With the winter holiday season in full swing and everyone talking about togetherness and family and friends, it’s not so popular to think about loneliness. But urban loneliness is a real issue all year round, especially during the holidays. And it’s not just about older people.
As one study points out, “we have this stereotype of the lonely old person in poor health,” but in fact, loneliness was most common among people in younger than 25, with one-third reporting feeling lonely. Loneliness in young adults has been covered by the BBC, Forbes,and Wired, which did a piece on coolly evocative photographs entitled ‘The Stunning Loneliness of Megacities at Night’.
Loneliness in cities is real. We know not just because we’ve read about it, but because we’ve experienced it firsthand. A city can sometimes feel like the most anonymous place in the world. Especially if you’ve just moved there. And if you’re young and starting to build your career. And trying to meet friends. And grow your network. It can seem like a lot sometimes, and even a bit overwhelming. Because it is.
What contributes to this loneliness?
Many people – and businesses, are trying to figure it out. Explanations range from not getting enough sleep, a lack of physical activity, and working too many hours. Others point to social media, being unmarried, and the way apartments are built. Whatever the reasons, though, it’s clear that a lack of daily, meaningful social interactions can affect our happiness, health, and a sense of purpose. Not minor issues.
So, what can we do about it?
There are a myriad of options out there. Consult a Time Out in any large city and you’ll find a million of cool events, performances, or activities to go to for just one week. The options are endless. You can spread out and explore every cool neighborhood in the entire city. Do it – we encourage it.
But there’s another tactic. Instead of spreading yourself wide and tackling the entire city and trying to meet as many people as possible at as many events as possible, we pose the idea of going local. Hyperlocal.
Instead of spreading yourself wide and tackling the entire city and trying to meet as many people as possible at as many events as possible, we pose the idea of going local. Hyperlocal.
What does this look like?
It can change the way you approach your block, your neighbors, and the businesses that you pass every day on the way outside the neighborhood to go to work. It can alter the tenor of your interactions and experiences in your neighborhood and help do exactly that – change it into something that’s yours, that you feel connected to.
At Venn, we work on the neighborhood level. We’re focused on helping people feel like they’re part of their neighborhood, even if they just moved in a few months ago. We do it by operating on a few levels – including helping to build real social interactions (including between new & older residents of a neighborhood) and supporting the local businesses around us. When we say we shop local, we mean it – like down-the-block local. Is it always the cheapest option? Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. But we are firm believers of choosing how to spend our hard-earned money and choosing who we support with that money. We’d much rather support the business down the block, when we can.
We don’t consider this a luxury. We like knowing the name of the woman who we buy our coffee from every day. We like going to the small appliances shop that’s been there for 50 years and striking up a conversation with the owner that can take 20 minutes. Call it conscious-spending, call it shopping local, call it urban sustainability – call it what you want. We call it a new way of neighboring. And sometimes, we’re even willing to pay an extra dollar for something just for the local experience.
At Venn, we work on the neighborhood level. We’re focused on helping people feel like they’re part of their neighborhood, even if they just moved in a few months ago.
We recently released our semi-annual Impact Report where we evaluate how we’re doing on these issues. We report our support of local businesses, creation of local events, and even people’s loneliness. Take a look – there are some interesting findings, including loneliness levels that drop 50% 6 months after joining Venn. We feel that we’re onto something, and we’re looking at the data to back us up.
We know urban loneliness is a complicated issue and we continue to approach it from several different angles and see what works best for people and their communities. But sometimes, it’s the small things that help us feel just a little bit less small in the big city. That help us develop a sense of belonging. And that makes a difference.