Lonely hearts of the western world have an important message for the new internet society
The rise of loneliness and the plight of lonely hearts in the internet age has big implications for everyone.
Money can't buy you love but controversially, in today's world, maybe it can. Even more startling, maybe it is love. The links between money, love, loneliness and the attraction
between western lonely hearts and Thai women throws up some interesting findings. What is not in doubt however, is that a dramatic shift in society all over the world means loneliness
is an issue to be confronted. Whether as a solution to the problem or a contributor the discussion, it is related to the internet and social media as the web becomes more and more part
of the fabric of daily life. In today's world it may already have become the fabric of daily life. At this point in time, there is an unease about where this storyline ends.
Social capital in the internet age
Popular psychologists including those writing self improvement books have long linked the blessing of love with possession of money. Translated to this, the internet or social
media age the phrase 'social capital' has gained currency with some commentators supporting this concept.
Older men in western countries are the new lonely hearts
The rise of loneliness, what it is actually, who suffers from and its links with the internet and social media is beginning to be researched by some government agencies. A spate of
surveys in western countries including America, Australia and the United Kingdom has consistently shown a figure of 9 to 10% of the population being acutely lonely. This is
pronounced among older economically disadvantaged males living alone in all the surveys.
However, while it is often stories about older and more senior men and women that capture the public's imagination, loneliness is by no means limited to this age group. In the
United Kingdom a charity called Silverline runs a programme whereby younger people telephone older seniors once a week. One of those seniors is Paul Dunphy, 62 years of age,
originally from Ireland but living in Derby. Paul's wife died eight years ago and he receives a regular number of phone calls and visitors as part of two different programmes within the
Lonely widower from Derby and pain of wife's death
Our reporter interviewed Paul at his very comfortable and well appointed home in the Chaddesden area of Derby. In one part of his living room there is half a wall dedicated to
pictures and portraits of his beautiful wife Marguerite who died from cancer in 2007 having being diagnosed only three months previously. Paul says he has been reasonably
successful combatting his loneliness but was initially devastated by how he felt just after losing his wife. 'I think it hit me about three to four months after, it was like a black fog came
over me, it was nearly a physical thing, it was so bad that I would go to the shop up the road just to speak to someone behind the counter.' Paul actually has many friends, goes to the
local pub two or three times a week and is popular in the residential area where he lives.
Lonely UK man only ever saw Thailand on the Sunday papers
In 2010, Paul joined ThaiLoveLines.com, Thailand's popular dating site with the idea that he would like to meet some friends from the opposite sex. 'I have never been to Thailand.
Like it was only something I'd seen on the Sunday papers. I wasn't sure I would ever go, my friends were laughing at me, it's only now that I'm off to Thailand.' Paul will spend four weeks
in Thailand in February 2016. 'I've even had some mates who want to come along. The idea for joining the dating website in Thailand was that I thought maybe I could find someone, I
did think my wife would want me to, you see, find a new partner. Now I think it might as well be a new life altogether. I feel a man or women must have someone in their lives from the
opposite sex, it's only a natural thing isn't it.' Paul tells us that the friends he has made online have made him think more openly and broadened his horizons.
Why did Paul join a Thai dating site
Paul found it difficult to date English women locally in his owns city having even tried a matchmaking service he saw on a local newspaper. 'I went on a date once but it was all very
expensive. It's not that I'm a miser but it just didn't feel right and at my age it's not so easy to find a dating partner. The women I met were very set in their ways. The only thing, I know I
may be lonely and I have limited means but I don't have any money worries, you see.' Paul's first experience with Thai dating site didn't make things much better.
Victim of an internet scammer but hasn't visited Thailand
Paul ended up losing nearly Stg 2,000 to an internet scammer who said she needed the money to secure a visa and pay for a plane ticket. In spite of this set back, Paul continued
using the Thai dating site but in five years, he still has not made it to Thailand. Paul has many online girlfriends in Thailand mostly younger women although quite a few are middle
aged. 'I just like to chat and see photos, there are maybe three or four that I have got to know quite well and that is why I am going on my holiday to Thailand next year. I'm a bit excited
by it now.'
