As a kid I always liked finding quiet places that were small and isolated. I liked to spend time in places where I was actually alone … where I could get lost in my own thoughts and not have to think about what other people thought of me. I liked being alone about as much as I liked being around others.
What is funny to me is that I still like it. I still like stealing time to myself, but increasingly I can’t seem to find those quiet spaces where I am really alone with my thoughts. In the back of my mind is this feeling that I am letting someone down when I am really alone. When we’re really alone we have no connectivity — no access to the networks that are at the center of nearly everything we do. If I look back at my quick Twitter poll from last week it is obvious that the people who responded aren’t spending a whole lot of alone time either. If we call it the social web for a reason we’re not alone when the first apps we launch connect us to other people’s thoughts, activities, and updates.
Just a quick example … I am sitting here with my Bose noise canceling headphones on so I can concentrate and all I hear are little bells, bings, and other alert messages telling me I am not alone. Bing, new email. Bong, new Tweet. And it goes on. I’m alone in my office, but not alone at all.
These thoughts are circulating after reading an insightful post from colleague Alec Couros. I love the Boston Globe article he links to and I really love the video that goes along with it that I’ve embedded below. The one thing Alec discusses is the notion of teaching students to be curious, but to choose wisely in their connectedness. I’m not naive enough to say we should all just shut it off — it doesn’t and can’t work that way. As one of the people in the video says, “if you aren’t connected people think you are negligent” and that bothers me, but it is a reality. Does the video speak to you? Does it make sense to let it all go? Can we?