up. I can't tell you how many people like that I've had to call out or cut out because of that garbage.

Anyway.[/rant]
posted by droplet at 12:40 PM on July 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


especially once people enter into romantic relationships, only to have phone calls come when they've broken up

Yep.
posted by sweetkid at 1:26 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Alone, lonely, lone what does it all mean? Let's hear from the man himself, Batmanuel. (The Tick, 2001)

Captain Liberty: Manuel, we're not lonely, are we?
Batmanuel: We? No. No, no, no, no. We're too attractive to be lonely.
Capt. Liberty: Yeah, but we are *alone.*
Batmanuel: I'm not alone. Spinsters, shut-ins, toll booth attendants — these are alone people. Batmanuel is *lone* — as in Lone Ranger, or lone wolf. "Alone" is an unfortunate predicament. "Lone" is an aesthetic choice.
posted by Zack_Replica at 1:32 PM on July 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


I definitely got what she was saying. It's definitely weird to see how much hype social networking gets but in practice people don't really understand it. I thought when facebook had been out for a few years and non-college kids started joining, it would be something like interacting with my real-life acquaintances as if they were online friends, where everyone just shared and commented on everything all the time. That was the whole point of being online. Now it's like I have to remember not to share or comment too much with the wrong people and remember what individual status I have with everyone lest to not make too much noise because no one else is doing that, no one really wants to know, no one cares about anything, no one has any opinions about anything and if they did it would be declasse to share them. I don't get it. So yeah it feels lonely. It's like going through life as one big party where no one is talking to you.
posted by bleep at 1:43 PM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I invited her to join my comic book club. I knocked on her door, sent a letter, emailed, tweeted, blogged, Facebooked, contacted the Guardian, yelled from the rooftop, did a public broadcast, prayed to Jesus to tell her, and even enacted my invitation using puppets on her windowsill and all I have to show for it is a restraining order and this lousy T-shirt.
posted by snap_dragon at 2:03 PM on July 27, 2012


however great two out of those three may be

Why do you hate puppies?
posted by axiom at 2:31 PM on July 27, 2012


If the reaction to this rather okay article -- not overwritten, not loathsome, not tedious -- is any indication, we're all so lonely because we have such outrageously high standards about interacting with anyone in our non-immediate lives (and sometimes those in our immediate lives as well) that anything or anyone without the capacity to excite a certain repetitive high-dopamine threshold we automatically dismiss as "boring" or "meh" or "tl;dr" or "Why the hell even bother, man?"
posted by blucevalo at 2:53 PM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


She needs a dog. "Problem" solved.
posted by Wordwoman at 3:41 PM on July 27, 2012


This woman's life sounds like utter bliss.
Funny how we always want what we can't have, and don't want what we do have.
posted by Catch at 4:13 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess true loneliness is reading an article about a lonely person and realizing the author has it much better than you do. Since my Dad's death it's quiet most of the time. I can email some people or talk to them on the phone, but that's about it for human contact. Yesterday I petted a cat in front of a bookshop, and it was the first time I'd physically touched another creature in... Quite awhile. There are birds and rabbits and people going by, but no else here. Technology like the Internet is nice, and it really does help. But you can't live on that alone.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:50 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Biggest Dreamer: I do not think it is so odd. But I think the overabundance of communication methods can actually make it harder to connect with people...

It's not that it's harder. It's actually easier to engage people in casual conversation now. Instead of being That Weird Person who tries to talk to cashiers and people on the bus, you can just pick an interesting forum somewhere and dive right in. But Internet friendships aren't really deep... Maybe it's different for other people, but I've been here for over thirteen years and I can't say I've ever made a real friend on the Internet. It's all talk about subjects and surface connections... And there's nothing wrong with that. But you can't just call up people from Mefi or Reddit or wherever and just say "Hi," or go to a game with them. Twenty years from now we won't be reminiscing about all the great friendships we had online.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:15 PM on July 27, 2012


But Internet friendships aren't really deep... Maybe it's different for other people, but I've been here for over thirteen years and I can't say I've ever made a real friend on the Internet. It's all talk about subjects and surface connections... And there's nothing wrong with that. But you can't just call up people from Mefi or Reddit or wherever and just say "Hi," or go to a game with them. Twenty years from now we won't be reminiscing about all the great friendships we had online.

