The Beatles, in the context of Ms Eleanor Rigby and other jar-inhabiting people, may have asked the right question: “All the lonely people, where do they all belong? All the lonely people, where do they all come from?” But it’s a University of Chicago psychology team that seems to have come up with part of the answer: they belong to one contagious lonely hearts club. The study, published not in a dating column but in the more prestigious Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, has found after analysing data collected from over 4,000 people over a decade that lonely people increase the chances of making someone they know feel ‘lonely’. Paradoxical as it may sound, lonely people lead to more lonely people. Which makes the white-coated ones come to a radical conclusion: like the common cold and depression, loneliness is a disease. All it now needs is a solid Latin name.
One of the researchers, quoting John Donne’s wise-guy line about no man being an island, went on to explain that “something so personal as a person’s emotions can have a collective existence and affect the vast fabric of humanity”. Okay, so that sounds more from the stable of the existentialists than from the Metaphysical poets, but hang on, can’t there be an
opportunity in this mass feeling of solitude? We can already see special club nights dedicated to the ‘lonely’ clientele.
Special features could include the DJ playing songs like Elvis’s ‘Only the lonely’, Mohammed Rafi’s ‘Akela hoon mein’ and the Beatles’s ‘Yer Blues’ (with its immortal lines, “Yes, I’m lonely, wanna die,” special rooms for solitary confinement, and ‘happy hours’ drinks that will not include a ‘1+1’ deal but only drinks sold at 50 per cent discount.
The fact that there are a whole lotta lonely people out there who will finally be seen as ‘ill’ rather than plain anti-social by the rest of us is heartening. The next breakthrough we’re looking forward to is a quick-fix way of
shaking off all those ‘too-sociable’ people and having some quality time alone.