If I want to be alone, will you think I’m weird?

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

8 thoughts on “If I want to be alone, will you think I’m weird?

  1. There’s also a very good book that discusses this in detail, from the point of view that some of the world’s greatest creative minds have operated from a position of solitude and isolation – and helps to reverse the trend towards pathologising aloneness called “Solitude” by Anthony Storr


    1. Great tip, Christopher, thanks for that. Your use of the word ‘pathologising’ is spot on. Agree with the need to have space to think deeply. Nicholas Carr’s book, Shallowlands, pretty much said the same thing. 🙂


  2. Hi Karen, I agree that social media can crowd out a lot of the space when we are otherwise alone. Perhaps there will be a backlash against overconnectivity, with more and more people switching off for the sake of the simple pleasures of life. Today I came across a website called the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine, which will help you commit ‘internet suicide’, by removing your presence from Facebook and Twitter etc. Interesting concept! They claim growing numbers are opting out. Are they on to something?


    1. From my perspective, as someone who is online a lot, I can feel the weight of ‘connectivity’ heavy on my shoulders at times. And with every website appealing for us to connect with its managing company, there’s no getting away from it. I do wonder, with the seemingly inescapable push for all services to move online, whether those who wish not to be in that loud space will be somehow disenfranchised….and others will simply push the ‘off’ button in protest!


  3. You have hit on something here. It’s very exciting being involved with social media (if you are the social media type 🙂 but who here has been away on holiday and been completely offline for a week or more – hard at first, then as time goes, freeing, then as the time approaches to return to the grindstone – has your heart sunk a little? The thought of picking up all those threads and holding them can feel a little heavy….


  4. Totally agree, Gina, and I suspect the post partly came from recognising those feelings in myself and others. I wonder, too, if the noise is somehow amplified because it is in the written word. Does one feel more exhausted from all the reading on screen, than from a great F2F conversation (which is usually more energising)? Or is it the leaping from one item to another that does it?


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