Paul tells us his life has become comfortable and he doesn't feel as lonely. Paul's son, who lives in Liverpool, runs a successful trucking company and as the years have gone by,
his son has become closer to him. 'I think men and women, if they are lonely have to do something and look at different ways of living. Humans must tangle with each other, you know,
and explore new horizons. That is where the internet dating helps but I've put off my trip to Thailand for too long. My friends in Thailand think I'm a ghost. I'm off in the new year and I'm
really looking forward to it.'
UK man should find a Thai woman of similar age
Carla Boonkong, a researcher and magazine writer in Bangkok, who has studied extensively the phenomenon of Thai woman marrying Europeans men including UK men. She is
cautious about older men seeking Thai girlfriends and Thai wives. 'In all the negative outcomes and there are some, it is from relationships where the expectations are not balanced.
This comes often from relationships involving older western men and Thai women. In this situation the obvious is true, the bigger the age between the parties the more likely there is to
be a problem.' Carla points out that the underlying reason for the problem is often financial where younger Thai women from poorer families with economic expectations and older
western men with limited financial means.' Carla is quick to point out that there are many of Paul's age who do find successful relationships. However it is important that both parties
understand what is involved.
UK is most lonely country in Europe
Recent research in the UK by the office of National Statistics showed that the United Kingdom, in statistical terms, was the loneliest place in Europe. The survey estimated that
there were 4.7 to 5 million people living in the United Kingdom without friends. A friend was defined as someone that they could relate to on an intimate level.
Lonely Hearts movie shows the vulnerability of lonely people
The last fifty years have seen radical and remarkable changes in the nature and shape of society. In 2006 a movie was released called 'Lonely Hearts' which portrayed a terrifying
story of murder and the manipulation of lonely people in the 1940s. The story is set in the aftermath of World War Two when there was an excess of single eligible women available
because of the impact of the war. The true story tells the the story of Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez who lured unsuspecting females ultimately to their deaths not before
extorting and swindling them out of their fortunes.
Today's lonely hearts are not the victims of a world war but a social war or struggle within society which has caused dramatic upheavals and changes in the way we live. There are
still predators like Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez except they no longer target their prey through Lonely Heart magazines but through the internet and social networking as well
as dating sites.
Online dating scams a growth business
Online dating scams are a growing part of a global internet fraud business. This industry dominated by organsied groups in Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia, is now reckoned to be
bigger than the international drug business.It is also linked to increasingly large levels of migration from Africa. Paul from Derby was a victim of this new crime wave. Paul managed to
shake it off his loss deciding that he wanted to focus and use the internet to solve his problem with loneliness. 'I could have gotten angry but i was a lesson learned it won't be
happening to me again and I'm happy I've stuck at it.'
Loneliness not confined to the old or even singles
It would be quite wrong to assume that loneliness is something that was reserved for older or even male members of the population. The problem and challenge is a deeper and
also more widespread one. All research in western countries is showing that there are high levels of loneliness among younger people and even among people involved in marriage
living in homes with children. In fact, the recent survey in the United Kingdom identified the most acute levels of loneliness among adults of working age. Ironically it identified older
seniors (over 65) who had retired as having well established circles of friends as a buffer against loneliness. A startling fact from the survey showed that 85% of married or cohabiting
adults said that while their relationships were good, a significant proportion, 20% said that they never in fact felt loved.
