Web of Loneliness

New thinking about a chronic state of being

#foreveralone

When did it become cool to admit you were lonely?

#foreveralone meme
Just recently I started digging into this meme, #foreveralone. My motivation was to look for things I could post on the Web of Loneliness social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter) and this seemed like a vibrant trend that others may find interesting. As I delved into it more, I found it to be a fascinating new trend for a few reasons I will list below: 

  1. #foreveralone vs. #lonely - Though there is significant overlap between #foreveralone and #lonely, there are two things that seem to define #foreveralone much more than #lonely. First, often times when people use the term #foreveralone there is an attempt to be humorous. Second, #foreveralone is more often used specifically in romantic sense, that is, I am forever alone because I will never find a romantic partner. I believe that when people use #foreveralone though, they mean that they are also lonely as well. I have not seen a case where someone implies through the use of the hashtag that they desire to be forever alone. So people are using the hashtag #foreveralone instead of using the hashtag #lonely.
  2. The stigma of loneliness - I believe one of the reasons that people are using #foreveralone instead of #lonely is because, to some degree, #foreveralone has much less of a stigma than #lonely. Part of the reason for the decreased stigma is that #foreveralone is usually wrapped in humor (one someecard reads: "just spooning my boyfriend....out of his container.....it's ice cream"). It is hard to negatively judge somebody when they are making you laugh. In addition, the tag is #foreverALONE as opposed to #foreverLONELY. Being alone makes it seem like it is less under the person's control than being lonely, when the truth is no such difference actually exists. Admitting you're lonely publicly then is okay, when it is funny and we do not actually use the word, "lonely."
  3. Romantic relationships as the cure - The hashtag is used almost exclusively to refer to a lack of romantic partner. It reflects how closely tied fulfilling our intimacy needs are to a romantic relationship. #foreversingle seems to more closely describe much of the posts associated with the #foreveralone hashtag. Tying most of our intimacy needs on a romantic partner, both amplifies feelings of loneliness as well as makes it more difficult to reduce it. It becomes so that only a romantic partner can make us feel less lonely, no one else will do, no friendships or family will help. I believe this expectation is driven both internally by the person as well as externally from others. When a person is single, the question from others is usually, "why aren't you in a relationship or married? What is wrong with you?" These kinds of cultural expectations can drive up feelings of loneliness and the now popular meme #foreveralone
  4. Obstacles to intimacy - If you were to simply go by appearances, you would wonder why some of these individuals would even be posting that hashtag. Couldn't all the people who hashtagged #foreveralone just hook up with one another and solve the problem? Of course, relationships aren't that simple, but the posts make it seem like they are. It's just a matter of getting a hug, or cuddle, or watching a Netflix movie with, or having someone to say hello. To really connect with someone else, to get to the point of having a satisfying, intimate relationship requires navigating a complex maze of personal preferences, emotional burdens and scars, situations, etc. Sure, these folks want a hug/cuddle/etc., but not just from anybody, they want a romantic partner to give them a hug/cuddle/etc. There are these numerous obstacles to intimacy that we don't immediately see or acknowledge but that isolate us from others.
  5. Popular among the younger generation - The hashtag seems to be quite popular, especially among the younger age group (less than 40). Whereas typically we tend to think of the older, baby boomer generation as being lonely, it seems clear that the younger generation also struggle immensely with loneliness as well. New technologies, cultural expectations and trends make it difficult to navigate the social world to successfully build intimate relationships. I believe the hashtag #foreveralone is a reflection of the growing angst among the younger generation's frustration with knowing how to establish intimate relationship with others.

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Sean Seepersad, Ph.D. is the President/CEO of the Web of Loneliness Institute, Inc., adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut, and author of The Lonely Screams.

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