This is your brain. This is your brain on alone. Any questions?

I’ve just read a really intriguing article about how being alone is actually positive and good for you, and not the negative or even dysfunctional experience that society and modern psychology would have us believe.

[pullquote]People make this error, thinking that being alone means being lonely, and not being alone means being with other people,” Cacioppo said. “You need to be able to recharge on your own sometimes.[/pullquote]

I love the phrase “social snacking”, which is used to describe socializing by means of texting, phone calls, etc. There’s healthy snacking and then there’s empty calories; it all depends on who you are engaging and what you are deriving from these activities. One of the things that makes “social snacking” so attractive to those who LIKE to be alone is that it’s an indulgence on their own terms. If you’ve had enough, you shut down the app – done.

I have to disagree, however, with the leanings of the graduate student who believes less in “social loafing” and more in the power of what people fear others think of them. The experiment she ran involved testing memory of those who thought they were working on the task by themselves versus that of those who thought they were working on the task with others. She found that those who thought they were working alone performed better when their memory of the task was tested. The experimenter tends to believe that it’s because there was concern over the opinions of the others who were working on the task, but I disagree that this can be applied across the board.

I believe that the knowledge that one is working alone makes a person highly capable, because one knows that there is no fall-back position. There is no safety net. You walk the wire, you fall, oh well – no one is there to catch you. This is probably what makes me so damned attractive to all the Peter Pans of the world – the motherless lost boys who are loads of fun but in the end, irresponsible, undependable and looking for someone to take up their considerable slack.

I believe that there are only a limited number of people who will become more capable because they fear what others will think of them if they do not. The truly mature and the truly self-confident will not care what others think of them. There is also a small portion of society that doesn’t care what others think out of selfishness. So the theory that concern over the opinions of others trumps the knowledge that there’s no net doesn’t hold a lot of water for me.

The power of lonely – The Boston Globe.

2 thoughts on “This is your brain. This is your brain on alone. Any questions?”

  1. I have, over the years, given this topic quite a bit of thought. The capacity to be alone – and content – varies amongst everyone. It is healthy – yes healthy – to be able to be alone – but not lonely.

    I discovered a couple of years ago that I can be quite content on my own for about 5 days. After that length of time, I need to change up my environment or spend several hours with friends or family and then I’m happily fine on my own for several more days.

    I put this knowledge to work last January when I went away for a week. Instead of going to Phoenix/Scottsdale for the entire week – first I went to Seattle for a couple of days, and then I went to Phoenix/Scottsdale for 5 days. It was a perfect vacation, and I’m convinced if I had spent the entire week in Arizona, I would’ve become at least a bit bored towards the end.

    I’m also using my own 5-day rule – then change it up in the future. Example: I love WDW and I’m going – yes, by myself – for 5 days in May and again in September. These 2 trips came about because good airfare and good hotel rates lined up and if good airfare and good hotel rates line up again, I’ll be planning more trips by myself.

    Other trips that are in the pondering/planning stages are 5 days in London and a Mediterranean cruise on NCL Epic. Now it may seem that I’m breaking my own 5-day rule with the Epic, but consider this: The Epic will be docking in different ports for the week (changing up the environment). Also the Epic has 128 special solo traveler cabins (no single supplement) that have key card access to a special lounge for those traveling in those cabins.

    You see, that’s the big ‘secret’ to being alone – successfully. To change it up when you need to. Being contently and successfully alone is a skill and a very good skill to have.

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