British Columbia

You're not alone: Vancouverites share their stories of loneliness

Young adults, between 25 and 35 are the hardest hit by social isolation in Metro Vancouver, according to a report.

Young adults between 25 and 35 are the hardest hit by social isolation in the region

CBC special series explores loneliness in young people.

"I'm so lonely in Vancouver I don't know what to do anymore."

That's how Winston Yeun feels — and it's been that way for as long as he can remember. 

Young adults, between 25 and 35 are the hardest hit by social isolation in Metro Vancouver, according to the Vancouver Foundation's Connections and Engagement report, released in December, 2017.

Yuen shared his story with CBC, and, in response, hundreds of people across Metro Vancouver are now sharing their own experiences of trying and failing to make strong social connections in this city.

A souless city?

"I haven't made a new friend in Vancouver since university and I graduated nearly a decade ago. My few friends moved away, and I really haven't had a friend here for the past six or so years," wrote Loneinvan on Reddit. 

"I tried, don't get me wrong ... But as the years went on, I just lost all confidence and self esteem when it comes to this aspect of life. For years, I thought I was broken until I moved abroad. In those five months, I made more friends and acquaintances than I ever have in my life."

Chris Monk says Winston's experience is similar to his. 

"I was raised in Ottawa and in France, and Vancouver is, without a doubt, a city with no soul. People are polite and friendly but that's as far as it goes. There is no depth whatsoever," he wrote on Facebook.

Mongo5nash said on Reddit that it's a "weird thing" particular to living in Vancouver. 

"I've tried getting hikes together, drinks together... nothing. Luckily, I've found a handful of workmates that do want to have some fun (by chance I work for a big company), but it took a bunch of wasted time and persistence before finding like-minded co-workers."

Holly Davies says it's even harder for parents. 

"Try being a working mom in the Lower Mainland," she said on Facebook. "Everyone (including me sometimes) is so busy between work and kids. My entire social life is on Facebook. It gets incredibly lonely."

Blame it on the affordability crisis

Another social media poster blames the city's unffordable nature. 

"I live in a micro studio which is new and nice, but impossible to have people over at," Nucksboy says on Reddit. "I'm single, so the rent is the best I can do without putting myself at risk of trouble, if I ever lost my job."

Tony Toca Touché says Vancouver was not always like this.

"I have lived here for 30 years, and it has become like this only in the past few years. I feel this city has become very transient. And many who grew up here and belonged to communities have moved away," he said on Facebook.

Naysayer

But not everyone agreed on social media, although there were far fewer comments disputing that Vancouver was a city of lonely people. 

Brad Collums Byars called it "total drivel" on Facebook. 

He says he's an American from the Deep South, and besides "really terrible and rude drivers," he finds Vancouver is no different than anywhere else. 

"The problem sounds like a mostly internal one. People are people. There are friendly and flaky people everywhere."

Ideas?

Several others shared ideas for how Yuen and other people can make friends. 

Brittannia Leigh works at a hospital, and says, "there are so many patients that don't have friends or family. Especially the elderly, which often makes them feel isolated."

Despite decades of isolation, Winston Yuen says he is refusing to give up on social connection. (Winston Yuen)

Perhaps you could volunteer your time and sit with them. You would be going something good, and in return feel less isolated."

Elke Porter suggested volunteering.

"Whether it is the Union Gospel Mission, the SPCA, a homeless shelter or join a meetup group of like-minded people — photography, travel, veganism, writing, sports — there are people out there — you just have to find your tribe!"

Many have reached out on social media, offering to be Yuen's friend. ​Yuen is delighted by the reaction.

"It's really warmed my heart that people care," he said.

While several people have asked Yuen out for coffee, he said it's hard to tell at this stage whether any of these well-wishers will become friends.

He has reason to be cautious in his optimism. 

Yuen's original Reddit post led to similar offers of coffee and connection, but nothing long-lasting materialized. A year later, he says he was back on Reddit asking for help again.


Pretty Lonely

This story is part of a radio and web series that looks into why many Metro Vancouver residents in their 20s and 30s experience social isolation.

The five-part radio series, which airs on CBC radio from Nov. 19 to 23, is produced by Jennifer Wilson, this year's recipient of Langara College's Read-Mercer Fellowship.

Tune into The Early Edition on 88.1 FM or 690 AM, weekdays 5:10-8:37 am, to hear the series.

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