Ed Watson, Guest Contributor

Loneliness Epidemic. – by Ed Watson

Image: PM Images

Image: PM Images

One night recently, I found myself alone in a hotel room casting around for something to do. No, I didn’t watch porn, which I gather is a popular pastime among men alone in hotel rooms. But I did watch TV, and a movie called “Love Actually”.

I’ve given up on the machismo image and no longer try to hide the fact that I enjoy some romantic comedies.

“Love Actually” is one of the movies I like. I’ve seen it 2 or 3 times. The film details the love stories of several couples. It’s quite good, except for the premise that anyone resembling Hugh Grant could ever become the British Prime Minister.

What resonated with me most during this viewing of the show was how the movie portrayed the angst and indecision that comes with dating, finding a mate, and even maintaining an existing relationship.

I come at this subject from a different perspective now. My wife recently died of cancer. At this point I won’t go into the emotional wreckage that experience leaves behind, but I’ve now tentatively tested the waters of the dating pool.

I think I almost drowned.

For someone who doesn’t have much of a social circle, online dating is about the only way to go. (I’m writing this on a Friday night alone in my house. Oh, and I just noticed that I have some of my dinner on my shirt and my fly is undone.)

I think a vast majority of the men and women using online dating services are sincere and genuine. But, all the profile pictures and cutesy descriptions remind me of the meat market atmosphere of a 1980’s disco, just without the music, the dancing or the booze.

I started as a voyeur, just looking. “Some of the women seem nice enough” I thought. So I began some of the most difficult writing I’ve ever done, and slowly created a profile. How do you describe yourself to someone you’ve never met in a way that may attract their attention? I finally posted the profile, but didn’t post a picture. The problem is that, quite rightly, most women won’t consider someone who doesn’t post a picture. They don’t want to end up dating the Elephant Man. And finally it dawned on me that the most important thing about online dating is the first impression of your photo. So, I posted some pictures.

Each of these steps was painful, and full of the angst, indecision and an insecurity I haven’t felt since puberty. For the first time in more than 30 years I was dating. I drew some interest and went out with two lovely women. I may write more about that later. Let’s just stay that while I think the dates went well, I’ve since got out of the online dating pool. Maybe I’m not ready, or maybe I’m just like millions of other people who have decided finding love is just too much trouble.

I’m reminded of a report from Japan’s National Institute of Population and Social Security Research. A survey of Japanese people aged 18 to 34 found that almost 70 percent of unmarried men and 60 percent of unmarried women are not in a relationship. Can you believe that? And around 42 percent of the men and 44.2 percent of the women admitted they were virgins. I would have slit my throat if I were still a virgin at 34. In my early 20’s I tried not to be a virgin as often as possible, and it was never possible often enough. I wouldn’t counsel 20-somethings to take the same approach today and regardless my sage advice may not be necessary.

Among Canadians the angst and indecision of developing a face to face relationship is taking some young people out of the dating game. And frankly virtual relationships are easier than meeting someone in person. (I know that I’m far wittier online.)

I recently read the summary of a study (although I frustratingly can’t find a link to it) which found a growing number of young North American men are using, lets call it “self supported” online enjoyment as an alternative to a skin to skin liaisons. I suppose it’s easier, but in my experience the extra effort can provide a much better payoff.

For a nation the populations lack of copulation has consequences beyond just having a lovelorn country. The government of Japan is frantic about the country’s falling fertility rate. According to the World Bank in 2014 statistically there were 1.4 children born per Japanese woman. You don’t hear much talk about low birth rates in this country, but using the same measurement Canada’s birthrate in 2014 was 1.6 babies per woman. For a population to remain stable the average should be 2.1. That’s why, despite opinion polls suggesting many Canadians think it’s a poor idea, the government wants to jack up immigrations rates higher than the current level of about 250-thousand people a year.

In my short online dating experience a few things stood out. Most of all, there are still a large number of women looking for a partners. (My research was limited to the female side of the equation.)

Loneliness may be an affliction reaching epidemic proportions, but many people only want it to end on their terms. In some cases you feel an individual is interested in taking a lover in the same way they might obtain a dog; Because they haven’t had one in a while. And, if the new dog gets snarly they’re quite prepared to put it down.

The movie “Love Actually” ends with everyone finding love. Typical romantic comedy eh? Leaves you feeling good, re-enforcing the idea that all that angst and indecision was worth it.

Now, just tell that to the Japanese and perhaps a few Canadians. Me, I’ve cancelled my online dating subscription. I think I’ll spend the rest of my Friday night watching “Midnight in Paris”. It’s another one of my favourites.


About Ed:

Ed Watson has been a BC news broadcaster for more than 3 decades. He has been a reporter, an anchor, a video journalist and a manager in 3 different TV newsrooms covering many events that have defined life in this province. He spent 10 years reporting on politics. He’s interviewed most of the recent Prime Ministers along with every BC premier going back to Dave Barrett. Recently he has been working as a freelancer and is rediscovering his love for photography. He lives on an acreage near Victoria were he has raised sheep, chickens, dogs and kids. He plays the guitar badly, is a mediocre fisherman and hunter, an adequate cook and a decent photographer who loves the outdoors, particularly the ocean. Paradoxically he also enjoys the city, and particularly Vancouver where he has lived at various times since the 1970’s.

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