Here are the key points from the book Digital Minimalism from Cal Newport about loneliness.
- How important is it to be alone with our own thoughts?
- And when are we truly alone with our thoughts?
“Many people mistakenly associate the term with physical seclusion, perhaps requiring them to rent a remote mountain cabin miles away from the nearest human being. This distorted definition sets a standard of isolation that most people can hardly meet regularly in any way. However, loneliness is about what happens in our heads, not in our environment. It is a subjective state in which our thinking is free from the influence of others. Loneliness can be experienced in a crowded café or on the subway, as long as the mind is left to engage only with its own thoughts. On the other hand, loneliness can be driven away even in the quietest environments if we allow the influence of others’ thoughts to intrude.
Apart from direct conversation with other people, these influences can also be reading a book, listening to a podcast, watching television, or engaging in any activity that diverts attention to a smartphone screen. Loneliness requires leaving behind the reactions emanating from other people and instead focusing on our own thoughts and experiences, wherever we may be.”
So why is loneliness so important for our emotional well-being, productivity, deep and creative thinking, and problem-solving self-reflection?
You might be thinking, “Why is this such a big deal? I’m already alone enough every day.” I thought the same, but we must not forget that any influence on our thinking from new technologies means we are no longer alone. Just a few decades ago, the only technologies that deprived us of our solitude were the radio or perhaps a landline telephone or a newspaper.However, smartphones have gradually infiltrated our daily lives and, for the past 10 years, have become an omnipresent tool in our pockets since the advent of internet-enabled smartphones. We can quickly glance at our smartphones at the slightest hint of boredom and immediately obtain a satisfying dose of influence from other thoughts. It has not only become possible but unfortunately has also become normal, without us even noticing, to completely banish being alone from our lives. Cal Newport is even concerned that we will reach a point where we completely forget what it means to be alone.
But what is the real problem?
When I prioritize communication with others over reflecting on my thoughts without the influence of others, I miss out on the positive aspects that solitude brings. These include problem-solving, processing negative experiences, dealing with my emotions, or forming deep relationships with others. A chronic lack of solitude diminishes my quality of life.
“We need solitude for our human well-being, and in recent years, we have systematically eliminated this crucial component from our lives without even realizing it. In simple terms: Humans are not designed to be constantly connected.”
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