The job-hunter commented that he's afraid to check his e-mail and telephone messages for fear of employer rejections, and the people said amen. "Any shred of self-efficacy or faith in myself has been completely shredded," one similarly unemployed person wrote. Another responded: "It's really awful, isn't it? But it really isn't your fault, don't worry!"
In this toughest job market in a generation, misery is looking for company - and it's easier than ever to find it online, where groups are springing up for out-of-work people to connect, commiserate and offer hard-earned advice.
There's Pink Slips Are the New Black (pinkslipsarethenewblack.com), a blog "for unemployed people by unemployed people." No Job Survivor (nojobsurvivor.com), which bucks visitors up with the motto, "Don't Worry; Life Is Still Good." LayoffSpace.com, which bills itself as the first social network for the out-of-work - it launched in 2007. And a community on LiveJournal called Team Unemployed, which went from zero members to more than 900 in its first month this summer, drawing posts such as the one about message anxiety.
"It's kind of distressing in a way to see the response to this community," said Sarah Rudek, 28, a Minnesota resident who started Team Unemployed in June after a freelance contract ended and she needed to find full-time work. "But it's great that people are really appreciative."
Baltimore resident Amy LaPerle, 34, counts herself in that group. She lost a retail management job in February when the economic downturn forced her employer to shut down its city location. It was the first time she had needed to update her resume in eight years. To go from hiring people to laid off was "really traumatic," so she was glad for the camaraderie of Team Unemployed.
Even though LaPerle landed a customer-service job in July, she still goes to the community to keep up with members and share information.
"People have a place where they can kind of get things off their chest and nobody will give them any flak for it," she said. "For some people, I think their social-media group is the only one that is sympathetic to what they're going through."
Nearly 15 million Americans - 9.7 percent of the labor force - were looking for work but unable to find it in August. That's up from 9.6 million a year ago. Add the people working part time because they can't get full-time employment and the discouraged workers who have simply stopped looking, and there's nearly 25 million adults feeling the downturn's sting.
But starting a Web site, blog or online group is easier than ever, and as cheap as free. It's no wonder that jobless-themed sites have been popping up all over. Some are darkly humorous, like Unemployment Haiku Weekly, which combines art in Depression-tinted sepia with haikus. (For instance: " 'Will work for salary'/Doesn't work when the next guy/'Will work for food.' Jerk." And: "The laid-off diet/Doesn't pay attention to/Expiration dates.")
But it's not all about wallowing. Roni Lynn Zapin, president of a New York recruiting firm, started a group on the networking site LinkedIn for unemployed folks to help motivate one another. It's called "Project: Get Hired!!"
"It's got over 2,000 people from all disciplines, and the kinds of conversations that are going on in there really run the gamut and really are very helpful," said Zapin, head of RL Zapin Associates Inc. "I monitor it to make sure it's constantly positive. If I see anything negative on there, I take it off."
Zapin said she started the group because she knows how isolating unemployment can be - she was out of work for 10 months in the 1980s. This recession, she said, has been particularly difficult for job seekers.
Rudek sees that in the Team Unemployed membership. "There are people who haven't finished high school, people with advanced degrees, people who have worked mostly entry-level jobs and people who worked in management," she said. "It's interesting to see such a serious recession in the Web 2.0 age. Everybody's networking. I feel like you don't feel quite as isolated and hopeless as you had in the jobless past because you see other people are going through the same situation."
And, in some cases, can see them getting employed again. After applying for about 30 jobs, Rudek got an offer. She's been working for about a month as a customer-service rep.
Like Rudek, Jakub Ludwinski founded his community - LayoffSpace.com - while he was out of work. He lost his job as a mortgage-industry analyst in 2007, a victim of the housing slump.
It was much more expensive to launch a Web site then, he said. He and his brother put about $10,000 of their savings into it. "Now you're looking at a tenth of that," said Ludwinksi, 37, who lives outside Philadelphia.
The site has a forum, career resources and job postings. And it's helped at least one person get work: Ludwinski. When he interviewed for his current position with a software firm, most of the conversation was about how he built the site.
"This Web site is what got me through a really difficult time," Ludwinski added. "Sitting there, trying to come up with ideas and ... reaching out to people, is what kept me busy. That's the key - keeping busy."
Jobless find company
As the cost of starting and maintaining Web sites has dropped, many sites have popped up during this recession to connect those without work. Here are a few:
Pink Slips Are the New Black: pinkslipsarethenewblack.com
No Job Survivor: nojobsurvivor.com
Team Unemployed: on LiveJournal http://community.livejournal.com
Unemployment Haiku Weekly: unemploymenthaikuweekly.com