Alone does not mean lonely. Many of us have heard the phrase; I tend to live by it. I love being alone and I value my “me-time.” Any friend of mine will tell you, I am not the most pleasurable person to be around when I have not had time to myself to refresh and recharge. An over-socialized Ethan fidgets, stops listening and powers down like an old Dell computer.
But alone does not mean lonely, and in my opinion, being alone is good — but too much of anything, even a good thing, is troublesome. Like vegetables; Vegetables are healthy, but too many will make you bloated and uncomfortable. A few weeks ago, I became bloated with alone time. I was farting introspection.
My natural response to having too much of myself is to connect with others. However, I have discovered in the past several weeks that, in our current social climate, that is easier said than done. My default date is grabbing a coffee or lunch. Both are no-gos at the moment, so I had to search for interaction elsewhere.
First, I turned my attention toward social media in the hopes of feeling less alone: bad idea.
Going back to the concept of alone vs. lonely, I should mention that while I don’t feel lonely when I’m alone, I do tend to feel lonely in crowded spaces. Loud bars, for example, have a special way of making me feel incredibly and intolerably lonely. Social media is a digital crowded bar.
People announce to their friends (rather obnoxiously) what they are doing, as if it matters: “I’m going outside! I’m getting another drink!” People’s inhibitions are lowered, behaving as they may not in the light of day, saying things they often regret: “Can I see you naked?” People compare outfits and bodies and check each other out like pieces of meat. People act as if they are having the most fun any human has ever had, even if they are not having any, leaving one to wonder if they should be having more fun. Social media makes me feel incredibly lonely and leaves me with a tremendous hang-over.
Discontented, I decided to delete social media off my phone for a week as a sort of experiment. Some friends questioned this decision, as it is counter-intuitive during a time of isolation to seemingly isolate oneself further. However, my intuition told me it was the right idea, and it couldn’t have been more correct.
Upon deleting Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat for my week long hiatus, I felt an immediate sense of relief. It was the feeling of walking out of the bar, into the cool night air, leaving all the ruckus behind.
I felt rather smug for the first couple of days and my love for alone-time had a revival. However, I was soon struck with the familiar pang for human connection. I was tempted to go back; to admit defeat, re-download Instagram and beg for its forgiveness. But I stopped myself. I reminded myself of how drained it made me feel the last time and how it didn’t satisfy my craving for true connection.
After some journaling and countless Lana Del Rey songs, I started calling friends on the phone. I know, right? How vintage of me. I began realizing how difficult it actually is to call people in this day and age. It is so much easier to comment on a photo than to pick up the phone, dial, and when someone answers say, “Hi, I was thinking of you.” It’s a vulnerable act.
How many times have I invited a friend to get coffee simply because I “swiped-up” on a Snapchat story or commented on a photo saying “IMY let’s hang soon!” The story, post, photo, etc., is a sort of invitation. Responding to the invitation is less vulnerable than admitting to someone that they are on my mind.
I did start to notice that, having leaned into this discomfort of really reaching out, my conversations were becoming more meaningful and my need for connection was being satisfied. Furthermore, because I wasn’t posting, I knew that when friends called me, it was because I made an appearance in their consciousness. It is a good feeling. I want to thank social-distancing for bringing me closer to my friends.
I am learning that an extended period of isolation in an era of technology means relearning the use of online platforms to best suit moment-to-moment needs.
In quarantine, as in life, there are moments when I need to connect with friends. It is in those moments that I call someone. In quarantine, as in life, there are moments when I need to be alone. It is in those moments that I turn off my phone completely. In quarantine, as in life, there are moments when I need to observe and compare and misbehave a little. It is in those moments that I turn to social media.