My last post, ‘I Facebook therefore I..’, asked whether you have to be social to do social media. It prompted a number of interesting responses – and got me thinking about whether we are moving towards a default position of ‘be social or die’.
We are surrounded by media that rarely profiles the beauty of ‘aloneness’ – everyone is in a group, a family, laughing, barbecuing, cruising along holiday roads in cars crammed with cheerful, attractive friends, a relentless cacophony of ‘joining in’. School curricula encourage us to ‘relate to others’ and ‘participate’.
And online, it’s the same. We can’t move for people twittering at us, urging us to like, share, ping, connect. I’d be up there with the best of ’em.
And I’m not saying any of this is necessarily wrong. But what if we don’t want to? What if we can’t? Or feel that we can’t – in a world where we all seem to have to find a space to belong?
There was a great article in the Sunday Star Times recently that championed being alone – ‘Me, Myself and I’ by Catherine Woulfe – and quoted Auckland psychologist, Dr Susan Hayes.
“There’s a very strong human need for just space, to recharge. I think our culture is very judgmental about aloneness and I’m not sure where that came from. I mean, we are social animals and we do need social interaction… We do need and crave a sense of belonging and connection to others, but we also need and crave space to ourselves, just to think. And I think a lot of us get peopled-out without realising it.”
Dr Sherry Turkle of MIT, author of Alone, Together, urges us to moderate the time we spend frantically connecting online, just to feel connected, feel affirmed. That affirmation should come from inside us, not from someone else’s 140-character brain-burp:
…and this moving/corny poem, How to be alone, has had 3 million+ hits on YouTube:
So, do you ever get peopled out? And are we now in such a fast-buzzing society that escape is either impossible – or so frowned upon that it might as well be?
Image credit: Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net