The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.
Last issue, we ran a story about doing things alone — a habit that many of us on the editorial board practice. Though the desire to be alone versus surrounded by others is partly a personal preference, we all agree there are benefits to having time by yourself, to relax and do what you want without worrying about the opinions of others.
As we talked, a few of us remembered specific moments in which we enjoyed solitude:
One of us recalled attending a concert alone. He said it didn’t bother him, and what he found most troubling was that others kept trying to dance with him or start conversations he didn’t want to be a part of.
One set out to Washington, D.C. for a summer internship without knowing anyone there. Arriving two weeks before her roommates, she had the chance to explore the city on her own.
“I took long runs at night, and that was how I learned to navigate the city,” she said. She went to museums by herself, cooked and ate by herself.
One editorial board member studied abroad in Europe and took independent trips. She said she relished sitting alone on trains, feeling content knowing all she was responsible for was herself, her bag of belongings and getting to her destination.
When you are alone, you can be selfish. In fact, this might be the only time in your life you can afford to do so, before the commitment of a full-time job or the responsibility of raising a family. Everyone should take advantage of that.
While alone, you are on your own schedule and can move at your own pace, whether that means sprinting through the airport because you like to be at the gate early, or wandering aimlessly through a city you’ve never visited before.
You don’t have to worry about anyone else or where they want to eat dinner or if they are having fun.
Being apart from your friends, and outside your comfort zone, can help you gain valuable life experience.
We are more willing to strike up a conversation with a stranger, or get lost in our own thoughts. We are forced to use our problem-solving skills, because no one is there to take care of us.
Not everyone has extravagant tales of life-changing moments or revelations that result from time spent in solace. However, we can all think of times where we are alone, whether we like it or not.
Many of us came to college alone, eager to start with a clean slate. It felt liberating to leave our pasts behind and recreate ourselves however we wanted. We reveled in our newfound independence.
But then we joined clubs and made friends and established reputations — none of which are bad things, but they change how we view solitude.
Instead of enjoying time alone, we begin to worry about what people might think — will others judge us?
To avoid discomfort, people rely on technology. We’ve all seen it: students standing in line, or waiting outside their next class, eyes glued to illuminated iPhone screens.
We’re all guilty of it. We know we do it, but we don’t know why.
Why is it so foreign to us to make small talk with our peers? Why do we require constant entertainment?
Aside from pulling our attention out of the present and into the fake realities of the Facebook and Instagram worlds, our phones and other technologies keep us on edge. We are never “alone” in the sense that we are constantly viewing images of others, seeing what they are doing and comparing ourselves.
So, while it might seem radical, we want you to try something. Next time you’re walking on campus alone or waiting for the barista to finish your drink, and you reach into your pocket to grab your phone, ask yourself why. What is your motivation?
Are you refreshing feeds on all your apps because you’re bored? Are you trying to seem busy?
Or, is it just a habit, and if so, wouldn’t it be a good one to break?
Instead of relying on your phone to distract you, focus on the moments of solitude in everyday life. You might discover you enjoy them more than you expected.