I spend a lot of time alone. I get an assignment as a contractor and I go off to do it, alone. I search the listings for permanent jobs or recruiters through a long day in front of my computer screen, alone. I work on my novel or my budding collection of fairy stories set in Saint Paul, alone. My work has me spending a lot of time going through things on my own. What does this mean?
The word Alone doesn’t mean a lot by itself, outside of a big-haired song by Heart. It all depends on whether a person likes to be alone, whether they’ve recently been alone, and frankly how much work they have to do. There’s nothing like a big pile of work to make alone seem attractive to even the most extroverted person, so this can over-ride everything else. It’s the context of alone that gives it meaning, but it’s alone that gives the moment the spice of a memory.
I generally hate to be alone. For some strange reason the practice of writing has been set up to be a solitary art, so the work I get has to be taken away and alone. As long as there is a lot of it I can throw myself into the process and get it done. It’s when I have to fill the gaps and do things I hate like look for work that alone becomes a problem. It’s bad enough that I’m expected to tell the world how great I am, but sitting alone it’s hard to know what I’m expected to say. I can’t decide what I want to tell them about me when they aren’t a person I can in any way relate to.
The internet helps some during the days spent alone. Many sites devoted to writing fill up during the day with people who are clearly just looking to chat – and admit as much. Writing isn’t as solitary as tradition dictates, plus we’re all humans. It’s good to spend some time doing our work alone, but at some point we need each other. I enjoy this time and have gotten to know many people I consider friends despite the fact that we only know each other when we are alone.
Mainly, however, I am at my best when I’m not alone too much. That’s the E in the ENTP, the extrovert that is energized by being around other people. I don’t know how I wound up being alone as much as I am, but I intend to change it. I’m a better person when I have a chance to bounce my wacky ideas off of people. I like to know just where I stand on any number of issues, and I like to know how I’m doing.
My reaction is probably very typical for our species of standing-up chimp. We aren’t like cats or other species that seem to be capable of being a long for long periods. What’s different is that a cat has a way of working, a style of hunting, that works well when they are alone. We always hunted in groups and always used safety in numbers to raise our kids, tend our sick, and so on. It’s hard-wired into what we do.
Is it really good for any of us to spend so much time on the internet but otherwise alone?