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The mission of the Web of Loneliness Institute is to:
To increase awareness of loneliness and its negative effects
To conduct cutting edge research to improve our understanding of loneliness
To develop and disseminate effective loneliness intervention programs
To serve as a consulting/clearinghouse for resources targeted to organizations that work with lonely people
The Institute was officially established in July 2012 as a non-profit organization in the State of Connecticut. Currently the organization is working on obtaining 501(c)(3) status which will allow the Institute to be officially recognized as a non-profit by the U.S. federal government.
The Web of Loneliness (WOL) concept was first created in 2001 as a website. Its original intention was to collect data from visitors to the website about their level of loneliness, ways that they cope with loneliness, and ways that they use the Internet. To entice people to visit the website, there was also information about loneliness, along with loneliness artwork. Visitors were also encouraged to submit their own artwork as well. The information gathered from the survey on the website was later published and showed that individuals cope with loneliness in similar ways (positively or negatively) whether online or offline. However, quite unexpectedly, the website proved to be very popular: attracting a significant number of visitors everyday and rising up the ranks on search engines. It also began receiving multiple emails from visitors wanting more information about loneliness.
About a year later in June 2002, an online support group for people who were lonely was established. The online support group was created on Yahoo! Groups and allowed individuals to post up their stories and experiences of loneliness and reply to other people's posts. The online support group remained on Yahoo! Groups for 7 years, until 2009. At its height, there were over 1,000 posts a month and enrollment reached 500 members. In 2009, the online support group was transferred over to the Ning Network. Ning allowed for greater functionality that Yahoo! Groups and allowed for a more "Facebook" type of experience with members having multiple means of expressing themselves (such as blogs, posts, links, statuses, etc.). Since the transfer in 2009, the group has grown steady and now has over 1,900 members.
The WOL website itself has steady grown as well. It now has a collection of over 200 pieces of artwork collected from visitors over the years, a blog, and social media outreach including a Facebook page and a Twitter account.
The Institute will continue expansion in other areas of research, loneliness intervention program development and implementation, and in addition serve as a consulting/clearinghouse for resources targeted to organizations that work with lonely people.