Research Unlocks A New Way To Be Single And Happy: Becoming A 'Lying Flatist'

Researcher Chee-Seng Tan carves out a new path to happiness for singles, embodied in the lying flatism movement.

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | July 13, 2023

A recent study published in BMC Psychology discusses the philosophy of "Lying Flatism" and how its followers are more likely to believe that happiness can be achieved without a romantic relationship, which reinforces their positive attitudes toward being single.

I recently spoke to Chee-Seng Tan of the Department of Psychology and Counseling at Jalan Universiti in Malaysia to discuss these findings. Here is a summary of our conversation.

What does the philosophy of "lying flatism" mean? What inspired you to study its connection with attitudes toward singlehood?

Lying Flatism (LF) represents a peaceful and innocent form of protest against the inequities of society, where individual efforts alone may no longer be sufficient to effect change in the industrial and structural aspects. While LF might appear negative or pessimistic to certain individuals, it embodies a unique way of life for me. Those who willingly embrace LF strive to lead simple lives and resist the blind conformity to societal norms.

To minimize the complexities of their lives, proponents of the "lying flat" movement reject engaging in consumerist lifestyles, which typically involve pursuing material desires such as acquiring homes and cars. They also eschew involvement in romantic relationships, marriage, and parenthood.

Consequently, we hypothesize that adherents of this movement are more inclined to maintain a positive attitude towards living a single life.

What was the methodology of your study?

We conducted an online experiment to examine the impact of feelings towards lying flatism on attitudes toward singlehood. A total of 232 single Malaysian young adults were recruited using purposive and snowball sampling.

They responded to a measure of feelings toward lying flatism, the Negative Stereotyping of Single Persons Scale (a measure of singlism), and the Fear of Being Single Scale, and were then randomly assigned to the experimental group (i.e., writing an essay to indicate their support of lying flatism) or the control group (i.e., writing an essay about an unrelated topic, in this case, the weather).

After the writing task, all participants answered a set of questionnaires consisting of the measure of feelings toward lying flatism and happiness belief (a measure of happiness can be achieved without romantic relationships) and the Attitudes toward Singlehood Scale.

What were some of the key findings or insights from your study regarding the relationship between lying flatism, attitudes toward singlehood, and happiness belief?

After statistically excluding the impacts of gender, singleism, and fear of being single, participants' feelings toward lying flatism measured at baseline (i.e., before the writing task) was found to have an indirect relationship with attitudes toward singlehood via happiness belief. Interestingly, such a relationship was not found for the manipulated feelings toward lying flatism.

Taken together, the findings suggest that people who initially find lying flatism favorable are likely to believe a romantic relationship is not necessary for them to achieve happiness. The belief (of happiness), in turn, reinforces their positive attitude towards being single as advantageous.

What practical implications can be drawn from your findings for individuals who are considering practicing lying flatism?

First, our findings serve to enlighten the public that individuals who adhere to the belief of "lying flat" are not forced to remain single (i.e., involuntary single). In other words, they stay single not because they are unable to pursue a romantic relationship (e.g., unable to find a partner).

On the contrary, choosing to be single is a conscious decision they make to attain personal happiness.

In addition, our findings suggest a potential path for individuals who are contemplating or engaging in lying flatism to attain happiness. It is important to remind them that happiness can be derived from various sources, and a romantic relationship is merely one of them.

Therefore, lying flatists can be as happy as their counterparts who are in a romantic relationship when their important needs (e.g., relationships with family members) are fulfilled.

Are there any potential drawbacks or challenges that individuals practicing lying flatism may face? If so, what advice would you offer to overcome or mitigate those challenges?

People may easily confuse lying flatism with pessimism and hopelessness. Unlike pessimism and hopelessness that sees the future as bad and improvements as unlikely to happen, lying flatism is a decision to minimize their consumption and desires that people made after evaluating the current situation and recognizing what they want.

It is important to clarify that practicing lying flatism does not imply escaping from reality and shirking responsibilities. Rather, individuals who engage in lying flatism recognize the sources that hold significance in their daily lives and direct their focus towards them to attain a state of well-being.

For individuals who are interested in embracing lying flatism, but are concerned about its potential impact on their personal relationships, what advice would you give them?

Lying Flatism is more like a philosophy of living in which the individuals have identified the important aspects in their life and focus on them. Meanwhile, they pay little attention to the aspects that are less important to them.

Hence, it is important to emphasize that embracing Lying Flatism does not require giving up all personal relationships or staying single. It is still possible to be involved in a romantic relationship while adopting a lying flat approach in other aspects of life.

In other words, the essence of Lying Flatism lies in identifying the true necessities and priorities in your life and relinquishing those that are deemed unnecessary.