Why Thai women are so attractive to lonely hearts
Carla Boonkong identifies the quality of personal relationships as a key reason for the attraction to Thai women by western men. This, on the face of it, would directly challenge the
stereotype of the western man with a Thai wife or life partner. Carla believes some Thai women bring to a relationship the same culture and warmth that is found in Thai families. 'We
must be careful that we don't raise another stereotype here too, not all Thai women or families are the same. This is why you hear the bad stories. But there is a lot more good than
bad, also it depends on the western men. That said, I think Thai society has super advantage in that relationships within families are very close and somehow warmer. The structure of
Thai society and Thai culture is centred around the parents, the children caring for parents and the culture is a living thing with an active philosophy and a range of solutions for every
situation. Western society is materially better off but people find themselves increasingly less connected and in a colder place. And it is the internet that has opened up the two
environments, I think that this is one very positive thing about the internet. But then it is up to the man or women online to find the right sort, this hasn't changed at all and as we see we
must also be careful about the internet.'
Extensive research into lonely people in Australia
A comprehensive research project into loneliness in Australia for the Australian Institute was conducted between 2009 and 2012. It offers fascinating insights into not only the levels
of loneliness across the whole spectrum of the population but also indications of how loneliness interacts with people's lives and also the use of social media.
Clear link between financial state and loneliness
Like all surveys and research into loneliness it showed that those who are lonely are more likely to be men and living alone. One of the fascinating insights offered by the research
shows a clear link between a change in financial circumstances such as the loss of a job or drop in income. It was found that this has a severe impact on a person's feeling of
loneliness. 'I suppose the best way to understand this is to look at what we define loneliness as. In the end of the day loneliness is a perception that society is not interacting with us as
we would like it to do and therefore a drop in income is sort of like a rejection message from society,' says Alison Dewar, a researcher from Newcastle in the UK. The research seems
to suggest that the concept of social capital is a real one.
How lonely hearts in Australia are going online
The research also throws up some interesting findings on how Australian adults are using social media and dating sites.
The research found that while people who are lonely view social media outlets as possible solutions to their predicament or problem, they are also less likely to believe in
friendships and relationships created online than other adults who are not lonely. Pranom Inthakhenee is Marketing Manager with ThaiLoveLines.com, Thailand's leading dating site.
'This is a very interesting suggestion but I am careful to accept because you know one of TLL's biggest issues is that lonely hearts on our website can sometimes be caught by these
people online who are the predators, I think it would be good to see more research about this. Our experience shows that people who are lonely easily often mislead. This is
something that is a problem for social media all around the world.' ThaiLoveLines is currently revamping its security plan to include more education for users as well as more
sophisticated detection systems to remove users who may be a security threat.
One to one romantic relationships are the antidote to loneliness
The recent research into loneliness in the United Kingdom and Australia seem to suggest that one to one relationships between adults represent the best antidote to loneliness.
'Basically what it is saying is that people may be in relationships, may even have children but they may not feel loved, the research also suggest that the intimacy of relationships is the
key and establishes a link between how people feel valued and the financial success,' says Alison Dewar. 'We see here the value of romance in our lives or love, that feel good
ThaiLoveLInes - the Thai online dating site for lonely hearts
ThaiLoveLines, which now has over 300,000 users worldwide was established in 2007 by two Irish men with the specific objective of helping lonely hearts to find love in Thailand
and around the world. Pranom Inthakhenee explains why the site is specifically designed to achieve this result. 'Yes, our dating website is like a Thai social network for the world and
dating centre offering so many different ways for the people online to make a good chance for finding friends or the connections with other people from around the world looking for
love and freindship.'
ThaiLoveLines offers specific tips to lonelyhearts on how to deal with loneliness and find love in Thailand. These include:
- View the online love search as a mission or project and approach it with an active mindset.
- Develop a plan and routine for using the site and create a regular chain of events to give the yourself a mental flow on a daily basis.
- The initial objective should be to find a handful of friends preferably five but no more than seven at the end of an extensive contact period. During this period many contacts should
be made as possible. The site may also be used as a Thai social network with a more extensive list of friends on a social network. Many users have hundreds or even thousands of
- Share photos and video galleries, create a comprehensive and colourful profile for favourite friends with whom it is hope a stronger relationships may develop.
