Too-muchness invades every minute of our days with the ever presence of the cell phone, burping and chirping for instant attention from our sea of "friends." Too-muchness invades our workdays, where quality of life, enoughness, and human scale bow to the corporate mantra of "more."
I am wary of the new wave of articles warning us that loneliness and social isolation are the new "tobacco" as far as our health is concerned. They tell us that if we want to be healthy and live long, we'd better get out there amongst 'em. Really? Fucking really? Couldn't we all be just a little bit hungry for some quiet time?!
My life span began in the age of analog, but I was one of the first of my friends to have a computer--an IBM-compatible 336. I know, the Stone Age, but I and my computers have evolved through the years and, even without a cell phone, I am right here with you in our digital world (after all, I'm writing this on my MacBook Pro).
So way back in analog time, people spent many hours in their homes "disconnected" from the outside world. If you had a home phone, you shared it with the whole family and ofttimes with other families in the form of a party line. Each household had it's own combination of long and short rings so you would know when to answer and when to ignore it. When you were at home alone, you were at home alone!
As kids, if we wanted to communicate with someone, we simply went outside. I had no choice about this really--my mother, like other Ozzie & Harriet generation parents, sent us outside early in the morning and warned us not to come back and show our faces until called in for a meal. When we went outdoors, we always found other kids--even in the country. (After all, there was nothing more interesting going on inside our houses--what with the only screen being a black-and-white, 3-channel TV, which our mothers had commandeered to watch General Hospital.) Outside was always more interesting, and I don't ever remember feeling lonely as a child.
For a time, I characterized my need for human contact based on my level of introversion. Popular wisdom is that extroverts recharge their batteries by being around others and that introverts need solitude to recharge. Bolderdash! (Translation, Bullshit!) There are people who can suck the life out of even the most extroverted person, and other blessed souls who can infused life into even the most introverted. It's about quality, not quantity. But some of us do thrive on a bigger quantity of quality and others do prefer a little quality and then just savor the marrow out of it. Viva la difference!
Modern life floods us with quantity and starves us for quality.
In my research, I've come across two interesting bits of information. One is from studies that point out that the more time that "smart" people spend with their friends, the unhappier they are. Intriguing but a bit elitist?
The other bit of information comes from scientist E.O. Wilson, who said, "If the benefit from group membership falls below that from solitary life, evolution will favor departure." Ok, let's go with that one--it's not so elitist. And it just might explain the direction we are headed.