Webster is facing what I have come to think of as the Eleanor Rigby problem. Remember the song. It’s not like the title character was just sitting around the house; she was involved in the life of her parish church, was on good terms with the no-doubt affable Irish priest, took volunteering seriously. She clearly saw and talked to lots of people — putting herself out there by any definition. What she was missing was not ordinary human contact but intimacy, truly deep and meaningful emotional connections with other people.
According to researchers quoted in the profile of Webster, this is distressingly common. In fact, people who have an easy time in casual social situations — volunteer work, making small talk at bars or restaurants or in the workplace — might struggle with it more than those of us who are more reticent. The ability to talk about the weather (or share memes about it) with (to employ a depressing neologism) “work friends” does not necessarily translate into the intimate friendships that human beings actually require, the kind in which we are vulnerable and make sacrifices for one another, the absence of which is the true definition of loneliness. The older, plainer word for these feelings is love.
I suspect that the relentless casualization of American life might be one of the biggest obstacles to intimacy. We are vastly more comfortable telling strangers about our lives — where we come from, our line of work, stories about our families, and so on — than people in almost any other country.