Making money off of loneliness

Seth Godin says that everyone is lonely, and that “People spend money (and make money) and join organizations and invest time and enormous energy to solve this problem. Every day.”

My first reaction to this statement is that it is depressing. Are so many people lonely that Seth can generalize and say that “everyone” is lonely?
On the one hand, you can say that loneliness is what has led to the proliferation of social media tools like Facebook, MySpace, and the weirdest one of all: Second Life.  But I recently joined Facebook, and have found it to be a great tool for keeping in touch with family and friends, both overseas and in Israel. And all the people I’m in touch with are not lonely people – we all just want to keep in touch, and this is an easy and fun way to do it. I don’t know much about MySpace, but I’m guessing it is similar. Second Life, on the other hand, is such a huge commentary on the Western lifestyle that textbooks will probably be written about it (they didn’t want to live in the real world, escapism, voyeurism, etc. etc.).

The proliferation of dating sites and the willingness of people to pay for such services does demonstrate a certain loneliness. This loneliness is for a spouse, or close partner for life.

Therefore I think I have to disagree with Seth’s sweeping comment. Everyone is not lonely. Yes, many people would like to get married,  and not being married can indeed be lonely. But many of these people do have family and friends. So instead, I would say that “Everyone wants to get married/find a boyfriend-girlfriend/partner,” and that in this global village where people are moving around all the time, “Everyone wants an easy and fun way to keep in touch with their family and friends, and/or meet new people.”

So if you want to join the bandwagon and make money off of people’s social needs – create a social site where people can keep in touch, or start a dating site. Of course, you’ll be entering the market pretty late and you’ll be competing with monster sites like Facebook and Jdate (which is basically a hi-tech, glorified matchmaker), and even Koolanoo (I don’t know how they’ve done, but I know they exist and got lots of VC money) so chances are you won’t make much money off of other people’s loneliness…

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