Apparently We’re Now Generation Forever Alone

It's the hash tag everyone's talking about. Is #foreveralone also a sign that we've found new and more complex ways to be lonely? Read more on The Debrief.

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by Rebecca Holman |
Published on

It was only a matter of time before we all started tweeting and Instagraming how #foreveralone we are. Because we are, in great droves. Whether the tag is accompanied by an ironic shot of a meal for one, or a sneaky selfie of you sitting alone while your best friend cuddles up to her boyfriend in the background (#foreveralone #thirdwheel) we’re all bemoaning the fact that we. Are. Alone. Don't believe me? Do a quick search for the tag on Twitterand Instagram - being forever alone is a social media epidemic.

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There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that for once, this isn’t a trend that started with a hash tag and then worked its way backwards into real life - we really are the lonely generation. The number of people living on their own has sky rocketed world wide from 153 million in 1996 to 277 in 2011 and in the last few years married couples have become a minority for the first time ever. Equally, plenty of us are just never partnering up with anyone at all, proving that we are, in no uncertain terms more single than we ever have been before. But being alone doesn’t mean being lonely. ‘Reams of published research show that it’s the quality, not the quantity of social interaction, that best predicts loneliness,’ explains Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist at NYU.

You know what does mean lonely? A constant barrage of Tweets, Facebook updates and Instagram posts from other people, telling you what a great time they’re having with all their other friends, while you sit at home re-creating your old Now 40 album on Spotify with that half-empty bottle of tequila you bought when you had that Mexican party that no-one came to. It doesn’t matter that they’re probably tweeting from a shit 25th birthday party in a suburban All Bar One, surrounded by people they hate. You don’t know that.

It’s not just conjecture or our own vague sense of FOMO. A couple of years ago, Moira Burke, a research scientist for Facebook, discovered that while receiving personalised interaction on Facebook (a DM for example) can make you feel less lonely, and receiving one-click interaction from someone (for example when someone likes your status) has no impact on your loneliness, non-personalised use of Facebook (using your Facebook wall to update your status and scanning your feed for other people’s news) can increase loneliness and a feeling of disconnection.

 

Social media is meant to make us feel more connected than ever with the rest of the world, yet the reality is we never feel more alone than when we check out all the fun everyone else is having without us. One of the most poignant pictures we found when searching the tag on Instagram was a montage of a group of friends apparently having fun on the beach tagged #foreveralone and #nolife. It wasn’t the user’s singleness (no idea if she even was single) that bothered her - it was the fact that she didn’t have a photogenic band of friends on hand to enjoy the summer with her. Because if you’re not as popular as everyone else around you appears to be, then you’re not popular enough.

Yes, there are plenty of people tagging themselves as forever alone to commiserate when their best friend gets a new boyfriend, but there are just as many commenting on the fact that they have no new followers on Twitter, or no likes on their latest Facebook update. The idea that being a single woman means a life full of cats, eating low-fat ice cream out of the tub and misery watching rom coms on a Saturday night is an outdated one. But is it being replaced by an altogether more complex vision of loneliness for Gen Y?

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Follow Rebecca on Twitter @rebecca_hol

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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