The Lonely Hour podcast is an exploration of the feeling of loneliness, solitude, and other kinds of aloneness.
Julia Bainbridge is the food editor of Atlanta magazine and a James Beard Award-nominated writer. Formerly an editor at Yahoo Food and Bon Appétit, she has also worked at Condé Nast Traveler and Food & Wine, and her writing has appeared in Playboy, Organic Life, Jarry, Brutal, Bake, Paper, Man Repeller, and Food52, where she was the online publication's first writer in residence. Julia has a lotttttt of feelings, and loneliness is sometimes one of them.
I started the show for a variety of reasons: I read reports from the National Science Foundation detailing our society’s increasing sense of social isolation; I observed the ways in which technology is distancing us from one another. I decided to record people sharing their own experiences with this feeling in the hopes that listeners (myself included) might grow to understand loneliness better and, thus, feel less alone. It’s part of the human experience. I wanted to create a space to talk about it openly.
“Loneliness is an especially tricky problem because accepting and declaring our loneliness carries profound stigma," writes Dhruv Khullar, a resident physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, in the New York Times. "Admitting we’re lonely can feel as if we’re admitting we’ve failed in life’s most fundamental domains: belonging, love, attachment. It attacks our basic instincts to save face, and makes it hard to ask for help."
Kurt Vonnegut categorized loneliness as a “disease,” which may sound dramatic, but plenty of psychologists do believe that loneliness will be our next big public health issue. There’s a reason Khullar just wrote about it: The percentage of American adults who say they’re lonely has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent, and it’s taking a physical toll. There’s a reason ten “intelligent nursing robots” have been living with residents of the Social Welfare Centre in Hangzhou, China, since May: to provide companionship for the elderly, whose families are increasingly too busy to visit. There’s a reason comedic actress Aimée Lutkin shared the story of her non-dating life on Jezebel in January: For the first time ever, single adult women outnumber married adult women in the U.S. And there’s a reason two UK-based millennials, Val Stark and Stina Sanders, have created an app called Huggle, to foster friendship: In 2011, 86 percent of their peers reported feeling isolated and depressed.
Times are changing, and they’re making us lonely. Fighting the stigma against admitting that is important. Urgent, even.