I really wish that I could host an online forum for long-time single people to talk to each other. Peer support can be quite helpful to get through the lonely days. In fact, in 1997, I set up a discussion mailing-list as part of the original Alana’s Involuntary Celibacy Project. You probably know how that turned out:
In the 1990s, the discussion was friendly and articulate, amongst women as well as men, queer people as well as straights. After a few years I drifted away and asked someone else to take over the website (which a forum member had shortened to “incel”). The original mailing list died off but other online forums sprang up. They tended to be exclusively male, they developed vocabulary and philosophy that disrespects and objectifies women, and they expressed their frustration as hatred for women. Eventually some incel men committed mass murders, and some incel forum members celebrated that violence. And media outlets all over the world called me to ask how I felt about them killing in the name of something I started with the best of intentions.
I don’t know why I stopped reading or participating in the mailing list, circa 2000. Perhaps I felt ashamed of being a late bloomer. There weren’t enough queer women on the mailing list to support me in my ongoing struggles with dating. Perhaps I didn’t feel capable of supporting the list members through their loneliness, or I found it upsetting to read about their depression and desperation. And maybe, long before the advocacy of violence, the incel discussion was objectifying women in ways that I was all-too-accustomed to. I’ve heard from a woman who was on the original mailing list until the men were hostile to her, in the early 2000s.
This year I have considered starting a forum and moderating it, but I expect that I would drift away again, when I’m feeling too overwhelmed with my regular life. This is not a responsibility that can be neglected for days or weeks at a time. I really don’t want to repeat history!
Good peer support forum sites have teams of moderators to share the workload and emotional load. If someone else were to set up a forum for inexperienced people and long-time singles, I would be happy to advise on the moderation rules and other design issues. This website could point to any forum that aligns with our Principles.
There are some existing peer support forums about related issues. Relationships and Communication is one of the dozens of popular forums at PsychCentral where you might find a friendly listener. Over at SupportGroups there are active forums about anxiety, depression, autism & Aspergers, body dysmorphia, shyness, and an entire alphabet of other issues you may be struggling with.
To include the voices of inexperienced people on this website, we will be accepting your submissions of questions, stories and artwork. I may edit your contribution into a blog post, or find a counsellor who can advise on your question. (I’m going to test allowing moderated comments, but that may be turned off if it becomes problematic.) We’re all looking for positive ways to cope with life’s struggles, so this blog aims to give you hope for the future. Thank you for being here.