Paying for Cuddles: Loneliness in the Age of Instant Gratification

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Paying for Cuddles: Loneliness in the Age of Instant Gratification

I really don’t know what “I love you” means
I think it means “Don’t leave me here alone”

(Dark Sonnet, Neil Gaiman)

In
the last few years, technology has made recluses of us all. In the guise of
making life convenient, we’ve outsourced basic human impulses and tendencies.
Apps tell us when we ought to feel hungry or thirsty. Apps orchestrate romances
between two dating profiles; apps get people laid. To a large extent, we’ve
successfully computerised our primal, base desires and needs.

We’re
the generation that hasn’t needed to get off the couch in the last five years,
unless we really wanted to. As a result, we’re lonely in the age of relentless
stimulation.

Isolation Has Spawned an Entire Industry

21st century isolation has spawned an entire industry. It is possible to schedule ‘cuddle time’ in the same way that you’d book a cab — on your cellphone. We’re so lonely that platonic human affection is a ‘service’ we’re willing to pay for.

Our lifestyles have come under scrutiny. The baby-boomers and their ilk have a lot to say about us ‘millennials’ and our hedonistic, financially irresponsible lives. As a result, our isolation is our ‘doing’ and our coping mechanisms ‘unnatural’.

We argue that it is the natural progression of things. In the absence of public spaces where young people can gather, exchange ideas and get to know one another, we ‘millennials’ find love, friendship and sexual relationships on Tinder.

In the age of relentless stimulation, we are lonely. (GIF Courtesy: giphy.com)

We’re Not the First Lonely Generation

Millenial or not, the fact that we are inherently lonely isn’t a new or a radical concept. Throughout history, aesthetic movements have been the outcome of great anguish and solitude. The only difference between loneliness twenty years ago and now is how we cope with it.

I spoke to some of my friends. We send a text message, they said. Or we call someone. Turn to the internet for stimulation. In this context, what is loneliness?

Another friend spoke to me about loneliness at length:

Alia Sinha

While we despair at the singularity of our plight as lonely millennials, what we don’t realise is that we’re buying into the very ideology that capitalism would like us to buy into. We believe we are lonely, so we turn to Tinder for companionship. We use Facebook, we use WhatsApp. We’re using the very tools to cope that the system wants us to use, to combat a ‘crisis’ of solitude that the system has itself engendered.

We’re no longer capable of introspection; we don’t know how to make peace with our emptiness. (Photo Courtesy: Tumblr)

Hand in Glove: Technology and Instant Gratification

Technology and instant gratification are hand in glove. Food is delivered within the hour and it is possible (on a good day, with flawless internet) to download a movie within fifteen minutes. We millennials aren’t very good at waiting for things; we’ve never had to. As a result, we haven’t learnt how to occupy ourselves – we simply don’t know how to deal with a lack of external stimulation.

Manasvini Sankara Narayan

A temporary ‘fix’ is to self-stimulate using technology, as a stepping stone to occupy oneself without external aid. Our ceaseless need for instant gratification in all other aspects of our lives makes us seek it from peers, friends and lovers. We’re no longer very good at working on relationships. 

Whether or not our inability to deal with loneliness is our own doing, services that offer basic human companionship in exchange for money are here to stay. This is the price we must pay for instant gratification; for our ‘convenient,’ sedentary lifestyles.