- With the smaller number of friends online begin deeper communication exploring beliefs and philosophies.
- For users outside of Thailand, a visit to Thailand is recommended to successfully develop a relationships and enhance the cultural experience.
TLL - online dating that combats loneliness
ThaiLoveLines offers many lighter dating feature including online radio, chat lines and meet your match. It has also become a growing social network where users can simply chat
and build a Thai international social network. 'We like to make a place where people are happy to meet other people in Thailand and around the world, the good thing is that these
other people are also looking for love too,' says Pranom Ithahenee.
Lonely hearts research throws up a terrifying spiral
Researchers in the UK have identified what they define as a loneliness spiral in which a number of events in quick succession can trigger a decent or spiral into loneliness. 'I have
met people who have experienced this,' says Alison Dewar. 'We really need to look at the link between loneliness and mental health and we also have to take into account the stigma
that is attached to both issues.'
UK researcher into Thai wives looks at loneliness in West
Alison Dewar, who as a post graduate student, conducted research into Thai women living with UK men was particularly interested in the phenomenon where she saw very strong
relationships between Thai women often of diverse backgrounds and UK men with less secure jobs or livelihoods. She points to recent research carried out in Australia into the level of
loneliness in that country. The Australian Institute research conducted between 2009 and 2012 shows a similar level of loneliness to that in the UK and highlighted some strange
- While single men with a less satisfactory financial position living alone were particularly vulnerable to loneliness, the survey showed that for men in Australian loneliness peaks at 60
years of age.
- The survey identified high levels of loneliness among younger people and even those in relationships and living with children.
- The survey seemed to indicate that the people with the least levels of loneliness are couples involved in one to one relationships. This seemed to confirm what Alison Dewar found
in her research into Thai wives living with UK men. 'I was surprised at the level of harmony and confidence in relationships involving UK men and Thai women where the couples had
no children and no external network within society,' says Alision. Her survey identified that many Anglo Thai couples, spread throughout the UK and often isolated from the community,
were very successful and supportive. 'The research findings showed that these relationships were remarkably strong even in economically challenged circumstances and in many
instances where the Thai woman were cut off from a community or support structure.
Internet, social network and dating can help lonely hearts
The research in Australia is surprising and deals extensively with the internet age. While some studies in America suggest that advent of social networking and social network
websites is in fact a contributor to loneliness, the research in Australia seems to suggest otherwise.
The research findings suggest that people who find themselves affected by loneliness will seek to use social media as a solution. 'It is really amazing to think that in today's age,
when we can make contact with thousands of people at the touch of a button that loneliness is in fact a growing issue,' says Alison Dewar.
Internet blogger with 100,000 fans who is lonely
She highlights this by pointing to the example of a very successful internet blogger with up to 100,000 followers who finds herself experiencing loneliness even while engaged in
the process of blogging including live video and audio feeds. Alison plans to conduct further research into the concept of loneliness in the modern age and the effects of social media
on people's mental states.
Loneliness linked to social changes and divorce
Some researchers suggest that the increase in loneliness is directly linked to rapid changes in society including the breakdown of traditional family units in the last fifty to sixty
years. In the United States of America in 1940, 7% of the population lived in single person households. By 2011, this had increased to 25%.
Research in the United Kingdom shows that those people experiencing loneliness are more likely to not have a good relationship with their father, the findings showed that 40% of
people suffering loneliness had a less than satisfactory relationships with their father while it was only 20% referring to their relationship with their mother.
Loneliness impacts on success in life and health
Alison Dewar believes that this is an issue that must be explored. 'Loneliness is not just feeling uncomfortable it also has severe implications for people's lives, success in life and
even their health. She points to the need for strong relationships to help people overcome or appropriately deal with events in life.The definition of loneliness is the inability to be able to
communicate on a deeply personal level to another husman being.
