Monday, October 25, 2010
Social Connectedness vs. Solitude
I just finished reading The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-First Century by husband and wife Professors of Psychiatry, Jacqueline Olds and Richard S. Schwartz. According to a study they cite, 25% of us now live alone. That's up from 7% in the 1940's and represents the largest number of people living alone in the U.S. ever. Even those of us who don't live alone spend less time with family, friends, and neighbors than in the past. The resulting loneliness, say the authors is "the inevitable by-product of our frenetic contemporary lifestyles." (Though we don't call it loneliness because of the "loser" stigma attached to the word. Instead we talk about "feeling depressed.")
Connections with others--face-to-face connections--not just the technological variety, have been proven to be essential to our mental and physical health, yet we often wall ourselves off, treating "busyness as a virtue" and stepping back from one another. As a friend of the authors commented: "Being neighborly used to mean visiting people. Now being nice to your neighbors means not bothering them."
I value my solitude when I'm writing (though I do know writers who like to work in public places, like cafes), but spending time with family, friends, and neighbors is something I'd do more of...if I wasn't afraid of bothering them. Hmm....