December 01, 2009
Lonely People Reinforce Each Others' Feelings Of Loneliness

Lonely people intensify each others' feelings of loneliness and they become even more isolated as a consequence. Obviously what lonely people need are robot friends who tell them unlonely thoughts in response. Break the vicious cycle with artificial intelligence. Then the robots could connect up to social networks and connect the lonely people to happy chirpy people.

Loneliness, like a bad cold, can spread among groups of people, research at the University of Chicago, the University of California-San Diego and Harvard shows.

Using longitudinal data from a large-scale study that has been following health conditions for more than 60 years, a team of scholars found that lonely people tend to share their loneliness with others. Gradually over time, a group of lonely, disconnected people moves to the fringes of social networks.

“We detected an extraordinary pattern of contagion that leads people to be moved to the edge of the social network when they become lonely,” said University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo, one member of the study team and one of the nation’s leading scholars of loneliness. “On the periphery people have fewer friends, yet their loneliness leads them to losing the few ties they have left.”

Other members of the study team were James Fowler, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California-San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis, Professor of Medicine and Professor of Medical Sociology in the Harvard Medical School.

Before relationships are severed, people on the periphery transmit feelings of loneliness to their remaining friends, who also become lonely. "These reinforcing effects mean that our social fabric can fray at the edges, like a yarn that comes loose at the end of a crocheted sweater," said Cacioppo, the Tiffany & Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology.

Or how about a drug or gene therapy that blocks that feeling of loneliness? Anyone reading this done a recreational drug that makes them feel happy and highly connected to the world? Now, if a drug could be found that does that without frying your synapses it might treat loneliness and make people more out-going. Think this would work?

In the future will more or fewer people feel lonely?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 December 01 04:33 PM  Brain Society

Mercer said at December 1, 2009 7:48 PM:

Why would robots be better then dogs? I get affection from my dog and much more interaction from other people in public when I have her with me. said at December 1, 2009 8:52 PM:

MDMA could work. You don't need to take it all the time. All it takes is one trip to bring someone out of their shell.

Lono said at December 2, 2009 8:22 AM:


Drugs are bad, mmmkay!

(and dogs are too frikkin' needy - I'll stick with the robot idea - not that I'm lonely - in fact I could really use a break from Human contact for a few months)


Engineer-Poet said at December 2, 2009 2:42 PM:

And the waitress is practicing politics
As the businessmen slowly get stoned
Yeah they're sharing a drink they call loneliness
But it's better than drinking alone.

Faruq said at December 4, 2009 9:30 AM:

Drugs do lift lonelieness. But only for the duration of the trip, mostly for about 6 hours. Anyone know of any drugs which make a person less of a loner/autistic,but whose effects are long term? Thanks.

Wawona said at December 5, 2009 9:22 PM:

Selegiline was first synthesized in Hungary in 1965. While studying its pharmaceutical effects, Dr. Joseph Knoll discovered the exceptional antidepressant properties of Selegiline. During the 1980s, he also became aware of its effectiveness in the prevention and treatment of Parkinson's disease. Since then, numerous studies have been made on Selegiline, demonstrating its therapeutic action on various diseases.

Selegiline (Deprenyl) improves the availability of dopamine, slows its age-related decline and helps maintain healthy brain cells by acting as a selective MAO-B inhibitor.

Its relatively cheap and it is unnecessary to take it every day.

Faruq said at December 6, 2009 7:17 AM:

Has anyone found any food helpful in making them less depressed and more outgoing? I know some food raises dopamine and seratonin.

Bob Badour said at December 6, 2009 9:41 AM:

I don't get depressed and I am not outgoing. But I find a couple servings of mackerel or salmon every week improve my mood and mental acuity.

Faruq said at December 6, 2009 1:30 PM:

Nice hearing from you bob again. I took omega 3 supplements,but they didn't help much with my depression, so i stopped taking them. I know ecstasy makes a person much more outgoing. but for me, it's not very effective as I'm depressed. I wish there was a version of ecstaty which was turbo charged for people who dont respond to normal ecstasy.

Bob Badour said at December 6, 2009 2:05 PM:

I have taken omega-3's in the past, and I don't recall getting the same benefit as I get from eating actual fish. Fish has so much more than just omega-3's: calcium, vitamin d, protein. Plus, the omega-3's in supplements are often not the same fatty acids one finds in fish.

averros said at December 10, 2009 2:32 AM:

> Drugs do lift lonelieness. But only for the duration of the trip,

MDMA has lasting positive effects in treating poor socialization.

Holi said at December 15, 2009 4:55 PM:

Interesting points. Loneliness is sometimes a vicious cycle. Like the expression it takes money to make money, I think it sometimes takes family and friends to make family and friends. If you are starting from ground zero, with few if any family or friends, it can extremely difficult to develop a support network. When you meet new people & they find out you have no one, it changes the dynamic suddenly. Maybe they are afraid you will be too needy of a relationship with them; maybe they think there’s something wrong with you. Plus, the older you get, the more your peer group is caught up in their own family affairs, and the last thing most of them want is to take on the responsibility for your emotional well being.

I think if you are caught in this vicious cycle, it is important to connect with other people who need you as much as you need them. Of course there are so many others in the world who want your companionship as much as you want theirs! But finding them can be like looking for a needle in a haystack!

There is an online service that matches people to create surrogate extended family relationships – (Also at Choose My The idea is to connect with others who want to start a new friendship with the intention that if you get on well, you can become like extended family to each other. It matches both intergenerationally and peer to peer. It can’t hurt; it might help a lot.

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