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Apathetic Echidna

The Feed: Loneliness is killing us

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The Feed on SBS Viceland is having a special on loneliness. I assume once it has aired it will pop up on their youtube channel [ https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTILfqEQUVaVKPkny8QRE0w ]

 

So a review on what it covers:

apparently 25-45 year olds are the loneliest (in Australia at least), the reasons given were generalised to regularly changing careers and high rates of separation and divorce, basically living/working conditions. No mention of the fairly standard issue of friendship quality dropping when friends get into romantic relationships. No mention of general discrimination of singles and amatonormativity. At least they did talk about how loneliness is directly connected to the quality of friendship and that the advice 'go out and meet people' is completely crap. 

It covers a range of friend making services that are fairly well known including meet up and cuddle parties, but I was surprised that there is a 'friendship hotline' and connection meetings set up by Mission Australia which actually seem to be forging found-family feels in people. I really wish they had quoted the studies but there were comparisons to loneliness being a serious health risk equal to obesity and smoking, and most people who are lonely get diagnosed as anxious and depressed (which is only trying to treat the symptoms not the cause unless the doctors are particularly perceptive and caring). 

 

All in all, it is interesting as an overview that could give ideas for further investigation (which is pretty much how all The Feed stories work) but it would more interest people here who possibly want to investigate ways to connect with future friends. 

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I think something worth mentioning here is the death of the social club.

 

 It used to be that people interested in a certain political idea or a particular hobby would be able to easily find a social club in their area dedicated to the subject (assuming said subject wasn't considered taboo). These groups were frequently created around relatively trivial things like fishing, sewing, card games, etc but the communities they created allowed for the formation of close friendships, and local support networks that lasted a lifetime. In contrast, now when we have hobbies or interests we tend to turn to online communities instead. Online groups still help people create strong friendships, but those friends are very unlikely to be people in your own town or city. As a result, we've created a system where people can have lots of friends but no actual support network.

 

Online friends are great, but they can't let you sleep on their couch when you get evicted, they can't bring you food while you're recovering from a surgery, they can't go to a party with you when you're nervous, they can't help you get a job at their workplace, etc etc. These are the things local social networks are supposed to do and a lot of research has shown that the strength of your social network can greatly determine your health and resilience.

 

The other place people used to build up their social networks was places of worship, and while churches and temples certainly still exist, leaving them as one of the only options for social networking leaves out anyone who isn't religious, so they're not a good solution to this problem. 

 

The loss of social networks isn't an aro specific issue, but from an aromantic perspective, I think it's one of the reasons that creating in-person aro communities is so important. Aros are predisposed to being even more socially isolated than alloro people are simply by virtue of taking ourselves out of the dating market, so creating aro social clubs will be an important step in improving the wellbeing of our community members. I love the online aro community but it's not the only thing that's needed.

 

 

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On 3/6/2019 at 7:55 PM, Zorcodtoa said:

So you probably can bet it's not healthy and may lead to a premature death

I have a theory (and that is all it is because they didn't reference the research) that the detrimental health effects are caused by people who become stressed when lonely, like they develop anxiety or depression which then impacts their health, especially if it is a long term issue. So if someone isn't stressed by it I doubt they would show the same bad health symptoms. 

I know when I get stressed my body systems collapse. I swear my last year of university probably took 10 years off my life. 

 

@bananaslug I think a lot of the lack of community interaction was presumed to be covered by bad working conditions. I know in my community there are lots of community groups, mostly based in the sports hubs, local library and council building. BUT 99.9% of those attending are retirees because they have the time (which is wholly reflected by the advertising and the schedules). I used to work 14 hour days, I know several of my neighbours do 12 hour days, so when do we get the time for a weekly Tuesday 2pm book club? I'm sure if 8 hour working days were re-instated with a recalculation of wages the communities would be much stronger and healthier. 

 

Though that was something that shocked me in The Feed, that people had answered surveys saying they had no people to turn to in a real life crisis. I understand how it can turn out like that, but still it was harsh to hear the figures

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On 3/6/2019 at 2:55 PM, bananaslug said:

I think something worth mentioning here is the death of the social club.

