Zeitgeist Alert: The End of Aloneness?

Apparently I am not alone in asking if we are experiencing the end of aloneness. A few days after publishing this blog post, “Are our phones robbing us of solitude?”, I heard KQED’s Forum, our local public radio civic affairs program, take on this very question.

The guest was William Deresiewicz, an English professor who taught at Yale between 1998 and 2008 and recently published a beautiful essay called “The End of Solitude” in the Chronicle of Higher Education. I can’t remember ever being so riveted by a program. I was getting ready for work, but found myself unable to leave, obsessively dialing to join the conversation.

Deresiewicz raised provocative questions: What do we lose when we deprive ourselves of solitude? What happens to college students if they never disconnect enough to sink into aloneness? Or the girl who receives 3,000 daily text messages, which means, on average, she is never alone for longer than 10 minutes? What if they have no desire for solitude at all? How is solitude related to friendship? He shared an enigmatic Emerson quotation: “the soul environs itself with friends, that it may enter into a grander self-acquaintance or solitude; and it goes alone, for a season, that it may exalt its conversation or society.”

Check out the radio show here. Listen for me at the end. My question: Is this an addiction to constant connectivity, and if so, what do we do to rehabilitate ourselves?

Nancy in Boston forwarded me this similarly themed piece from the Boston Globe, “The End of Alone.”

Lately I find myself taking “power solitude,” like “power naps.” I’m training for longer periods without checking emails or texts. Though I still feel addicted, I’m comforted to know that others are wondering what we are overly connected. I know I’m not alone.

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Sasha Cagen is the author of Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics and To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us. Sign up for Sasha's List to get weekly-ish inspiration for your quirky life, along with news about books, online classes, and in-person events, retreats, and adventures.

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Posted in Solitude, Technology + Modern Life
One comment on “Zeitgeist Alert: The End of Aloneness?
  1. dj says:

    I think spirit and soul is in those quiet places. That’s when we truly know ourselves. Henry David Thoreau thought about it, and so did NY Central Park designers. Developers don’t think that way anymore. Quakers know it. I think our brain requires it. Did you see the Oprah show where a couple could barely live in their home because it was full of stuff? When cleaned, they had 75 tons of stuff in 15 industrial dumpsters. OctoMom filled her soul with babies and folks constantly fill their void with “stuff”. We are a Nation of 305 million not talking to our neighbors or the people next to us. I go to the grocery store and stand next to a person. In the past we would have talked about the neighborhood, news, life. There was a connection to community. We live here and we care. Now when they say “hi”, I turn and say “hi” back, only to find out they are talking on their cellphones. What’s worse, they just shoved their grocery cart into my back because they are oblivious of their present surroundings. Ho hum… Everything in moderation does a body good ;-)

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