Loneliness in the Digital Age

LiDA-002

Loneliness is one of the most significant challenges facing Western society in the 21st century. Not only does research suggest that 1 in 10 people are lonely, our radically transforming society threatens to make the situation significantly worse. Increasingly large proportions of our lives are being lived in online environments, more people are now working from home, away from the social environment of the communal office, and workers are commonly expected to work away from home for protracted periods of time. The creation of a borderless Europe has also contributed to a more mobile workforce, where working away from home for periods of time is no longer unusual, especially for younger people. While much of the previous research on loneliness has focused upon chronic loneliness, it is this new breed of the ‘transient lonely’ that is more vulnerable to episodic periods of loneliness and it is the episodically lonely who are less likely to take steps to deal with bouts of loneliness.

LIDA seeks to map different experiences and responses to loneliness in both online and offline environments and, through the use of co-design and creative methodologies, explore the potential for creative interventions in online environments to help manage periods of loneliness by harnessing empathy for, and with, others. We intend to work with three temporarily separated groups, which are provisionally: (i) migrant workers moving to the UK for employment; ii) young offenders who are being reintegrated into their communities, and; iii) personnel who are stationed temporarily overseas). By engaging with members of these communities throughout as co-researchers and co-designers, this project will establish new ways of using digital technology to address these emerging social issues. We will also look to explore what commonalities these groups have in how they experience and manage moments of loneliness in their everyday lives, and examine individual differences in how the home, the workplace, and the objects and people surrounding our participants influence these.

Date: September 2014 – August 2017
Funder: ESRC (EMoTiCoN) £130,000 (Newcastle).
Researchers: John Vines.
Collaborators: Mike Wilson (Loughborough – PI), Julie Barnett (Bath), Manuela Barretto (Exeter) and Shaun Lawson (Lincoln).