This statement doesn't match my experience at all. There are people I've been friends with for over a decade, now, who I absolutely count among my closest pals, and whom I initially met online (while living on the other side of the planet from them, mostly). None of them live nearby, unfortunately, or we would definitely be hanging out in person. I was at a conference recently, and took advantage of the opportunity to have dinner with a dear friend (met online, have had sporadic in-person meetings over the years) who was one of my biggest supports when I left my husband. I've both hosted and been hosted by "online" friends at their home (or mine), even if we'd never met personally before.

Some of my online friendships have faded, some have continued, some are strong and some are more superficial... just like my in-person friendships.
posted by Superplin at 5:29 PM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Why do you hate puppies?
I just took in a new puppy, so this is actually a really easy question to answer! The teeth. The fucking teeth.
posted by byanyothername at 6:29 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


But Internet friendships aren't really deep... Maybe it's different for other people, but I've been here for over thirteen years and I can't say I've ever made a real friend on the Internet. It's all talk about subjects and surface connections... And there's nothing wrong with that. But you can't just call up people from Mefi or Reddit or wherever and just say "Hi," or go to a game with them. Twenty years from now we won't be reminiscing about all the great friendships we had online.

Um...why can't you just call up someone you've communicated with online? Assuming you've actually yabbled with them behind the scenes, sent an email or pinged them on IM to say "Hey, that was pretty funny, what do you think about [insert thing here]?" or otherwise chatted privately?

I just spent the day with a friend I met on Usenet 15 years ago. He lives in Seattle, I live in OH, but you'd think we grew up together. Three weeks ago, I had a whole bunch of people over for the weekend that I had met in the same newsgroup. They come here, I go to their houses...hell, even our kids hang out together these days, and we all kind of marvel at that. They're not my "internet friends", they're pretty much family now.

Friendships are what you make them. They require a bit of effort, but they're worth it.
posted by MissySedai at 8:02 PM on July 27, 2012


Yabbled with them behind the scenes?
posted by Kevin Street at 8:06 PM on July 27, 2012


Yes, Kevin. Chattered over email or IM or MeMail or whatever your preferred private mode of communication is, rather than only out in public where everyone is in on the conversation.
posted by MissySedai at 8:09 PM on July 27, 2012


> Chattered over email or IM or MeMail or whatever your preferred private mode of communication is, rather than only out in public where everyone is in on the conversation.

You make it sound so easy! I habitually write MeMail to people who make interesting responses on AskMeFi or write interesting comments on the blue. Sometimes I write to ask specific questions or to follow up on something in more detail. And sometimes I get words of thanks or follow-up questions based on something I posted myself. I almost always write back, but the conversation never goes on for more than 1-2 turns. People simply don't write back. I've concluded that, for whatever reason, the users I'm in contact with on MeFi aren't interested in one-on-one conversation. They're great for a shout-out or a word of encouragement, not so great as online pen pals. I'm not the reason you're here. I've been on MeFi for over two years and, honestly, it's hard for me to think of any of you as individuals. Running into some of you in real life has, if anything, been worse: it's like you're meeting a stranger who knows a lot about your personal life. It's a weird and backwards experience for both parties. So, if you've got tips about turning online "co-presence" into IRL camaraderie, please share them!
posted by Nomyte at 8:54 PM on July 27, 2012


Wow, this is the last place I thought that would be lacking in so much empathy for something as painful as loneliness.

Loneliness is definitely not a choice.

It's only now, as I turn 40, that I am at ease with my solitude. I can literally count on the fingers of one hand the number of times, I fit in (kindergarten, summer camp, 2nd year of Uni).

It's not about socializing or having hobbies - it's having that emotional bond with the other person. It's about mutuality (is that a word)? Liking the other person as much as he/she likes you. Trusting each other. This is not about small talk about your job and your home renovations at some party, or even about your favourite sports team or TV show.

It's something more visceral than calculated or logical or procedural.

I watch other people - perfectly good and fine people - men and women - and see them struggle with the same issues as I. And it breaks my heart to see them suffer because I know their pain. I've felt it since I was 10, at least.

