The more we connect, the less time we have for solitude.
Who Wants To Be Alone?
Being alone is different from being lonely. And technically you are never alone because even when it’s just you—you have yourself to talk to!
Being alone is a necessary part of being human. In order to discover who you are, unbury your true passions, and embark on the journey of self-actualizing, you have to find your own answers, all by yourself.
No one can tell you what makes your heart sing. No one can show you what you need in order to be happy. No amount of connection you have with spiritually enlightened, genuinely caring, or incredibly bright people can substitute the inward journey you must make in order to find your true path in life.
You need peace and quiet to start this journey. You need isolation. Patience. Maybe even meditation.
You need to do it alone. This journey is only for those brave enough to go within.
But Humans Are Social, Right?
Connecting with others is also a necessary part of being human. But it has its place. And it has its time.
In his thought-provoking article, “The End of Solitude,” William Deresiewicz warns us that in our Web 2.0 culture, the need to connect with others is taking over. It leaves us no room for solitude, which is absolutely crucial to us because it “enables us to the secure the integrity of the self as well to explore it.”
The contemporary self, he says, wants two things: celebrity and connectivity. This is because the contemporary self is fixated on becoming as visible as possible (which he explains has to do with the alienating effects of suburbanization.) This is also because the contemporary self can only define itself as it relates to others.
Sure, we sometimes we need to look to others to see who we are. Our universe can be our mirror if we pay enough attention to the patterns in our life. But we cannot rely solely on others to show us who we are and who we want to be. They are not qualified to do so. And they cannot give us the answers that we can only get from going within.
But Isn’t Internet Connection A Good Thing?
The internet is changing the world for the better. But Deresiewicz sees it becoming too much of a good thing.
Too much internet magnifies the human impulse to look outwardly for what can only be found within. That impulse is also known as codependency, or believing that something outside of ourselves holds the key to our happiness, or the key to our worth.
Deresiewicz says: “A constant stream of mediated contact, virtual, notional, or simulated, keeps us wired to the electronic hive…The goal now, it seems, is simply to become known, to turn oneself into a sort of miniature celebrity.”
More and more of us are becoming concerned with the number of Facebook friends or Twitter followers we have. And that if we don’t check our e-mail every ten minutes, we will miss out on something important.
“Visibility secures our self-esteem, becoming a substitute, twice removed, for genuine connection. Not long ago, it was easy to feel lonely. Now, it is impossible to be alone.”
[You can read the article here. It's very insightful and it will enlighten you on the psychology of the contemporary self trapped in the 2.0 web. If you find it worthwhile, Digg it here. You can also listen to Nora Young's Spark interview with Deresiewicz about this article.]
Don’t Be Afraid To Be Alone
For you to become more mindful of the constructs you create in your life—the values you live by and the belief systems you operate from—you need to spend some quality alone time.
You need to invest in your relationship with yourself. It will make you more available in all of your other relationships. It will make those relationships more valuable.
Solitude allows you to go into the world, or onto the web, with a strong sense of you who are. It allows you to connect with others in meaningful ways. Solitude helps you to become who you are, and share your story with others. So don’t be afraid to sit still and listen.
You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.