A new survey of single people in the U.S., the UK, and China, by the digital marketing group JWT Intelligence, produced this remarkable conclusion:
“…the majority of respondents – regardless of age, gender or nationality – say that they love being single, with upwards of 70% saying single is their choice. Across generations, more than 50% of Americans prefer being single to being in a relationship, and the vast majority report that they sometimes, rarely, or never date.”
Despite this trend, groups for single people are overwhelmingly about dating. That has always bothered me. I thought there should be a community for single people who embrace their single lives, a place where we can share our experiences and discuss everything about single life except dating. I never found such a place, so in July of 2015, I created one – the online Facebook group, “The Community of Single People” (CoSP).
Every year, sometime around the anniversary of the group’s creation, I write a happy birthday post, reviewing who we are and what has been happening. This is the fourth. You can find the previous ones here.
Our numbers, today and through the years
I initially announced the formation of the Community of Single People in July of 2015 on this blog, another blog, and my website. Within five months, we had 600 members. The numbers since then have been:
Of the current 3,433 members, 68% (2,347 people) are active members, meaning that in the past 28 days, they have viewed, posted, commented on, or reacted to content in the group.
Number of new conversations started every day
Every day, there are about 15 new posts. Each one draws an average of 10 comments, though the specific numbers are quite variable. The most popular posts in the past month have attracted well over 200 comments each, while some have drawn no comments at all.
Some of the most popular conversation starters are the ones in which people ask for advice from fellow community members. People seem quite willing to do what they can to help.
Many more of our members are women than men, but more than a few of our most active members are men, so – at least to me – the conversations do not seem quite so disproportionate.
867 are men (26%)
29 did not identify as either women or men (1%)
In terms of age, our members range across the spectrum. Of those who indicated their age:
9 were under the age of 18
222 were between 18 – 24
779 were between 25 – 34
909 were between 35 – 44
719 were between 45 – 54
475 were between 55 – 64
251 were 65 or older
Countries and Cities
Facebook only lists the top 100 countries, so I don’t know the precise number of nations represented in the Community of Single People, except to say that it is at least 100.
1,957 members: United States
213 United Kingdom
81 South Africa
20 Ireland, New Zealand
17 Germany, Spain, Malaysia
14 China, Sweden, Netherlands
12 Brazil, Singapore
11 Ghana, United Arab Emirates
9 Egypt, Denmark, Poland, Italy
8 Zambia, Greece, Belgium, Morocco
7 Turkey, Portugal, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand, Finland, Bangladesh
5 Japan, Norway, Guyana, Costa Rica, Vietnam
Again, Facebook lists only the top 100 cities. Here are the ones with at least 10 members in our group.
85 members: New York, NY
50 Los Angeles, CA
43 Melbourne, VIC, Australia
38 London, UK
30 Sydney, NSW, Australia
27 Seattle, WA
25 Chicago, IL
24 Denver, CO
21 Toronto, ON, Canada
20 Philadelphia, PA and Phoenix, AZ
19 Washington, DC
18 Cape Town, South Africa
16 Houston, TX, and Cincinnati, OH
15 Portland, OR; Brisbane, QLD, Australia; San Francisco, CA and Mumbai, India
14 Auckland, New Zealand; Austin, TX and Minneapolis, MN
13 Delhi, India; Lagos, Nigeria; Kansas City, MO; Akron, OH; Jacksonville, FL; Bangalore, India; and Montreal, QC, Canada
12 Singapore, Singapore; San Diego, CA; Durham, NC; San Antonio, TX; Ottawa, ON, Canada; and Columbus, OH
11 Las Vegas, NV; Dublin, Ireland; Milwaukee, WI; Vancouver, BC, Canada; Oakland, CA; Tucson, AZ; and Detroit, MI
10 Calgary, AB, Canada; Toledo, OH; Indianapolis, IN; Edmonton, AB, Canada; Boston, MA; Tel Aviv, Israel; Durban, South Africa; Perth, WA, Australia; and San Jose, CA
What members are saying about the group
Before I wrote this blog post, I invited members to comment on their experiences in the group. Here’s what the first 23 people had to say. (I will mention their names if they gave me permission to do so.)
Relief and gratitude that there is a place for single people who embrace their single lives
Person 1: I’m thankful for this group, especially because all of your real-life stories (the joy, challenges, struggles, and everything we have in common as singles) help me to be strong(er) and keep going on, knowing that I’m not alone and others also have been going through similar situations.
Person 2: Happy anniversary to us for four years of discussions, support, and sometimes disagreements. We are growing and we are claiming our voices in society.
Person 3: I’ve been to single’s groups before but they focused so much on dating, it was tiring. I love it here 🙂
Person 4: It has been challenging to find a group that has “single” in the title but is not geared toward helping you change that status. I identify as single as a LIFESTYLE choice. Just like my choice to live near the ocean and eat a low-carb diet… these things feel “right,” natural, and best suited to my wants and needs. I’m a personal development advisor and I see a lot of people who were either conditioned to believe they weren’t “whole” on their own or they assumed the reason they ever felt empty was that they needed someone outside of themselves to give their life meaning.
Person 5, Kimberley Ann Salter: This group has helped me feel more normal and less like someone that feels like there’s something wrong with them because they’re happier single. Thanks for helping me feel less alone in that regard.
Person 6: I found people supportive here. Good to know all you people.
Person 7: Although there seem to be a wide range of single people on here (ranging from reluctant singles to extremely happy ones!), I feel like I’ve found my tribe here :)Society’s obsession with romantic relationships has been a frustration for me for so long but I always felt like I was the only one to feel this way. It’s been such a relief to discover this group and realize there are many people who understand that there’s far more to life than finding a man/woman!
