In The Loneliness Economy, You’re Both The Product And The Buyer

Companionship comes at a premium price.

man at home alone, people out in fancy bars Jacob Lund, Proxima Studio, Bilanol, Syda Productions | Canva 

If you have recently felt like the only people who can afford friendships are wealthy, then you’re not alone. When I have to turn down invites, it’s often because I can’t afford to go out to events anymore.

It’s no secret that we’re in a major loneliness epidemic. In fact, a recent study revealed that around 60 percent of all Americans have recently reported feeling lonely, and 36 percent also report extreme loneliness as a major problem.


There are tons of reasons for this. Our communities are increasingly fractured by divisive politics and propaganda. Our society has made it harder to approach people at random and talk to others. Moreover, people are moving more frequently than ever before, making it hard to take root anywhere. It takes a lot of time to truly nurture a friendship and in most cases, proximity is a driving factor.

All things considered, it’s not surprising we feel so isolated. Our lives are not built for socializing at this time. The problem is, humans are social creatures and we literally need human interaction to survive and thrive.




So … what happens? We can see it in the economy.

RELATED: A Message To Those Who Are Feeling Lonely

Welcome to the Loneliness Economy, folks.

There are now several major industries that are all devoted to helping people find companions, lovers, and friends. Think about it:

  • Tinder and dating apps are out there offering to introduce you to new people. Many of them are notoriously bad at actually making lasting connections, regardless of whether it’s for friendship or something a little more serious.
  • OnlyFans and cam models now get paid for providing digital content that acts as a form of intimacy. Most of these models are well aware that looking sexy is only half the battle. Their true product is companionship and a good time.
  • Escort agencies are literally offering a girlfriend for the night, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Did you know you can hire a bridesmaid? Or that you can rent a friend? Or that you can even hire someone to act like your mom? Yep. Those are all legitimate businesses that are booming.
  • There is also a major economy built around dating coaches, friendship coaches, and coaches that help people become more sociable. These can run the gamut from pieces of crap like Andrew Tate to people who genuinely want to help, like Healthy Gamer GG. Either way, people buy these services and tune in with the hope that they will improve their relationships.
  • Meetup clubs and social parlors are now starting to become favored among the elite. Don’t believe me? Look at Parlor Social and get back to me. Some of the social clubs (not country clubs, just social clubs) in New York can cost as much as $5,000 a year or more.

The Loneliness Economy is all about the art and business of selling human interaction to the lonely.

Let’s face it: being lonely sucks. And sometimes, you just need a person around you who gets it. It’s not always a want. It’s something that prevents depression and can help make you live longer.


There are very few things that people need right now more than companionship. I mean, look around us all. It’s rough out there and sometimes all you want is a hug.

The funny thing is, most people around us are looking for the same thing — be it a wife, a lover, or just a friend who can look at them and say everything will be okay. Why can’t we just admit it to one another?

RELATED: Why Dating Apps Are The Death Of Real Connections

People are the number one product of the Loneliness Economy.

We live in a world where people — particularly friendship, connection, and love — have become the most unique product on the market. And sometimes, you might not even realize that you’re the product being sold. Think about it:

  • Dating apps primarily profit off men who are looking for women. Those apps are in the business of offering access to women who might be interested in men. The women are the final product. The app just facilitates it.
  • At night clubs, a club’s success is often based on how many women show up. Yep. There’s a reason why Ladies Night was a thing for so long. The music is part of the product. The other part is the people, most commonly women, but just people in general. No one stays in an empty club.
  • Social media is there to give people the semblance of a human connection, and influencers are there to offer parasocial relationshipsSocial media is unique because the people and communities are the product, but you’re not actually getting real interactions. Rather, you’re getting parasocial interactions that are totally one-sided but feel real. But, at the end of the day, your eyes and interaction are the real product people yearn for.
  • Private social clubs are famous for charging high prices. The product? Access to the right people, and being able to attract others by the sheer fact that you are a member.

RELATED: The 7 Types Of Loneliness (And Why It Matters)

Regardless of the way it’s offered, interaction is a major, major product in the Loneliness Economy.

If you take time to build charisma and keep yourself looking decent, chances are that you can capitalize on the Loneliness Economy.

You can make a decent living that way. Quite a few of my friends make six figures (or at least, a decent full-time income) as influencers, club promoters, and Only Fans creators.

Sometimes, you don’t even have to interact with people to make money off the Loneliness Economy. One influencer just shopped out her likeness to an AI app that acts as a friend — though that didn’t work out well for her.


Of course, there are risks. Being a professional companion or an influencer is very draining. It’s also extremely demanding on your real relationships and can strain your mental health. In many cases, how much you make is fully based on how you look.

I can’t help but feel like it’s kind of sad how much we all fall for this economic model.

Somewhere out there, there’s probably someone who is desperately searching for a person like you to just be around them. The problem is, it’s so hard to actually reach out "the old-fashioned way" for so many of us, it actually seems wrong.

So we pay for what we used to do for free because somehow, that just feels safer than how it used to be and maybe we can’t take one more rejection on an emotional level. Or maybe, it’s because we don’t know anyone or because no one is available.


The thing is … we don’t have to do this. In fact, we really shouldn’t have to resort to it. It should be enough to just strike up a conversation at the bar, talk to people in the park, or meet up with people at local fairs.

How did we get to this point? How did we get to the point where the way we look matters so much for things like friendship, and how did we get to the point where it’s just so hard to let people in?

I don’t know, but I can tell you that I’ll be the first one to ignore the pressure to order friends through the next app that comes my way. Friendship and community should not be for sale.

RELATED: 7 Secrets To Making Real Adult Friendships That'll Actually Last


Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer whose work has been featured in Yahoo, BRIDES, Your Daily Dish, Newtheory Magazine, and others.