On paper, it doesn’t seem like anyone should feel lonely in the 21st century. Never before have we had the ability to connect to seemingly everyone that we’ve ever met with just a few clicks on one of a half-dozen social media sites. We like each other’s witty tweets or we Instagram pics of our vacations, and we friend on Facebook people we haven’t seen—or even thought about—since high school. And yet, we feel lonely.
All the lonely people / Where do they all come from? — The Beatles, “Eleanor Rigby”
A 2018 Cigna survey of 20,000 people used the UCLA Loneliness Scale to determine that “nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone (46 percent) or left out (47 percent).” Scratch beneath the surface a bit, and the reasons for the current loneliness epidemic are clear.
You may be able to connect with thousands of people online, but how often do those online connections turn into real-world ones? Take internet dating, for example. Years of swiping left and right turn searching for love into a sport, as if we’re all collecting faces for some cosmic game of Guess Who.