It’s been the inspiration for popular classic songs, from Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and Elvis Presley’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” to the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” It’s an inescapable element of the human condition, as old as time—and as solo living becomes more prevalent, we debate its relationship to a growing sense of loneliness. Heck, even Hollywood stars like George Clooney and Jeremy Renner get lonely sometimes. But though it’s the yin that makes us appreciate the yang of connection and companionship, we shouldn’t romanticize it, as some claim that social media hyperconnectivity is actually making us all feel more alone.
In the U.K., loneliness is being called the great unspoken public health issue, and the Campaign to End Loneliness is targeting its deadly impact on the nation’s elderly; in Tokyo a phenomenon known as kodokushi (the “lonely death”) has emerged. Research linking social interaction with longer lifespans has informed the creation of programs to take the edge off seniors’ lonely days. Bosses and top executives may also be especially susceptible to loneliness, confirming the old adage “It’s lonely at the top.” One man has turned his sense of isolation into a moneymaker: “Jeff, One Lonely Guy” posted a flyer in NYC with his phone number and an invitation to talk; the poster went viral online and now Jeff has scored a book deal. Jeff is not so lonely anymore—and, from the looks of it, he’s a natural-born marketer, to boot.
“How we need another soul to cling to.” ―Sylvia Plath
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