Can These Apps Mend Your Lonely Heart?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because feeling less lonesome might be just a tap away.
By Carly Stern
There’s nothing like scrolling through social media, looking at photos of happy couples on vacation or friends at a bachelor party, and feeling like your sole companion is your smartphone. And yet, ironic as it might sound, your iPhone could also be your loneliness lifeline. Sure, you can use it to talk to your mother — and you should definitely call your mother. But it also offers a bunch of apps specifically designed for when you’re feeling all alone and in need of a social connection. Here are three of our favorites.
Michelle Kennedy’s transition from a busy executive environment to being home with her child — when her girlfriends were not having children — came as a shock, she says. When new mothers step out of the workforce or higher education or move to a new city, they’re no longer constantly surrounded by people. It’s a situation that prompted the former deputy CEO of Badoo and board adviser and director of Bumble to create a matchmaking app for mothers, alongside Greg Orlowski, co-founder and former chief technology officer of Deliveroo.
Peanut connects like-minded mothers in the U.S., Canada, Australia and the U.K. through an algorithm that takes into account location, interests, children’s age and users’ descriptions — with everything from “hot mess” to “bookworm,” and “routine queen” to “fitness fiend.” Mothers can “wave” at other users to make connections and chat, or join conversations that run the gamut from returning to work to sex to body changes.
Peanut can be the first step for women who feel stuck in their homes or disenfranchised, says Dr. Carla Manly, a clinical psychologist. It’s not a replacement for interpersonal connection, she explains, but it’s still a powerful tool because it gets women to interact — some healthy face-to-face contact. The free matchmaking-style app generates around 200,000 swipes per day and has accrued a user base in the six figures, according to Peanut.
Finding time to go to a brick-and-mortar therapist can be a challenge. It’s also expensive. Talkspace provides options for those who can’t afford traditional therapy or who require more flexible times to work with a professional. After an assessment, users are matched with a licensed therapist. Payment plans start at $200 per month (traditional therapy averages $125 per hour in the U.S., and often is higher in large cities). To ensure patient privacy, the platform uses encryption.
Beyond clinical subjects and diagnoses, Talkspace therapists are well-versed in modern topics like coping with loneliness, social media or the news cycle, explains co-founder and head of clinical services Roni Frank in an email. Often, a sense of loneliness encompasses broader questions about one’s role in society, identity and relationships, and therapy can be a healthy place to explore these questions, she adds. Therapists respond to posted messages about once a day, five days a week. And if you’re not feeling a good bond, you can always switch up therapists without having to start from scratch.
But patients’ ability to reach out online 24/7 — as opposed to having set appointments — could pose drawbacks. There are benefits to holding emotions and working with them until the next appointment or communication with a therapist, Manly says. What’s more, online therapy doesn’t allow for eye contact, or the ability to read tone and feel present and seen by another person. Still, Manly thinks this type of “portable” therapy has a place in the spectrum of therapeutic services. So, for people who tend to head online to seek solutions, digital therapy might be more accessible when people are experiencing particularly high levels of loneliness.
As a solitary pursuit, meditating to resolve feelings of isolation may seem counterintuitive. Yet there’s an important distinction between loneliness and being alone, Manly says. Of the slew of meditation apps available, she points to Aware, which offers sequential daily foundation courses and themed courses ranging from 10 to 20 minutes. Meditation can bring us back into our own bodies, she explains, helping us to hone in on the truth about whether we’re feeling alone or lonely and identify our in-the-moment connection needs. After meditation, she adds, someone might realize their feelings of loneliness or separation were just a passing anxiety.
Users can browse specific topics like change, creativity, stress and motivation. Aware also provides “energizers” — quick-hit sessions designed to help users maintain the practices they’ve already learned. These get as specific as breath awareness — perfect for the minutes leading into that quarterly earnings meeting — or sound immersion for commuters. Aware is available for a seven-day free trial, plus monthly, yearly or lifetime subscriptions.