The Media is Obsessed with People Who Live Alone

I live alone. It was a decision I made last year, because I could afford to do it, and also because sometimes you just want to live by yourself. I did not think I was just another person in a growing trend of Single People Living Alone in America, but according to stories published by various news outlets this year, that’s exactly what I am. This is what I’ve been told what living alone means:

So, you decided to live alone. You need to learn how to live alone in a community of other people who live alone.

What we need to do, Klinenberg concludes, is craft new ways of living alone together, ones that acknowledge and nurture the links between the solitary and the communal. To see this in action he goes to Stockholm, “the global capital of living alone”, where 60% of households are headed by one person. His first stop is Färdknäppen, a community-owned facility where 43 single people live in companionable autonomy. It sounds wonderful. You get your own little flat, but you can pop into the restaurant when you can’t be bothered to cook (dinner is about £3). There’s a library, a gym and – it must be a Swedish thing – a “weaving room”. There’s even a dedicated space for parties. (The Guardian, May 3, 2012)

Hmm. Okay. Just like living in the dorms! The restaurant I pop into is the dining hall I ate at with all the other undergraduates, the library is the library, and the gym is the gym across campus. 

In fact, there’s little evidence that the rise of living alone is making more Americans lonely. Reams of published research show that it’s the quality, not the quantity, of social interactions that best predicts loneliness. As University of Chicago social neuroscientist John T. Cacioppo concluded in the book he co-authored, Loneliness, what matters is not whether we live alone but whether we feel alone. There’s ample support for this idea outside the laboratory. As divorced or separated people often say, there’s nothing lonelier than living with the wrong person. (Time magazine, March 12, 2012)

Gotcha, living alone and feeling alone, are two different things.

Few things are less welcome today than protracted solitude—a life style that, for many people, has the taint of loserdom and brings to mind such characters as Ted Kaczynski and Shrek. Does aloneness deserve a less untoward image? Aside from monastic seclusion, which is just another way of being together, it is hard to come up with a solitary life that doesn’t invite pity, or an enviable loner who’s not cheating the rules. (Even Henry David Thoreau, for all his bluster about solitude, ambled regularly into Concord for his mother’s cooking and the local bars.) Meanwhile, the culture’s data pool is filled with evidence of virtuous togetherness. “The Brady Bunch.” The March on Washington. The Yankees, in 2009. Alone, we’re told, is where you end up when these enterprises go south. (The New Yorker, April 16, 2012)

Living alone doesn’t mean you’re a loser that nobody wants—like Shrek.

SURVEYS, some by market research companies that study behavior for clients developing products and services, also indicate that married people with children are more likely than single people to hunker down at home. Those in large suburban homes often splinter into private rooms to be alone. The image of a modern family in a room together, each plugged into a separate reality, be it a smartphone, computer, video game or TV show has become a cultural cliché. New communications technologies make living alone a social experience, so being home alone does not feel involuntary or like solitary confinement. The person alone at home can digitally navigate through a world of people, information and ideas. Internet use does not seem to cut people off from real friendships and connections. (The New York Times, Feb. 4, 2012)

Even if you’re at home alone, Facebook and Twitter will keep you company so you feel like you’re a part of the social experience.

No one told me when I was small that there would come a time in my life where people would be judged by the quantity and quality of take-out menus for local restaurants. And that I could, without consulting anyone, at any time, make a phone call, order some food, and it would soon arrive at my door.

And then there is music when night falls. I can put on whatever I like, follow dark obsessions without worrying about depressing anyone else, or cheering them up for that matter. There is no one to question my sanity, my taste in music, or say: “That again? Not that again. Did we not hear that yesterday?” (Author Colm Toibin in The Guardian, March 30, 2012)

I forgot about that evening I listened to Adele’s “Someone Like You” on repeat and nobody judged me. That was nice.

“I’ve been known to drink Champagne in the shower at 8 a.m.,” Mr. Griffith said. “I’ll play Madden NFL Football for 10 hours straight, eat a French bread pizza for every meal of the day.”

But living alone is a skill that takes management, and Mr. Griffith has found he isn’t very good at it. The Days of Chad, he said, are about all he can handle.

“I literally have zero self-control,” he said. “If I lived alone and didn’t have somebody to monitor me, I’d be a fat, out-of-work alcoholic.” (The New York Times, Feb. 22, 2012)

And since I live alone, there is no one around to call me out on all my terrible habits. I’m good with that.

Before I read these articles, I was perfectly okay with living alone. Now that I’ve read these articles, I feel perfectly okay with living alone.



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