Sunday, March 29, 2009

Networks and Solitude

This is a good, well-balanced article, and comments about it have been circulating:

The End of Solitude

Some people simplify this issue too much and make the conclusion that a networked society is new, strange, and bad. The fact is that being constantly connected to a close-knit tribe is the default state of humanity. Solitude and Introspection are modern inventions. I think that they are very valuable, but I recognize that they are the exception, not the rule.

I like the insight that 'boredom' is a negative emotion that is cultivated, not natural.  Having nothing to do is a blessing, not a curse, and people who have not been exposed to modern civilization have no need to fill their idle time with some kind of activity.  They just sit around happily doing nothing.  Too much idleness can be bad, but the optimal amount is not zero.

It does worry me that there are people who cannot abide being alone.  Being constantly surrounded by a social group does bad things to your ability to think.  Too much solitude can be bad, but as with idleness the optimal amount is certainly not zero.

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