The (not so?) Lost Art of Being Alone

In today’s world, connectivity is a way of life. Whether via text, Facetime, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Apple News… we are always plugged in and consistently inundated with notifications. Home by yourself? Check your laptop. Waiting for a friend? Check your phone. Bored on your commute? Read the news.

In short, our behavior as a society suggests that we are afraid of being alone. But while technology has, in many ways, robbed us of our privacy and solitude, for many it also provides the solution to the constant deluge: headphones.

No, I am not suggesting that the only reason for headphones is avoidance. I, for one, love waking up to NPR’s podcast Up First, and swear by a good dose of John Mayer or the Dixie Chicks to beat the blues. But if you’ve ever packed into the 6 train on a Monday morning in New York you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Headphones are a means to create privacy where we have none. Isn’t it interesting how we willingly avoid each other yet can’t seem to disconnect? It almost feels like, as a society, we don’t know what we want. Call it a reach, but maybe this is a case for us to carve out true sources of alone time–maybe we need it more badly than we think.

It doesn’t happen by accident. If you work a full time job, are a caretaker, or maybe both, finding time to be alone is a job in and of itself. Personally, I find time to myself by working out, curling up with a great book, walking the long way to get somewhere, booking a conference room for an hour of uninterrupted work, or of course, a night in my bed journaling and watching Netflix.

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