For me, the website was both reassuring and disconcerting, simultaneously creating a community of emotion, and acknowledging the utter solitude of human existence.It made me feel alone, but part of a collective loneliness, and that was something.Posted with his bio was the photograph I saw on Nerve: a sepia-toned shot of Jonathan wearing a thermal shirt and standing in front of a forest of evergreens.His eyes are squinting, his mouth is closed, and he’s not quite smiling.Every week for years, I wrote a column about websites for a small newspaper in Virginia.
He was like that apartment you see on Craigslist, the one you fall in love with and know you can’t afford; the one you arrange to see in person just because you can; the one you still daydream about how it would look with your couch placed here, your rug just so, and your favorite lamp throwing a light on the dark wall over there without a window.
A visit to the site reveals that hundreds of people are typing “I feel lonely” or “I am feeling alive” or “I feel better” into the void at any given hour on any given day.
The viewer can also type in certain demographic, geographic and atmospheric specifications (26-year-old woman, Charlottesville, Virginia, partly cloudy), and the site then takes the emotional temperature of other people who match those specifications online in that moment of time.
I wondered whether sharing heartbeats was Jonathan’s way of convincing himself he was not alone out there.
Both the photograph of Jonathan I had first encountered three years earlier, and one of him engulfed in an anorak and about to embark on the whale hunt, were posted on his profile.