Three years ago, in July of 2015, I started an online Facebook community, the Community of Single People, where we could discuss all aspects of single life except for dating or other attempts to escape single life. Many of us are “single at heart” – we live our best, most fulfilling lives by living single. Others, though, are more ambivalent about their single lives. Still others are coupled and stop by to hear, first-hand, what single people have to say about their lives. Journalists, for example, sometimes ask for permission to query members for stories they are writing.
I’ve been writing about the Community of Single People (CoSP) at least once a year since the outset. You can read past articles here. As we have from the beginning, we continue to discuss just about every aspect of single life. We share our triumphs and our fears, our good experiences and our not-so-good ones. We ask for advice. We compare notes on matters that have special resonance for single people (for example, what do you do when hospitals insist that you have someone to drive you home after a medical procedure?). We talk about our everyday lives (for example, what’s everyone doing this weekend?) and this year, we even broached the topic of death and dying. We cheer each other on and encourage us all to celebrate the occasions and accomplishments that we care about the most.
We post links to articles, books, TV shows, movies, memes, and lyrics we love and ones we hate –and mock them when they perpetuate demeaning stereotypes of single people. The quip posted most often this year was:
“The reason Mayberry was so peaceful was because nobody was married. Andy, Aunt Bea, Barney, Floyd, Howard, Goober, Gomer, Sam, Earnest T Bass, Helen, Thelma Lou, Clara and Opie were all single. The only married person was Otis, and he stayed drunk.”
My personal favorite was the coffee mug with the inscription, “You say ‘you’re going to end up alone’ like it’s a bad thing.”
An average of nearly 14 new threads are started each day. The post that drew the most comments in the past month asked people why they joined the community. The post that generated the next most active discussion asked people what they thought about owning a home.
Who We Are: A Profile
More than 2,000 members, and most are participating: As of July 8, 2018, the Community of Single People has 2,308 members. Nearly two-thirds of them (64.3%) are active members, meaning they have posted, commented, or reacted in the past month.
Women and men: Most members, 74%, are women. But there are hundreds of men, too (577, to be exact), as well as 23 who do not identify as either female or male.
All ages: We are adults of all ages. Among the women:
20% are between 35-44 years-old
16% are between 45-54
15% are between 25-34
12% are between 55-64, and
6% are 65 or older.
That’s a reasonably even distribution. It is even more uniform among the men.
Around the world: 61% of the members come from the United States. Others come from many places around the globe.
Here are the top 10 countries:
- United States, 1,414 members
- United Kingdom, 151
- Canada, 127
- Australia, 81
- India, 62
- Philippines, 47
- South Africa, 31
- Nigeria, 28
- Indonesia, 20
- Kenya, 17
Here are the top 10 cities:
- New York, NY, USA 57
- Los Angeles, California, USA, 38
- London, England, 24
- Melbourne, Australia, 22
- Denver, Colorado, USA, 19
- Seattle, Washington, USA, 19
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 18
- Sydney, NSW, Australia, 16
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, 16
- Laos, Lagos State, Nigeria, 15
What Community Members Are Saying About Their Experiences in the Group
I told the community members that I was going to write a third anniversary blog post and invited them to submit any comments they would like to share. Here’s what they said, with names attached when people said that was okay:
Riza Hariati: “This group is one of my stepping stones into happy adulthood, acceptance and gratitude to who I really am. “
Carol Hynson: “I love having a “safe harbour” where I can comment, gripe or celebrate and know that people “get me”, rather than have them constantly trying to squash me into a mould and then judging me for not measuring up to artificial standards. I love it that most comments are measured, considered, and people have so many fascinating experiences of their own, good, and bad, to share. Knowing we have a community, though we may be geographically far apart, is immensely empowering – we have each other’s backs, so there’s always someone to tell, “You’ll never guess what happened/what I just read/the movie I just saw…””
Alicia: “This group is supportive in a very smart way. I actually find most of the comments smart.”
