This is perhaps the worst of seasons to be alone.
In the distant past, the soup kitchens of the Salvation Army helped the poor and homeless over times when the rest of society was celebrating.
Today, it seems it is the rich and famous too are going solo – through choice – and all are struggling with the consequences at holiday times like now.
A recent study characterized Solo Men as being afraid of commitment, but Solo Women seek it. Solo Men tended to have underdeveloped communication skills. Solo Women showed unfulfilled intimacy needs.
Indeed, society has changed. The world is more prosperous than at any other time in history. Increasingly this wealth is being spread wider too. But, higher divorce rates, new partnership styles and pressures on working women have changed the traditional family units beyond recognition.
More people are living alone than ever before, creating a new kind of personal independence, and selfishness. There is an economic boom in new ‘solo’ stores, products and services. There is a focused real estate boom and new entertainment options.
But what have we lost? Cosmic disgruntlement seems a high price to pay for prosperity.
(Read the full story in the detailed Analysis/Synthesis section – for subscribers only)
ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be
In 1970, in the seminal feminist tome “The Female Eunuch”, Germaine Greer urged women to free themselves of the shackles of the family.
Today, 35 years on, women have discarded the family, terminated pregnancies, divorced or never married in order to be free. They saw a trade-off between children, the responsibility of a family and prosperity. They are often sad and disillusioned.
It’s not that they cannot get much out of relationships with men, they say they can’t get into them.
The past lives of their parents live like an ogre in the cupboard under the stairs…”My parents were happy and had fulfilling lives – I’m much more prosperous than they but am beset by a feeling of cosmic disgruntlement”
Rich and childless. Prosperous and lonely.
What is life when all your needs have been satisfied – money, status, health-care. Perhaps you will just move up the Maslow hierarchy of needs towards self-actualisation…
2004: Study reveals a dearth of happiness
An organization called Common Purpose does a study of 25-35 year-olds that reveals some scary insights: 90% of respondents wanted careers that would give purpose to their lives; Similarly
90% said that their current careers didn’t do it (those in management and public relations felt particularly divorced from their ideals).
Why is it that we look to work to give purpose to our lives? Is there nothing else?
New research by Edinburgh University sheds light on the growing phenomenon of solo living:
In the 25-44 age group, 20 per cent of men and 6% of women live alone. Most 30-something singletons are men rather than women and they have never been married, unlike the typical woman in this category. They have found that Solo Men are afraid of commitment, but Solo Women seek it. Solo Men tend to have underdeveloped communication skills. Solo Women have unfulfilled intimacy needs.
A somewhat surprising finding was that living alone is detrimental to your health.
Cost cutting in global business is also contributing to this phenomenon. Multi-national companies are looking to cut costs of international staff assignments by giving preference to singles.
Amelia is a computer company executive who has been working in Paris for 15 months and she has found it extremely difficult to make relationships. “I’m so damn sick and tired of being alone” she says. With so many more people working out of their own countries, separated from their own cultures. More and more business travellers are trotting the globe. It’s no wonder that loneliness is on the increase.
2005: The internet becomes the world’s singles bar
As a result of the explosion in solo lifestyles, dating services of all kinds are exploding in popularity.
It becomes the norm for single expatriate executives to put ‘the stigma of singleness’ to one side and to put their personal details up on web sites.
The internet quickly becomes the preferred choice as a dating intermediary because it permits the less-than-confident to create alternate personas in the electronic medium. It’s about a whole new gamut of chat-up lines and a whole new advantage for the socially-challenged. The difficulty comes in the inevitable leap from cyber-romance to reality.
2007: Explosion of the singular life-style
Across the first world there is an explosion of those living alone.
In the USA and the UK more than 25 million people are now estimated to be living on their own.
Commerce has caught up with this massive new market with targeted stores, packaging and entertainment solutions – further enhancing the convenience of the solitary life.
The first world war wiped out an entire generation of young men, and created a generation of maiden aunts. Today those who do want to marry face similar challenges.
Society is driven by the need to achieve and financial success. The increasing rate of divorce, the litigation by spurned spouses, the spread of childlessness and the prevalence of working women have contributed to individuals increasingly choosing a solitary lifestyle.
It starts as an effective way to create focus. Relationships are replaced by convenience: speed dating and part-time lovers on demand. But, when the dancing stops, there are no profound relationships to fall back on. Some call this the Lonely Generation. It has nothing to do with age. It appears to have everything to do with prosperity and a general lack of balance.
2008: eContact and eBonding explodes
Isolation has created a massive market in social sites on the Internet.
There are more than 10 million dating agencies, hundreds of thousands of community chat rooms and a booming business in ‘virtual relationships’, smart avatars that simulate loving relationships.
The over-50s make up more than 50% of this market and it is common to see 60- to 70-year-olds advertising in newspaper personal ads.
Smart sex toys are all the rage and even at exorbitant prices are seen by many to be a better deal than a human relationship.
“Living alone does not have to mean you’re isolated. You don’t have to feel lonely” chirps one advert. “Live the sexy lifestyle with our Barbie!” blurts one ‘personal robot’ manufacturer in adverts reminiscent of blow-up sex toys.
2009: Business booms for solo markets
The solo lifestyle now represents a market of half a trillion US Dollars per annum.