The End of Alone

While I do not agree with all of the assumptions regarding human connectivity in this article by Neil Swidey, the main point of this article has me thinking. Are our tools of ubiquitous connectivity “dulling our very capacity to ever be alone, or alone in our thoughts”? I know it’s not a new idea, but certainly one I am becoming much more sensitive to. Maybe you are experiencing similar feelings?

If you are interested, I would recommend the article and viewing the supporting video (below).

And, I’m thinking. Currently I’m leading a group of students toward greater connectivity and networked interactions. I strongly believe that connections and the supporting network are important for educators to experience, and can be potential transformative for teaching and learning. For most of these individuals, the concepts and practices are quite new, and critical resistance is anticipated and supported. As educators, we should wonder if we will find ourselves 10 years from now teaching courses on how to disconnect from the masses, and reconnect to one’s self, and to our local communities. Let’s try to avoid this future. Teach critically, adopt cautiously, and reflect constantly.

See also “The End of Solitude” by William Deresiewicz.

7 thoughts on “The End of Alone

  1. Alec as I’m responding to this, I’m finishing a paper for a grad course, corresponding with two students via google docs and email on their google presentation and how to embed on the wiki (and making a jing screencast to make it foolproof), helping a course developer use the format and templates we’ve provided as tech developers for the online high school courses we’re putting into blackboard, tweeting with my PLN about…well everything, and talking to my wife about an elluminate she has tomorrow with her virtual academy reading students…I’d have to say …alone is overrated. :)
    I’d go on, but my daughter just came downstairs and it’s past her bedtime….so I’m off.

  2. As much as I LOVE to be online with Facebook, Twitter, gtalk, or the countless other places I frequent online, I know when I have to turn everything off even the Blackberry. As the saying goes, ‘Silence is golden.’ Yes, it still is. I hope to never lose that connection with myself or community.

    Last year, I felt I was too connected. Ended up spending the weekend at a monastery in Monks Corner, SC, USA. No cell service, no internet, no tv and no visible connection to the outside world. I spent the weekend practicing photography, reading for pleasure, and just being. It was hard for the first few hours but then I reintroduced myself to my self.

    My advice to your students would be is to always know when to turn off the connection.

  3. I loves me some connection. But I’m pretty good company for myself, too. I wonder if that skill is being lost or not. I tend to think the current enthusiasm for connection will self-correct. Check out my annotations on the article on this theme at the Chronicle here: – mainly annotated with a view to discussion with one of my classes this week, but I’d enjoy a conversation with anybody about it. In the meantime, I’m conversing with myself about it.

  4. I disconnected for about 10 hours today and managed to get my desk cleaned off! Not really the alone time I crave; I really haven’t had that kind of time since I had children. I think the biggest problem is we allow ourselves to be ‘busy’ and we forget the finer things. Much better to walk alone in a snowfall than admire a picture on Flickr of someone walking alone in the snow!

    Being connected though is a social choice. And when one feels alone, and the need to be with people is strong, what is wrong with being connected? I really wonder how many really like being alone for any length of time? I still feel uneasy when I think of the year I spent living in a basement suite that no one wanted to be in. I had few visitors and felt cut off from people on more days than I care to remember. I was often lonely. If I’d had internet then…. it would have been a much different experience.

    We are social beings who need contact with others. There are those that will argue that face to face is always better, but is it? I’ve had some deep discussions online with people who in a f2f might only be willing to talk about the weather; likewise, I’ve had conversations f2f that I did not want to end while my online discussions have fizzled to things like, “Wats up?” and probably without the punctuation! I think if a person is connected online in a meaningful manner, it is time well spent.

    If a person needs quiet contemplation, turn it off, leave it at home and do things you enjoy in solitude. Although, when I think about it, I can be alone in crowd, I just tune it out; or, even worse, I go unnoticed and alone time turns lonely. Interesting connection; alone time can often bring lonely times. Is it any wonder people have accepted the social networking of our times?

  5. Alec, I’ve been wrestling with this idea for some time now. Like you, my students who are new to all of this have many such critical questions vs. those who are already immersed in these new cultural norms of communication and socialization. They worry that folks are becoming overconnected and are losing something in this shift. Perhaps it is one more attribute of the digital immigrant concept (however that concept is understood).

    Personally, I don’t see all that much caution and critical evaluation of these new cultural/technological shifts and folks like Neil Postman who made us think deeply of Faustian bargains present in all of this seem to be less present in these discussions today. Even within the EdTech community, it seems to be a “whole hog” type of perspective. We pant for the ‘next’ great tool or feature. I’m as much as a tech geek as the next guy and am guilty of this very thing. No doubt, there are fantastic benefits to the “connectedness” that we are currently enjoying. Like you, I hope that we are not heading to the day where we have to start teaching folks how to disconnect and reconnect with the local and human and element of ages past. But, deep down in my gut I think we will end up there, as shifts tend to swing as the pendulum. We are already ignoring the homeless on the bench right beside us while simultaneously donating rice to the needy a continent away from our iPhone or laptop. We set up partnerships with schools far away (not saying this is bad thing) while ignoring the inner city schools with whom we could both contribute to and benefit from. Somehow, virtual is becoming “better” – sexier.

    More of these discussions need to happen. I hope you will find many, many comments on this topic.

  6. I use my train rides into the city to “turn off”. I’ll send a quick Tweet out letting people know I’m on the train, then just quietly stare out the window.
    The conversation from fellow passengers is usually quiet enough not to disturb, but just enough sound to work as white noise.
    Maybe there’s a direct correlation between the rise of technology/social-media and the recent increase in meditative activities (including yoga, pilates, etc).

  7. Pingback: On Being Alone « Cole Camplese: Learning and Innovation

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