Solitude in the Age of Smartphones

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            In today’s society, people are more comfortable with being physically alone, but only because they have their smartphones to keep them company. “Alone but not lonely” has taken another meaning. But when you come to think of it, people who are alone among strangers are not really alone when they have their phones that they use to communicate with multiple people at the same time. They are probably even busier than when they are in face-to-face communication with other people, because with their phones, they can multi-text, or multitask.

                I personally think it’s nearly impossible to let a day pass without using the smartphone. I know I cannot, especially when I am living away from my young son, and every day I video chat with him and my family to make sure everything is alright. Businesspeople would probably lose money or business if they miss a call or message from an important client. Employees and students may miss an important announcement. Truly I can understand how difficult it is for people who have already made online communication an integral part of their lives, to forego using it even for a day.

                However with people’s addiction to social media and online games to pass time, people are  getting farther and farther away from knowing the one person that they should know best: themselves. It is sad seeing adults posting numerous pictures of themselves and what they are doing on social media. One can forgive young people, as they are still growing and their brains have not fully developed (until mid-20s), and therefore, neurologically speaking, cannot be considered mature or be expected to act or think like an adult. But quadragenarians and older should know better (unless their brains, too, have not as yet fully developed.)

         With social media addiction, it seems people know more about what other people are doing than they know themselves. And that is all they know – what others are doing. They do not really know the person they are “following” (or  really, stalking) because, online, there’s hardly any sharing of thoughts, only small talk. Worse, social media can cause undue stress to people who post or read information, as everything that is made public can be commented on and used and abused by all kinds of people with all kinds of I.Q., E.Q. or mental condition.

         I am not against technology or social media at all. I know its benefits. I use them every day of my life. But I hope people will find a way to use technology and social media in more meaningful ways. They can certainly make our lives easier, and they should. Technology is supposed to help humans live more comfortable lives, not a stressful one. Technology has allowed us to have more time for ourselves, and this is one of the greatest gifts technology has given us. We can be more human – we have more time to think, more time to feel, more time to know ourselves and become better people.

     And we can only achieve that if we know ourselves first. We need solitude – not only to relax or relieve stress, but also to know ourselves better and be able to understand others better.

       Next time you have stress, try putting your phone away, be quiet and try listening to your heartbeat, and then to every single sound that you hear, be aware of every movement that you feel or see, every scent. Just be in the present. The more you do this, the sharper your senses will be. And you’ll know your body. And you’ll know and understand yourself. That’s better than sighing after playing Bejewelled, don’t you think?

“Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                               -Marcus Aurelius

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