 

It used to be that people interested in a certain political idea or a particular hobby would be able to easily find a social club in their area dedicated to the subject (assuming said subject wasn't considered taboo). These groups were frequently created around relatively trivial things like fishing, sewing, card games, etc but the communities they created allowed for the formation of close friendships, and local support networks that lasted a lifetime.

 

That sounds about right, but can you say more about when and where you were thinking of/had in mind? What era and place was this, would you say?

 

On 3/6/2019 at 2:55 PM, bananaslug said:

 

Online friends are great, but they can't let you sleep on their couch when you get evicted, they can't bring you food while you're recovering from a surgery, they can't go to a party with you when you're nervous, they can't help you get a job at their workplace, etc etc.

 

This is a really important point and something that's been weighing on my mind a lot lately.

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@Apathetic Echidna I think your right about working conditions affecting things as well. It's worth noting that even when social clubs were more common they were still mostly utilized by middle class people who had the time and resources to spend on a club. In fact social networking and wealth are linked in some really frustrating ways. It's harder to save money or get jobs with better hours if you don't have a strong social network and it's hard to participate in a social network if you have to work all the time. As a result, you get a very hard to break cycle where working class people are significantly less likely to have the social support system that they need. There are whole bodies of research on this (and I'm no expert on it myself) but here's an article on it if you're interested. But basically what this boils down to in the context of this conversation is that as the middle-class shrinks and working hours get longer fewer and fewer people have the ability to access these social groups even when they are easy to find.  

 

I would also concur with your observation that most modern social clubs are attended by retirees, but I think that is, to an extent part of social cubs disappearing. Sustainable communities are multigenerational, and the social clubs currently in existence don't meet that qualification, as older generations start to die out I think we'll so a lot of those groups disappear. Most retirees I know were active in their current social clubs long before they retired, people in their golden years are usually just continuing to participate in their old social networks, not entering into new ones, and similar clubs for younger demographics are almost nonexistent. So I guess it would be better to rephrase my observation, it's not so much that social clubs have disappeared as it is that there aren't many social clubs available to people in the 25-45 age range that you're talking about.

 

I think it's also important to look at social networks through the lens of gender (and we're gonna look at straight gender roles for this because that's what I actually have sources on). When stay at home motherhood was more mandatory women frequently had to build strong social networks to keep from going stir crazy. This was done through social clubs, but also through things like the PTA or even activist groups. As a result, even when working men couldn't participate in networking for financial reasons women frequently still had a strong social network and that benefitted their whole family. As women began to work more they still needed those social networks to help with childcare, but they had less time to build these networks up. This shift requires men to share responsibility for the creation of the family social network, but as I think you can guess, many men haven't stepped up to the plate on this, resulting in many family units having weaker social networks overall. 

 

@Coyote I mean social clubs have existed since like forever, but if you want to look at a really specific time frame when a bunch of social clubs were created the Women's Club Movement of the mid 1800s would be a good place to start your research. That said, social clubs have been a thing for a really long time, and many of them had activist causes, so you can see a lot of different ones referenced just by skimming through a history textbook (for example the NACW was very involved in both suffrage activism and anti-segregation activism, and most womens histort textbooks mention them). I guess personally when I think about social clubs I tend to think of my grandfather's fly fishing club or my great aunt's quilting club and those would have started sometime in the 50's or 60's, but social clubs existed way before that too.  

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On 3/6/2019 at 7:55 PM, bananaslug said:

It used to be that people interested in a certain political idea or a particular hobby would be able to easily find a social club in their area dedicated to the subject (assuming said subject wasn't considered taboo).

I'm sure this varies drastically across regions, but where Iive there are absolutely heaps of local groups and activities to get involved with. I'm part of three sports clubs, I coach at another, I go to a Japanese conversation group every week, I play D&D in two different campaigns, and when I remember I go to a monthly board games night hosted by a local bookshop. That's just the stuff I do regularly, not including going along to specific events - and it's barely scratching the surface of what's on offer. If I look for local events on Facebook there are literally dozens a week, for all sorts of clubs and societies. And this is in a relatively small city - less than 150,000 people. 

 

Granted, most people I know are surprised by the sheer number of clubs/activities I personally participate in. But for anyone living in a reasonably-sized city, you should absolutely be able to find local clubs to get involved in (and I highly recommend doing so!) 

