This Valentine’s Day, love is … barely in the air at Yale. Unlike Halloween where residential colleges hang witches’ hats on the ceiling or Thanksgiving where Yale Hospitality plans an elaborate dinner, Yale’s campus is strikingly absent of red, heart-shaped decorations. Even Mardi Gras is getting its own holiday fanfare, with multicolored king cakes promised to the student body.

For many Yale students, Valentine’s Day is a holiday to skip over. Or if you’re involuntarily single, hide from.

“Yalies are very selfish with their time,” someone recently said to me as we discussed the dating scene on campus. It was hard to be a “lover girl” in a place where individualism is rewarded with lucrative job offers and prestigious fellowships after graduation. 

As I barrel towards my final days on campus, a joke one professor told a group of senior girls last semester still rings in my mind. 

The girls had to focus, the professor said. “It’s your last chance to find a Yale husband.”

This joke didn’t stick with me because I suddenly felt growing pressure to pursue the age-old MRS degree. I don’t see wrinkles in the mirror or feel my fertility slowly slipping away. It stuck with me because it was precisely the wrong fear I feel as graduation looms.

Outside of college campuses, our opportunities to find “third spaces,” places outside of our homes and jobs where we can socialize, rapidly declines. There are no common rooms, butteries or extracurriculars. Most activities, from the gym to an art class, are pay-to-play, leaving our ability to make friends, find communities and yes, meet significant others, much more limited.

We depart an individualistic culture at Yale to enter the hyper-individualistic culture of the real world, where loneliness in America is at “epidemic” levels. Over half of all Americans are considered “lonely.” Seventy-three percent of Gen Z report feeling alone “sometimes or always.”

The evolution of how we see Valentine’s Day as we get older is hauntingly indicative of how loneliness has grown in our society. We go from writing Valentines for everyone in our elementary school classrooms to pouring all of our affection into one person. We abandon community and expect romantic love to be our greatest source of joy. And then we wonder why our sense of self feels destroyed when a romance ends. When we go into Valentine’s Day with this conception of love, being single becomes a symbol of our inadequacy. 

This is unsustainable for a variety of reasons. A growing number of Americans are living without a spouse or partner. They are also not replacing those relationships with new ones. Americans have fewer friends. Churches, neighborhood organizations and recreational groups are declining in membership. After years of prioritizing romance over community, Americans increasingly have neither.

Thus, our epidemic of loneliness grows. And while it’s not as obvious as coronavirus, this virus does kill.

Loneliness is correlated with higher suicide rates, which have risen in America nearly 40 percent since 2000. It’s linked to increased risk of addiction, stroke and heart disease. Loneliness also exacerbates violence, as it fuels the pipeline of young men into extremist online rabbit holes. Figures like Andrew Tate, a manosphere influencer accused of human trafficking, and Elliot Rodger, an incel who murdered 10 people, have inspired legions of young men to channel their loneliness into rage. 

Yalies shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that this issue is so large that it doesn’t apply to them. That’s wrong. In fall 2021, Yale Mental Health and Counseling treated approximately 1,000 students per week. Yalies routinely struggle with anxiety, stress and depressive symptoms, all of which are exacerbated by loneliness. 

This Valentine’s Day, Yalies should celebrate love in all of its forms. They should have a romantic candlelight dinner and have lunch with friends. They should send cards to their families and celebrate in one of Yale’s common spaces. We can only combat this epidemic of loneliness by confronting it head on. 

On Yale’s campus, we’re lucky enough to still be in a walkable community, where our friends are only minutes away and third spaces are designed to be used. This is the ideal time to strengthen all of our relationships so that we can be prepared for the times when it won’t be so easy. For when eight-hour shifts replace two-hour classes and our friends are states away instead of next door. 

Valentine’s Day should be a reminder for Yalies to step outside of our narrow ambitions, prioritizing our laughter with others over extra lines in our resumes. We need love. We all need every kind of love.

LAUREN WILLIAMS is a senior at Yale from Chicago, Illinois, who is studying Global Affairs and can be contacted at