The world can be a lonely place, and not only when it comes to finding love. Times have changed and we are less limited by factors such as geography, race and social class when it comes to the friendships we form. However, despite all the new opportunities afforded to us by technological advances and political progress people seem to be lonelier than ever before. It may be a simple case of quantity over quality – it’s easier now to have a wider social circle (lots of coffee friends) but the nature of these relationships is somewhat superficial. Possibly symptomatic of the Tinder generation, people are now more fickle when it comes to all sorts of human relationships. Essentially everyone is replaceable so discarding/downgrading friends is becoming more common and people seem to be more willing to cut their losses and move on quickly instead of sticking something out a fighting for a friendship.
The issue of loneliness, which is the focus of this post, can be exacerbated in a cliquey place like Cape Town where you’ll find it difficult to be truly accepted by the locals if you weren’t born and raised on the slopes of Table Mountain. I’ve mentioned this before, but it really does seem that many Capetonians often value historic friendships which date back to their diaper days. So basically, if you are an expat (or from Jo’burg) living in the Mother City can be quite problematic until you find ‘your people’.
Having survived this place for more than half a decade, I’ve learnt to become quite creative when it comes to expanding my social circle – running clubs, expat events and networking through existing contacts (and maybe even inadvertently through Tinder). Of course, it’s still difficult to find people of good value and those you truly click with but it can be done with a bit of perseverance. One thing I’ve never done in the name of alleviating loneliness, but have recently learnt is actually a legitimate thing, is to use a dating website or app as a means of making new friends (and by this I mean friends in the platonic sense not ‘special friends’ or FWBs).
Over the past couple of weeks, through my online dating ventures I’ve discovered a rather strange breed of person. The Larry Loner as I like to call them is the type of person who maintains an online DATING profile on a DATING app or website despite claiming to be in a happy relationship. Correct me if I’m wrong but I always thought the whole point of signing up sites like OKCupid was to find LOVE, Prince Charming, Happily Ever After, etc (or at least a FWB or Hook Up at the lower end of the scale). I never thought the purpose of dating websites was to make PLATONIC friendships.
Technically speaking, there really isn’t anything wrong with using the internet to find friends. It wasn’t that long ago that using the internet to find love was stigmatised and is this really that different? Personally however I find it annoying that people are using DATING websites to find friends. Most of us are on there with the intention of finding our future husband/wife and we have to sift through enough deadwood without having to deal with these (often very good looking and pretty decent) individuals distracting us by offering us friendship.
Don’t get me wrong – making a new friend isn’t the world’s greatest problem but I do believe that there’s a time and place for everything. And quite frankly these Larry Loners that engage you in conversation are often just wasting your precious time – time that you could be spending searching for Prince Charming or hanging out with your actual friends. Call me cynical but I also very much doubt I could become friends with someone who was intentionally using online dating platforms to make friends because basically I think it’s just a bit weird (surely they must be a bit socially retarded if they can’t just make friends in real life) and secondly I’d be inclined to believe they were just another breed of Talker and not people you’d actually end up ever meeting.
OK, so these Larry Loners aren’t totally at fault. Dating sites shouldn’t really be offering people the option of looking for ‘new friends’ because it really isn’t the right platform for this. Maybe they’ll find meaningful friendships in internet chat rooms or through meet-up groups, but on a dating site? I seriously doubt it. Especially for those that say they are in a happy relationship, this type of venture to find friends has the potential to be disastrous. Even if doesn’t end in drama, all it really serves to do is waste everybody’s time, both the lonely folk looking for buddies and those that are frantically searching for their fairytale.
Rinsers – Now it’s your turn. Do you think my rant has been a bit harsh of the innocent folk that are just lonely and trying to find friendships online? Do you think it’s legitimate to use a website/app specifically designed for dating to simply find new friends? Have you ever used such tools to alleviate loneliness? And finally, do think there is something wrong with society when people need to turn to the internet for even the most basic form of human connection? Answers in the comments below.