Research in America strongly links loneliness to ill health and increased risk of heart problems. The research conducted by the University of Chicago showed that people suffering
from loneliness are more likely to have sleep problems, develop blood pressure when older and experience immune system deficiencies. The survey concluded that people who are
lonely are 14% more likely to suffer and early death.
Thai women adept at personal social networking
Carla Boonkong points out that Thai women, who have managed to establish themselves in urban centres throughout the western world are very adept at social networking. 'Thai
culture built on the concept of service, service to one's parents and to the community at large. Also in Thailand it is women who are responsible for financial affairs and providing for the
family at the most basic level. This responsibility is something inherent in the Thai woman and in an economy with limited resources, it means a greater need for co-operation and
interactivity. 'That's why you will see that most of the small businesspeople in Thailand are women, I think the figure is now over 80%. Thai women are very skilled at building networks
or as you may like to call it social capital.' Carla points to research from Belgium and the Netherlands which shows Thai women developing personal networks where jobs are offered
and sought and even where money is lent to and fro.
Loneliness survey in Australia - key findings
The extensive research conducted into loneliness in Australia highlighted South Australia and Tasmania as the most lonely part of the country although there was found to be little
difference in levels of loneliness overall.
- The survey showed that while 10% of people were lonely over a three year period, 32% of people had experienced loneliness with this rising to 39% for men living alone, the
corresponding figure for women was 12%.
- Affirming the concept of social capital, the research showed that older men living alone with high disposable income were very much less likely to experience loneliness.
- The most likely people to experience loneliness in Australia were men between 55 and 60 years of age living alone who had suffered a financial or economic loss in recent
Australian lonely hearts turning to Thai women
Carla Boonkong is currently working on studying the plight of Thai women moving to Australia and living with Australian men. 'One of the things we see is that many of the Australian
men seeking relationships in Thailand online are coming from relationships breakdown or divorce,' Carla explains.
She points out that in recent years there has been a spike in Australians from Western Australia seeking love in Thailand coming off the downturn in the Australian mining industry
and layoffs in that sector. She feels that the attraction to Thailand and the prospect of finding a Thai relationship partner is a lot more than the stereotype portrayed in the media.
Australians seeking a new cultural experience
'As we see it is very much linked to economics and the perceived beauty of Thai women, all this sort of thing but I think an often overlooked reason is the desire to reach out to a
new culture or to make a new start. The prospects for lonely hearts of a connection to a new culture, a sunny place with smiling faces, I think is very alluring and this can be a reality for
these Australian men, any foreign men who find the right Thai woman,' she says.
Lonely hearts in America, UK and Australia
While the United States of America is seen as less lonely a society than the United Kingdom or even Australia because America appears to be a more dynamic society, there is no
research to support this as a fact. The only significant information is from the UK office of National Statistics which confirms that the United Kingdom as the loneliness country in
Europe. Researchers have therefore suggested that the character of a society is the key difference. However the same picture emerges from the United States which shows that
loneliness is a growing issue.
Bizarre nature of loneliness in an internet age
The phenomenon of loneliness in the internet age in America was highlighted in 2011 when an 83 year old former B movie star died in her home and her mummified body was
only discovered by a friend nearly a year later. Actress Yvette Vickers, a former playmate for Playboy magazine and who had a cult following in B movies as well as horror films was
found by her friend who noticed cobwebs in the movie star's door and unopened mail. The old woman was found in her bedroom mummified with a heater and computer still on.
Yvette had no children and was not involved in any community group and it was reported that as well as attending a film festival in Toronto some five years before her death she had
been resorting to the practice of phoning fans who sent her letters.
It is clear that loneliness is a big challenge to today's world. For anyone suffering from it is quite the difference between life and death. The internet, social media, dating sites and
more particularly Thai dating sites for not only for western men and Thai women but also men and women in Thailand and worldwide have their most valuable and important role to
play in helping people's broaden their horizons, make friends and find love in their lives.