Loneliness is a hot topic right now, but I mainly see it depicted as an unnecessary female issue or a contemporary epidemic.
The title “Single women: how to be happy, dating or alone” from The Guardian caught my eye, because I’m fascinated by Happiness How-To’s. The article collects tips from women across age ranges for how to be happy either single or pursuing relationships: “Don’t feel like a failure,” “Don’t be afraid of 40,” “Don’t take the decreasing numbers of men personally,” etc. I found the first sentences most interesting: “Times have never been better for single women. Long gone are the days when we needed a man to pay the bills and protect us.” I assume that’s a portrayal of marriage, meant to reassure single women that whatever loneliness they feel is unnecessary at this point in history. But I’m not persuaded. I’m not married, but I’m positive “to pay the bills and protect us” is not the reason women seek relationships or marriage.
A few clicks later on the same site, I landed on “Loneliness is an inevitable result of Britain’s economic model” tackling the idea from an entirely different angle. The article starts with a really scary story from 2003 where a woman had died alone in her apartment, possibly wrapping presents for Christmas – and was discovered almost three years later. The anecdote launches the writer’s argument that isolation and weakened social bonds can be blamed on the UK’s general, cultural emphasis on “economic individualism” and self-sufficiency. Looks like he was also trying to argue Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt‘s recent suggestion that mainly the elderly are getting lonelier and deserve more social respect.
I haven’t looked into the history of its coverage, but loneliness now is being addressed like a public pandemic. Several months ago in San Francisco, I was reading about this in relation to social networks (e.g. less-positive studies on Facebook and online vs. offline communication). Here, I’m reading about the problem as spun around government and social responsibility. (Then again, I just got here, so maybe I’ll hold my tongue and confirm this all later.) It’s all quite fascinating. I think my eyes also zone in on anything that gets two contrasting spaces in the same paper on the same day.
My baseline opinion is that people are meant to be in community and companionship, and our impulse is to seek those things out. I feel like I read so many articles suggesting that the desire to live life with someone else is mainly a social pressure to be eradicated like all the others, and I guess I just don’t agree. It’s more that the social pressure comes from the individual’s deep impulse to love and relate – a piece of human nature I doubt civilization will ever graduate from, no matter how modern we get.