From other people:
“I’m relatively new to this group (joined some point this year). It’s really helped me form a positive view about being single. I wish there’d been something like this years ago.”
“I am so grateful to have found this wonderful group. It’s given me the courage to face something about myself that I’ve never really been able to admit before: I don’t enjoy being part of a couple, and that doesn’t mean there’s something “wrong” with me.”
“The group is a breath of fresh air and a great way of discovering all those little ways we internalised where single people get the rough end of the stick.”
“Members take a lot of care to give considered comments. I’ve learnt a lot and felt very supported.”
“I enjoy being a member, and have enjoyed meeting several other members in person!”
The Hard Parts: What Some People Don’t Like
When I invited members to share their experiences for this blog post, no one said anything negative. But complaints do get posted in the community. There seem to be two main categories. First, this is a group in which discussions of singlism – the stereotyping, stigmatizing, marginalizing, and discrimination against single people – are most welcome. Some community members dislike those discussions.
Second, and more worrisome to me, some people end up feeling insulted or demeaned by some of the discussions. Sometimes that happens when whole categories of people get derogated. I want us to be about standing up for people who are single, and living our lives fully, joyfully, and unapologetically, and not about demonizing people who are not single. (Debunking studies claiming that married people are better than single people is something I do all the time; I consider that myth-busting rather than marriage-bashing.) Other times, people feel that others have responded to them too harshly. That pains me every time it happens. It is also a reminder to be more careful myself.
Although we are overwhelmingly an online community and have never organized an official in-person CoSP meeting, more and more community members have been getting together in person. They have met for dinner, lunch, concerts and other musical events, baseball games, ferry excursions, shopping expeditions, a zoo, lectures (including one by one of our members, about her book about single life), food festivals, workshops and conferences for writers, and even visits to each other’s homes.
The places where CoSP members have gotten together include:
Lots of places in and around London:
San Francisco and the Bay Area
Some CoSP members have developed friendships with each other. One pair of friends mentioned that they “exchange paper cards, letters, and gifts every now and then.” Another said, “We provide mutual therapy for each other as I cook for her and have a good laugh as we do it.” Some “stay in touch by phone, email, and text.” One of the members has lunch often with one of the other members and has also gotten to know her daughter and her mom.
Some New Developments During This Past Year
The Community of Single People was once a little group with a few hundred members that hardly anyone knew about. We are still reasonably small, at just over 2,300, which is probably good for our conversations. And we are still relatively unknown. Just this year, though, we were mentioned by New York Times writer Stephanie Rosenbloom in her new book, Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities, and the Pleasures of Solitude. For a sneak preview of what she said, take a look at this previous “Single at Heart” blog post. A pre-publication version of an academic book also includes a discussion of this community. If that section is still there when the book is published, I’ll blog about it here.
I started another Facebook group this year, Fairness for Single People. It is an initiative for calling out fair and unfair practices in businesses and other contexts. There is some overlap in the membership, and in the concerns, of the Fairness group and CoSP. The Fairness group has already gotten a nice shout-out from GirlBoss.
Because many of us in CoSP use social media, we tried to come up with a hashtag to append to relevant tweets and such. The result was #BadassSingles. CoSP member Adriana Kohkemper generously donated her time and creative talents to generating a whole series of possible images to use with the #BadassSingles hashtag. The image that illustrates this post is the one that got the most votes.
The Community of Single People is a closed community, which means you need to apply to join. (There are only a few administrators, so it could take a few days to hear back.) If you are thinking of joining to find a date, you will not be admitted. This is a special online place where talking about single life means talking about everything except dating.
I love the community, and many others do, too. But I don’t want to oversell it. It is not for everyone, and some have joined and then left.
To everyone who has joined and contributed, or just enjoyed the lurking – thank-you. I’m looking forward to the next year with you.
[Note: I’m posting this here, at my “Single at Heart” blog at Psych Central, for the first time. I may cross-post it later at a few other blogs.]