The feeling when you think there is no one who cares about you.

Feeling lonely is naturally associated with being alone. There is a discrepancy between how much social interaction someone wants and how much they get. However, there are two important nuances to this proposition. First of all, someone can be alone without feeling lonely. Everyone spends a part of their day without other people, and in many cases this is not a problem. How long someone can go without company before they feel lonely differs from person to person: some people cannot stand to be alone for more than a few hours, others are fine going on holiday alone for a few weeks, while even others choose to live completely in solitude. The second nuance is that simply having people around is not a guarantee for not feeling lonely: someone can work in an office surrounded by hundreds of people, but still feel lonely1.

This means that loneliness is not just a desire to have interaction with anyone, but with someone whom you care for, and who cares for you. It is especially this last part that seems central to loneliness: the feeling that there is no one who cares for you; no one to whom you are special2.

In general, loneliness can be evoked by two types of situations: the temporary, more benign situation and the enduring situation. In the first, someone can be lonely because the people who care for them are currently out of reach. However, they know the loneliness will be alleviated when they are reunited with these people. When a person feels that there isn’t anyone at all who cares for them, they experience a more profound and enduring loneliness.

In the comic, Murphy is having lunch alone, and his colleagues do not seem to care much for him. Even worse, they seem to be having a good time without him. Murphy’s phone also doesn’t show any messages from people who might be thinking of him.

Movie clips


Typical expressions

“I wish there was someone I could talk to.”

“Nobody cares for me.”

Murphy's bad day

Comparisons with other emotions

Loneliness & Rejection

Loneliness and rejection are both about being socially excluded, and as such share the same painful, sad feeling. Someone who feels rejected by a group can go on to feel lonely for not having meaningful social interactions. However, the two emotions do not necessarily co-occur. Someone who goes on a trip alone may feel lonely, but not rejected, because it was her decision to go on the trip, and her friends are waiting back home. Even someone who feels lonely for not having any friends at all, does not have to feel rejected, unless he has specifically tried to make friends and failed. Secondly, someone can feel rejected by another person, but still have other meaningful people around them who keeps him from feeling lonely.

Loneliness & Longing

Loneliness and longing are both painful desires for something that they are not currently having. The emotions can go hand in hand: if someone experiences loneliness because she misses a specific person or group of people, she is lonely and longing for companionship. However, there are a few important differences. First of all, longing does not have to be about social interaction, someone can also long to be promoted or to own a yacht. Secondly, the experience of longing focuses on a specific desirable object, whereas someone who is lonely is more concerned with their current situation, how he got there, and how he can get out of it.

Sources and further reading