(Part 1 of our talk with Sean Seepersad can be found here).
You have a pretty interesting web site, webofloneliness.com. Can you tell us a bit about it?
The website actually started because of the research I was doing looking at loneliness and online coping behaviors in 2001.
In order to attract participants to answer the online survey, I figured it made sense to provide some information on loneliness. Thus, the Web of Loneliness was born.
As I was also interested in analyzing poems about loneliness I had an artwork section as well. What I found after I established the website was that there was a profound need to provide information on loneliness. Visitors to the website often mentioned how relieved they felt that they weren’t the only ones who were feeling lonely. A couple months after the launch of the website, I started a Yahoo! discussion group about loneliness.
Though slow at first, conversations picked up and people started talking with one another about their experiences of loneliness. In its current form, the Web of Loneliness is about many things. I think at the very heart of the website is the message to lonely visitors that you are not alone in your loneliness. There are many others who feel this way. The website tries to give voice to what loneliness is through my own descriptions, but also through the artwork of visitors who contributed to the website.
The biggest artwork collection is the poems section, which currently has over 200 poems. In addition, I try to provide some insight into what loneliness is and what one can do to help overcome feelings of loneliness. At the outset I realized that it is a bit foolhardy to believe that a website could “cure” those who feel chronically lonely. However, perhaps if individuals gained some insight into why they feel lonely, it might spur them to continue a more deliberate search (both online and offline) for their own cure.
How many people log onto your site?
Over the past two years, there have been on average 3,500 unique visitors/month. On a regular basis, the overall website averages about 30,000 to 40,000 hits/month. Most visitors find the website by searching on Google on the keyword, loneliness. It ranks within the top five results.
(That’s quite a large number. Loneliness affects even more people who probably aren’t searching with that term. Perhaps friendship or meeting friends would be a term lonely people might search).
Have people made friends on your site?
I’ve been fortunate to meet many wonderful people who are experiencing loneliness and learning how to cope with it. Over the years I’ve established a couple collaborative relationships. Nowadays, most of my communication happens if visitors join the Ning website [a loneliness support web site].
At that site, people have a chance to engage in discussions about various aspects of loneliness, establish friendships and share their experiences with one another. There is a great group of people there that are very supportive of one another. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to connect with people through this site. Just recently I started a twitter account, @webofloneliness. It provides current information on various aspects of loneliness and relationships. I’m also using it as a way of communicating with those on twitter who might feel lonely. It’s been slowly picking up.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
One other project that I am working on currently had its genesis through the webofloneliness.com. It is a book on loneliness, tentatively titled, Our Lonely Screams. The book contains a collection of autobiographical stories of individuals who have visited the site and feel lonely. It also contains some of my own thoughts and research concerning loneliness and how they relate to the stories. I’m still in the market for a good publisher, if anyone is interested.
Sean Seepersad, PhD was born in the Caribbean country of Trinidad and Tobago. He is currently working on a new loneliness scale and a book concerning loneliness. Sean’s overall goal is to be able to provide individuals with resources they need to overcome their loneliness. In addition to the intervention program, he currently maintains a loneliness website (http://www.webofloneliness.com) and an active twitter feed (@webofloneliness)