Person 8: Because of CoSP, I understand my basic loner personality. So I’ve stopped apologizing and started celebrating my independence.
Person 9: Thanks for making this happen and for being a tireless advocate for people who are perfectly content with their lives as is (without a romantic partner) and also those who are questioning the romantic script. You have opened eyes, created community and (no doubt) prompted many spirited conversations. Happy 4th!!!
Person 10, Linda McKee: Before finding your books and now this community, I felt like I was shouting at the wind for years……..trying to explain my point of view to family and friends with the majority reaction being a blank stare….I’ve spent my adult life happily learning to see things from other’s perspective but with no reciprocation…….this community feeds my soul with understanding……thank you!
Person 11: I am a reluctant and late to join Facebooker, but I found this group after reading about your work in the Washington Post. It was serendipity. I finally felt like there was nothing wrong with me in embracing my singlehood
Person 12: This is the only place where I feel comfortable voicing my struggles with being seen as a single person. I am so grateful for it.
Person 13: I’m happy with the group from when I joined some months back, for meeting many people we are in the same journey.
Person 14: I can’t think of a SINGLE reason why someone wouldn’t like this group! (See what I did there?)
The community started online, but many people have met other community members in person, too
Person 15: Because of CoSP, I have words to describe how I am, which means I don’t feel I have to justify it anymore. I’ve made great friends here, and actually met a bunch of them. I love this place.
Person 16, Craig Ian: This is a true community.
Person 17: I have enjoyed reaching out and befriending individuals from CoSP: being FB friends, but also meeting them in person – so for me it is now more than “just a FB group.” Generally, though, it is refreshing to be among people who “get” me and my concerns in a way others don’t.
Although most members are from the U.S., it is a truly global community, with members from at least 100 countries
Person 18, Lori Kahn Martinek: Thanks to social media and the Internet, everything gets more attention internationally — no matter where it originates. Sales from my book, Retiring Solo, have come from 17 different countries already this year — a nod to the growing number of singles and the ever-swelling number of Boomers who are at or nearing retirement age worldwide. Some of the things that I like best about COSP? Being able to ‘hear’ perspectives on singlehood from around the globe and learning how different cultures view solos. I am entirely jealous of countries where different styles of cohousing and other ways to live in the community are taking root. We can only hope that they gain similar traction in the U.S. Many thanks.
Understanding and discussing singlism
Singlism is the stereotyping, stigmatizing, and marginalizing of single people, and the discrimination against them. Community members appreciate the opportunity to discuss these biases against single people, as you can see from their comments below. As has been true since the start of the group, though, there are also people who dislike these discussions. I’m not one of them – I think they are very valuable.
Person 19: Because of CoSP, I have become more outspoken about the singlism I encounter in my community. I am now more confident and do not hesitate to speak out! This group is like a family!
Person 20, Kendra Heath: I love the huge variety of people we have in this group. From the many different conversations that take place here on a daily basis has opened my eyes to what others go through in their single lives. But learning about some of the hidden (and not so hidden) discriminations that we, as singles, are subject to has been incredibly important. My thanks to… everyone here for the tears, the laughs and the information.
Person 21: Lesley Frances Williams: Being a member of this group, has helped me to articulate concerns about singlism, and helped me understand the cultural brainwashing that occurs. I’ve also used the flipping-the-terms-around-technique that Bella has illustrated, to make my point.
Growing up, I never questioned the idea that people couple up in adult life (it seems absurd to me now). I think the dominance of that narrative is quite unhealthy and dangerous, and many of us wouldn’t challenge it without the greater awareness this group brings.
I provided feedback to my HR department and local government agency on their well-intentioned, but off the mark example of marital status discrimination in the workplace, after discussing it with people here.
What has changed since last year
The biggest change in the Community of Single people has been a very big increase in the number of people asking to join the group. In the past month, we received an average of 38 requests a day. We don’t know for sure why this is happening. Lesley Francis Williams believes that “for the most part it is Facebook’s algorithms identifying us as a larger group and advertising us to more people.” Another member, Person 22, concurs, adding, the most likely reason that the group has seen an influx of new members recently is because of Facebook’s constantly changing algorithms. Public groups are now advertised as “other groups you might be interested in”.
Person 23, Lisa, thinks that “singles have recently been getting good publicity… I also think that asexual and aromantic people are getting more representation, and there’s overlap with those groups and single/single rights/etc. For example, any work done for those particular groups also benefits us and vice versa. I also think increased acceptance of non-monogamy helps because it shows that other forms of connection are acceptable.”
Lisa is right about the good publicity, both for singles generally and for this group in particular. In my anniversary post from last year, I mentioned that the Community of Single People is starting to get mentioned in high-profile books. That continued this year – for example, we were mentioned in Elyakim Kislev’s important new book, Happy Singlehood.
Associated with the big increase in the number of people requesting membership is something else entirely new: now, fewer than 20% of requests for membership are accepted. More and more people are asking to join without understanding what the group is about, perhaps because Facebook recommended it to them and that’s all they know. We do not accept anyone who wants to use the group to find dates. We have some screening questions but as Lesley noted, sometimes the applicants “give us the right answers so they can get in, and then try to chat up members.” We block them from the group when they do that.
Until next year…
Happy birthday, CoSP, and thank-you to the 3,433 members who have made it what it is. Special thanks to the administrators, Lesley and Lisa, who have been fielding the 38 requests per day for membership and doing so much more to keep the group humming along.