I've spent a lot of time asking myself why I don't have any friends, other than my spouse. I'm a nice guy; I'll help you move; I'll cook you dinner. Am I too picky? I've tried bonding. It doesn't work. It had been so long since I was "out for a beer", that when it finally did happen, I think I prepared more for it than I did for my first date.

But you know, as I write this, I think it has to do with acceptance. Real acceptance. With real acceptance, comes real admiration. And when someone feels your admiration, they notice you on a more emotional level. And then there might be a chance.

So you know, maybe the cure for lonliness does lie in the one who is lonely. But it's not about joining a club or volunteering at the whatever. It's learning to truly accept people for who they are. Not a "logical" acceptance, but a visceral or emotional acceptance.
posted by bitteroldman at 10:01 PM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Anyway - to all of you who are reading this, who are feeling lonely - here's to you - I truly hope you find people who fulfill you just as much as you fulfill them.
posted by bitteroldman at 10:05 PM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I guess what I'm trying to say is that she's a very bad no good boring writer, but that she's picked what seems to me to be a Very Important Topic, in unironic caps, and so I feel like I can give her a pass for not being David Foster Wallace or whatever.

DFW's psychological eccentricities led him to put us out of his misery, not something I'd want for Ms. McGilvary (or any lonely writer of whatever talent).
posted by mistersquid at 11:44 PM on July 27, 2012


Just finished the reading the article. It's not so long and it's not too bad. I didn't find it too self-pitying either. Ms. McGilvary seemed to wonder in a highly-structured meditative way about the nature of her loneliness by (mostly) noting what her loneliness is not.

I thought the article was better than bad.
posted by mistersquid at 12:00 AM on July 28, 2012


I really wonder about the idea that human beings all need deep connections to others to be healthy. I see this idea everywhere, and frankly feel that like all things human there is probably a continuum. I think I will stop worrying that my lack of deep connection and my utter lack of wanting this kind of connection makes me somehow deficient.

I'm awesome at interacting at work or with strangers on a basic social level. People can also tell me heavy stuff and I'm cool with it and like to think have a little insight into issues people have in their lives. But I don't want people to call me, visit me, IM me, email me or hang out with me and it really just does not cross my mind to want to do any of those things to someone else.

When not at work I like to be by myself, period, and worrying about how "unhealthy" it is is probably more stressful than just getting on with it.
posted by moneyjane at 1:25 AM on July 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I like to watch this video whenever I get this feeling, which is quite often I have to admit...
posted by ts;dr at 3:09 AM on July 28, 2012


I clicked the number next to the 'tweet' button to see tweets posting the link and aside from a couple of 'hates' most comments found it at least interesting if not resonating with them on a personal level.

Someone wrote "the result of this modern neo-liberal lifestyle: loneliness and isolation in a super connected world" but seems to me that's only one of the incidental side topics she just hints at. In the end it *is* mainly about post-divorce loneliness, and about a woman missing her kids (even knowing they will be back, at least for a while) and missing a man to share her life with - there's nothing weak or damning or antifeminist in acknowledging that, is it? It could have been a man writing post-divorce feeling the same way.

This is a woman who has *four* kids from that marriage. It's not an article about generic loneliness that can be attributed to modernity or technology or living in a big city or whatever - those may all be incidental contributing factors, and things a lot of people can relate to. It's about missing a family life and routine. This is a woman who suddenly finds herself alone at home when before there were six people in the house. (And she mentions her own parents are dead - I found that bit about missing the extended family dinners more touching than the rest.) It'd be odd if she didn't feel lonely!

And one of the things even non-divorced people will be able to relate to is the experience of finding herself "non-ambulatory" and realising the actual support network she could call upon is smaller than the wider social network - but that in my view is also not something you can attribute to general social habits or trends or external circumstances, because the support you need when you're ill or temporarily disabled from an injury is of the family type, of a partner, or a very very close friend. She's right about that - you can't just ask your book club friends or drinking buddies or work colleagues to come and bring you the shopping and keep you company and comfort you and take you to the doctor. Well you could and maybe someone will even do something for you on occasion, but it won't be the same thing as being stuck with an illness or injury and having someone living with you and caring for you, at home. Family, however you define it.
posted by bitteschoen at 3:36 AM on July 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think that there's a difference between loneliness and solitude.

