Happiness seems to be loneliness.
Why though bother with the expense of paying journalists to do the stuff journalists used to do when plenty of people are perfectly happy to spend their lunchtimes reading all the latest LOLs on LOL Feed (lol)? Would You Survive "Game Of Thrones"? Are You The Kind Of Person That Is Instantly Suckered In By Headlines Written Like This? Are We Making The Internet Even More Fucking Stupid Than It Already Is? (Yes). Am I A Misanthrope And Ignoring How This Is Essentially The Modern Equivalent Of The Sun Attempting To Get Its Readers To Say "Hey Doris! Look At This!" Most certainly.
This said, it's hard not to look at all the photographs swamping newspaper desks that show your average cunt taking a selfie with whichever politician has made a flying visit to their local railway station and think something has come unstuck in the space-time continuum. When David Cameron, who has spent the entire campaign thus far doing his level best to avoid interactions with anyone who hasn't been vetted beforehand complains that rather than ask questions, most of those he comes into contact with just want him to gurn into their grot-covered personal telescreens it has to be serious. Are these fucking people that conceited they can't interact with someone vaguely well-known without getting themselves in the frame? Is this what modern life has become reduced to, the shared experience of sharing pointless crap no one cares about but which has to be liked and upvoted regardless (and yes, I realise the irony)?
So it seems. There is very little other explanation for 83% of 18-34 year-olds saying they have experienced loneliness, as related by Nell Frizzell and related to her by a survey by Opinium, commissioned by The Big Lunch (yep, this is where the intro about churnalism was leading). The Big Lunch is one of those brilliant ideas came up with by bastards in an office somewhere that is designed to make everyone living in a street feel better about not caring two hoots about their next door neighbours by having "a big lunch" one day a year where everyone's invited. According to our Nell, our "constant state of remote social interaction is a twin spear of loneliness", and "When you eat lunch sitting at your desk, idly scanning through other people’s Facebook photos rather than chatting around a table about the canteen’s latest attempt at tex mex, you leave yourself open to the cold draught of loneliness".
Now, it's not exactly clear if Frizzell is being entirely serious or somewhat facetious throughout the piece. When she relates a story about getting lost in Leeds while looking for Argos and ending up having a conversation with a "woman with a face the consistency of a floured bap about electric blankets", and then says despite it being only 10 years ago it sounds like something out of a Thomas Hardy novel as we like didn't have smartphones back then you obviously have to wonder. The conclusion to be reached is that neither Frizzell or the people surveyed have the slightest idea what loneliness is as opposed to being alone, although that could be the survey's failings rather than theirs.
Being on your own then is "how you learn to value company". Well yes. It does rather depend though on the precise ratio of the time spent alone with that spent with friends or with others. If anything, an afternoon spent with neighbours for someone who then for the rest of the year has only occasional chats with the bloke in the off-licence to look forward to and a television screen and a couple of gerbils for company is probably crueller than no "Big Lunch" at all.
Not to make this personal or anything, as that hasn't been the entire point of this nonsense up to now, but it does rankle somewhat when loneliness features in the same sentence as sitting alongside a flatmate. You can of course be lonely and have lots of lovely friends on social networks, as the correlation between actual conversations and mere interactions could be massive. All the same, dare I suggest that loneliness is nearer seeing your best friend about once a year at best as despite only living 50 miles away it costs £30 on the train at off-peak rates, not counting further travel once there. Texting, Twitter, Instagram aren't a replacement. Loneliness is still having a fixation on someone you last saw 10 years ago. Loneliness is wanting to "talk to strangers and make plans that don’t rely on others" and not being able to because you're a social disaster. Loneliness is realising almost everyone you knew at school is either married, engaged or has kids. Loneliness is not having experienced what everyone else has experienced. Loneliness can be incredibly productive, but that doesn't mean the product will be any good.
The quote from Orson Welles is good, if nothing else. We die alone, regardless of whether we're surrounded by friends and family or breathe our last in a flat filled only with newspapers, bottles of fermented piss and jazz mags. There is though an even better Welles quote: "Everything about me is a contradiction, and so is everything about everybody else. We are made out of oppositions; we live between two poles. There's a philistine and an aesthete in all of us, and a murderer and a saint. You don't reconcile the poles. You just recognize them."
Or at least try to.