Casual sex is a ‘pseudo intimacy’ leading to loneliness – chaplain

Casual sex is a ‘pseudo intimacy’ leading to loneliness – chaplain

Social media and a culture of brief sexual encounters is leading to loneliness among students and young people according to a university chaplain.

Commenting on a BBC study that found 40% of people aged 16-24 often or very often feel lonely, Fr Leon Ó Giolláin SJ said he was “not surprised”.

A culture that encourages one-night-stands has led to people seeking a “false sense of intimacy”, said Fr Leon, and asked what kind of message is being sent out by the Students’ Unions when they give out free condoms on Freshers’ Week.

“It’s a very superficial type of relating, it might lead to a deeper sense of loneliness because it’s not true intimacy,” he said.

“It’s a trap, it’s a pseudo intimacy being promoted in the culture and unfortunately it leads to the exact opposite to what it promises. It leads to feelings of being used, or it didn’t satisfy the way they thought it would, disappointment.”

The results from the BBC’s Loneliness Experiment were collated after a survey of 55,000 people, with those over 75 feeling the least lonely and the 16-24 age bracket feeling the loneliest.


Pressures from high expectations of academic achievements or a feeling they should be having fun can leave students feeling “very awful”.

“Students need to be told that they’re going through a period of great growth spiritually, intellectually; that naturally brings its own developmental issues and loneliness can be a part of that,” Fr Leon said.

“Loneliness isn’t always a bad thing, it’s something we all have to face and a lot of growth can take place through that feeling. The degree of it is significant, if it’s too much it’s not good.”

After Sunday Mass in UCD Fr Leon says they have refreshments which give students a chance to interact as a community.

Young people were also asked what solutions to loneliness they found most beneficial.

Doing activities like a hobby or work, joining a social club or taking up a new activity, positive thinking, talking to friends and family or just talking to anyone were the top five.