The meaning of being lonely | Inquirer Opinion
Young Blood

The meaning of being lonely

/ 05:16 AM May 24, 2018

I recently attended a wedding. As most of these ceremonies go, the trimmings were all there, including the always self-indulgent and romantically unapologetic same-day-edit video.

The wedding industry has perfected the formula of having guests tear up at some point in the event. I fell right into the lure and, soon enough, I found myself crying, partly because of happiness for the newlyweds, and partly because the weight of my own loneliness was making itself felt.


I composed myself and, later, out of sheer sadness, I opened a dating app. After a few swipes, I closed the app, pulled back by the sense of resignation that maybe the algorithms did not intend for me to find anyone at that moment.

There may be a handful of success stories that can be pulled out of the waters of online dating, but, at least for that night, I had no such luck.


Facebook, in its recent F8 Conference, announced that the social media company would soon join the fray of online dating services. The company’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, promised “real-life connections” and not just hookups.

While trends and statistics on dating app use are better left to data scientists, the underlying trail left by the success of these apps is not that difficult to follow or read.

We have entered the age of the aggressive search for intimacy. But it doesn’t end there: Perhaps, we, too, have been living in an age of profound loneliness.

Modern relationships have their own peculiar complications, and a comparison with the structure of relationship politics from the past will draw out glaring differences.

If one thing is to come out of it, though, it is that more young people are now empowered with the ownership of their bodies. That idea alone is sufficient to contribute to a wider conversation.

Loneliness, however, creeps up across the spectrum of social connections. How do we even begin to investigate it?

The gulf carved between “real-life connections” and “hookups” is an interesting jump-off point in the inquiry into modern loneliness. Perhaps the dichotomy does not entirely hold up.


For the longest time, romantic, chivalric love has been propped up to be the exact opposite of loneliness, to the exclusion of all other forms of connections.

Cast against the social backdrop of our times, the pressures of being with someone can take its toll on a person. Being at the age where one is old enough to be asked when it is your turn to settle down, the prodding of older relatives, most especially, pulls you into a momentary crisis, however well-meaning their intentions are.

“Who will take care of you when you’re old?” is a valid question. But it could sometimes throw you into a loop of questions and doubt. Even in popular culture, being single at a late age is not exactly aspirational.

The pressures of establishing a family borne out of romantic love is a function of politics more than it is a function of sentiment: It is because social forces demand it.

Our contemporary age of loneliness can very well be the product of the uncertainty of our times and our purposively designed alienation from one another.

As more and more experts chime in on finding the cure to our modern loneliness, maybe the response requires us to find what would break the barriers of our isolation. The conversation is way more complicated than what it appears to be.

Dating apps are only microscopic commentaries on the human condition. They offer the right amount of escape sometimes. Swiping right or left sometimes eases the monotony of daily life.

I have met people there, too, and they have become my friends. My experience may not be representative of the population that uses these services, but these apps offer a glimpse of what is it like to live with the grinding social pressures of the modern world.

Loneliness thrives in our highly individualized world, where every person is expected to be nothing short of the expectation to be productive. Loneliness, primarily, is a symptom of our times.

We can learn a thing or two from the current state of our socialization. Loneliness—in the midst of our feverish swiping—invites us to interrogate the society we have built.

* * *

Ross Tugade, 28, a product of Ateneo de Manila University (AB Political Science, 2010) and the University of the Philippines (Juris Doctor, 2016), is a lawyer.

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TAGS: facebook, Loneliness, online dating services, Ross Tugade, Young Blood
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