We know people have fewer close friends. Fewer people they can trust. Spend less time with friends. And that a regular event that meets even once a month boost happiness a shocking amount. But we'd expect the internet to help people group into small circles of friends extremely easily. The internet is nothing if not great at connecting people who would otherwise not meet, and delivering emails and chat messages. So, why is loneliness sweeping America like an epidemic?

The fact no one seems to know should be deeply disturbing to you. And nobody seems to. We all have the same hints – we're doing more solitary or semi-solitary activities. Games are more fun than ever, and YouTube has forced television to compete at a level of entertainment previously literally unavailable to humans. It used to be, no person was as funny or dramatic or anything as the stuff you can find today. And so, of course, people will switch over to the superior sources of goofs, and drama, and interesting things to learn, etc. etc.

Another part is that internet clustering can be a bit intimidating, and lots of people aren't comfortable being active contributors to conversations around deeply niche things. I think time will help that. But even as it does, it will still produce a geographically distributed cluster, where people know each other mostly from that activity. It's hard to develop deeper ties without in-person conversation, or at least something 1-on-1, and it's hard to know who you'd really get along with, when all you know is how they are in the community. It's a distributed bowling club. Definitely a key to human happiness, I think, but not the most important key and not something we can really help along, except by saying, hey, there are some really weird niches out there, go spelunking for people who share your same weirdness.

The problems with modern dating apps are legion, no doubt. But it's worth observing that, sifting through a crowd, with minimal investment, looking for the best possible person who would bother to accept you is... like trying to ice-skate uphill. If your goal is a deep relationship, it isn't just puritan morals or an overbearing relative recommending you should start with friendship, just logic.

That the mechanism of these platforms barely tolerates friendship at all says all you need to know about why they aren't pulling even a small amount of the weight in the loneliness crisis. Don't get me wrong, if people want Tinder, enjoy Tinder – I'm just saying, it's conspicuous that no Tinder-alike exists for friendship, considering the demand for non-romantic uses is probably greater than that for romantic uses (because, remember, lots of people are married – and many still basically lonely, or at least looking for more friends – not to mention we all have more friends than romantic partners).

I think the why has to do with the relative scarcity of those first dozen or so moments in the beginning of a friendship. Goofing with someone in line at a grocery store. Introduction by a friend, usually in groups. Finding a friend of a friend wants to visit that kitschy local tourist trap thing you've put off visiting forever because you aren't a tourist but it still looks pretty nice. There are so many formulas, it's almost impossible to list them out. But they don't seem to be happening. I think the best possible strategy is to specifically create platforms for these dynamics. What strange local things would you like to see, and maybe you can wait for a friend of a friend to want to go too? That problem is solvable, and I'd love to see the internet take a thousand attempts at all the little sub-scenarios.