Being alone isn't what it used to be

When was the last time you were truly alone? I mean alone as in "unplugged": away from the telephone and text messages; away from the Blackberry, Facebook, Twitter, video games, television, radio and the host of other electronic media that consume our time when we're supposedly alone?

It's really a rare thing these days to be disconnected from social media and networking tools of one kind or another. And yet, not so long ago, people enjoyed the tranquility of spending time with one's own thoughts and one's environment.

Many young people have grown up interacting with each other in the world of electronic media. What would they do if they were unplugged for a while?

Neil Swidey, a staff writer for the Boston Globe, asked that question and wrote an interesting piece which was published in the Globe's Sunday magazine. In the article, he includes a revealing comment from sociologist Dalton Conley, who says, "We've gone from an American ethic that championed the lone guy on a horseback to an ethic of managing multiple data streams... It's very hard for people to unplug and be alone -- and be with the one data stream of their mind."

(Conley is the writer of a book with a very catchy title I saw the other day in the bookstore: Elsewhere, U.S.A.: How We Got From the Company Man, Family Dinners, and the Affluent Society to the Home Office, BlackBerry Moms, and Economic Anxiety.)

It's a topic for our times. The Boston Globe article is called "The End of Alone," and it's a good read. The newspaper also produced a short video to accompany the feature. You can see both by following this link.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to check my Facebook page and send a text message to my daughter....


The photo of a hiker in Switzerland and is courtesy of M. Beyeler, who made it available on the stock.xchng photo pool.

More information about Conley's book is available at this page on
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