Here’s an interesting “Newsweek” piece on loneliness in the age of online social networking. To see how the definition of “socializing” has changed over the last couple of decades, I need only look to my niece and nephews. All of them are young adults, all of them go out to eat or to a movie on occasion with friends, and all of them are just as happy to spend a Saturday night in front of their laptops updating their MySpace pages or playing video games with strangers from foreign countries. And so it is with their peers. I don’t know how lonely they feel on average, but I can say they don’t express much self-pity about it.
We’ll have to see how their lives are going in 20 years, of course, but if the whole landscape and method of human interaction changes, who’ll be left to mourn the death of soul-baring, face-to-face conversations over wine or coffee? Maybe those have their limitations, too. The idea of “intimate conversation as therapy” sounds nice, but in reality, fetishizing one’s insecurities through incessant talk with a friend does little to make those insecurities go away. (If it did, Woody Allen wouldn’t have had to marry Soon Yi).
The most interesting thing the “Newsweek” writer points out is that loneliness can be a relative emotion, often triggered by comparing one’s own solitary Friday night reading or perusing YouTube to the compulsive socializer down the hall – never mind the distinct possibility that he or she can’t bear sitting alone surrounded by the four walls of their own apartment. The inability to spend extended periods of time by oneself seems like a bigger hell to me. The biggest hell of all? Being the staff manager of Paris (or Perez, for that matter) Hilton’s Twitter account.