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@bananaslug that is a lot of interesting points, I certainly hadn't thought of the history of it. I'll definitely be checking out that link when I have more time! 

I felt that at university there were clubs and activities everywhere, but once you graduate it is sort of like a social desert. A friend who was interested had so much trouble even finding one D&D group. I'm sure there are plenty of things to do, but it is slightly disheartening when you can't find the things you are really interested in and don't have the knowledge to start a group yourself.    

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On 3/8/2019 at 4:10 AM, bananaslug said:

I would also concur with your observation that most modern social clubs are attended by retirees, but I think that is, to an extent part of social cubs disappearing. Sustainable communities are multigenerational, and the social clubs currently in existence don't meet that qualification, as older generations start to die out I think we'll so a lot of those groups disappear. Most retirees I know were active in their current social clubs long before they retired, people in their golden years are usually just continuing to participate in their old social networks, not entering into new ones, and similar clubs for younger demographics are almost nonexistent. So I guess it would be better to rephrase my observation, it's not so much that social clubs have disappeared as it is that there aren't many social clubs available to people in the 25-45 age range that you're talking about.

The other demographic where you you find lots of social clubs is students. Which is the other side of this 25-45 (even 25-60) gap.
 

22 hours ago, Apathetic Echidna said:

I felt that at university there were clubs and activities everywhere, but once you graduate it is sort of like a social desert. A friend who was interested had so much trouble even finding one D&D group. I'm sure there are plenty of things to do, but it is slightly disheartening when you can't find the things you are really interested in and don't have the knowledge to start a group yourself.    

In an university there's likely to be a fairly obvious "directory" to check.
Outside things tend to rely more on already knowing the right people. I'd also say that starting a group takes aptitude as much as knowledge.

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1 hour ago, Mark said:

I'd also say that starting a group takes aptitude as much as knowledge.

Certainly. Then depending on the activity, the setting up and planning might be much more time consuming than the group event itself, especially if the burden of planning and set up is taken on by one person. Geez, think of one person trying to get a pottery club started! 😲

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On 3/10/2019 at 1:51 AM, Apathetic Echidna said:

I felt that at university there were clubs and activities everywhere, but once you graduate it is sort of like a social desert. 

It's definitely a lot easier to find clubs and groups via universities, but learning how to network and meet people outside of uni is a pretty important part of adjusting to post-student life. If anyone's looking for specific suggestions on methods for finding groups of like-minded people, here are a few I've used:

  • Google your city/area name and the activity you want to do. Sometimes it really is that easy. 
  • Search Facebook for events near you - either browse to see what pops up, or again, search for a specific activity
  • Check out your job's internal advertising spaces - there may be notice boards where information about clubs and events are posted, or a section of the company intranet for sports and social activities
  • Check out the noticeboards and websites of local venues (libraries, museums, churches, town halls, pubs, cultural centres) to see what's being advertised - or post a flyer yourself! 
  • See if your city/region has a subreddit (a friend and I found most of our current D&D group this way!) or a Facebook page where you can meet other locals and/or ask them for information about specific activities 
  • If you see other people doing an activity you like, ask them if they know of any local clubs or social networks for meeting others interested in the same thing
  • Even if you're not a student, check out relevant clubs at any local university - they may accept non-student members, or be able to point you towards equivalent non-university clubs

I can probably come up with more but honestly, a lot of the time just Googling place+activity has worked for me. It's more of an active process than browsing the student union website, but it's very doable! 

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I do find personally that the emphasis on romantic relationships at the expense of the quality of friendships has a serious knock on effect for any singles aro or otherwise. And as a church goer I can say that this emphasis largely infects these places also - like people are friendly when you visit, but they are with their husband, wife, family etc etc etc as a self contained unit. It's like after you leave school your friendships become a lot less intense and important as you "grow up" and expected to find your romantic partner etc etc... A rare example I've found is local rugby clubs (the small friendly type), but often people are there a lot less as "romantic or family items" but a lot more people attending as individuals who mingle better (like we did in school). However this is particularly certain generation male oriented and certainly not as successful for me as a young female!!

As for finding groups, I'm yet to find any social group that is of the school-intensity of friendship.

I also organise a local ace social group, but even there the friendships are not to the closeness as you'd like. It's an adult attitude that needs to be addressed ideally, and that is far from easy 

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