I work in a retail environment, dealing with people all day every day. And honestly, I look forward to the time in the evening when I can get home, close the door and not have to deal with another person again until tomorrow. I don't hate people, or anything like that - I just find them very draining and if I'm honest, often not worth the hard work and energy that it costs me to deal with them. I do have a few friends who I get on with really well and I cherish them deeply, but I find myself preferring to meet them at their place, or go out for coffee, rather than have them come visit me.

Perhaps a better way of explaining is this: being around other people heats me up. Every interaction adds a few more calories of heat energy to me, and I need time alone to cool down. I love being able to sit and watch TV or read or crochet, or just loaf about daydreaming, without the added burden of having to deal with another human being, with all of their complicated eccentricities. Other people are a lot of hard work, I find. I guess other people probably think the same thing about me, or quite possibly worse.

I can count on one hand the times I've felt lonely in my lifetime. Generally, I crave lots of distance from other people. That said, the only thing that helped when I was feeling lonely was actually being around other people and interacting with them. It was a pretty horrible feeling, to ache for other people and not have any there. I guess I'm quite lucky that I haven't experienced that very much at all. Having that feeling a lot of the time must be extremely unpleasant. I find it interesting that Maslow puts social needs after the need for things like food and water. Harry Harlow did some experiments on baby monkeys, and found that those who had little to no social contact fared worse than those who had a normal amount. More info here.

Despite my misanthropic leanings, the best ways I've found to have more friends are to organise meetings amongst people who are already loosely connected to one another such as through work, and to make people laugh. People love to turn up to things where they'll feel good, especially if someone else is sorting everything out and they'll not have to put any effort in. And if they're laughing, so much the better. Working with people isn't a guarantee that you're going to get on with them, obviously, but if you want a connection with people, you have to try to make one. There's no point being passive about it, nor is there any point to giving up at the first hurdle. If you want people to want to be around you, be someone that people want to be around. There are an awful lot of people out there who want bonds with people, so maybe try forming a bond with some of them. Sitting at home in the dark with your cat waiting for someone to come rescue you from loneliness will not work.

I feel sorry, or pity, or maybe sympathy for Ms McGilvary, but she's not helping herself. When you know what the problem is, then that's your key to go about fixing it. You have to put energy into the system, or it just wastes away and dissipates. She's not putting any effort into making new connections to people, or even new connections to new people, it seems. Yeah, it's hard to make friends. I know, trust me. But what is the alternative?

I don't see why she thinks it's too late at 54 to make herself the most popular girl. She's now got 54 years of experience of living and making connections and doing things. That's a hell of a lot. If I'm honest, I'm a little bit jealous of that. I want to be that able and that capable. I want that many social skills and in fact skills of all kinds. It's going to take some creative usage of them, of course, but she seems to want the end result, so why not give it a try?

Maybe I'm just young and stupid. And maybe I'm missing the point of the article. But I think that life gets better as you get older. You have many more skills and options as an adult than you do as a child. You probably also have more self awareness too, and hopefully the skills to research how to solve your problems. You possibly also have more money to throw at solving the problem. I know that the past couple of years have been the best years of my life so far, and it just seems to be improving. It's hard work sometimes, to keep pushing the rock up the hill, but it's worth it. And lets face it, the rock isn't going to magically float up the hill of it's own accord, rather it will do the opposite.

I haven't really experienced much of the soul-crushing weight of loneliness, so maybe I should just shut up until I know more about what I'm talking about.
posted by Solomon at 3:55 AM on July 28, 2012


Nomyte: I've concluded that, for whatever reason, the users I'm in contact with on MeFi aren't interested in one-on-one conversation.

Well, not everyone is up for new friends, I suppose. But others...are. You have mail.
posted by MissySedai at 12:50 AM on July 29, 2012


So you know, maybe the cure for lonliness does lie in the one who is lonely. But it's not about joining a club or volunteering at the whatever. It's learning to truly accept people for who they are. Not a "logical" acceptance, but a visceral or emotional acceptance.

Not just accepting other people for who they are, but accepting yourself for who you are. Sounds ridiculous, but it's true.

I didn't have a lot of friends in high school. I didn't like myself very much then, and I think that probably made me seem cold or unpleasant. Once I figured out that I'm A-O-Good with being a great big nerd...things got a lot easier and more fun.
posted by MissySedai at 12:53 AM on July 29, 2012


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