In one of my English classes, we were asked to consider what “solitude” means to us and to reflect on our experience in an online class. Below is my response (with edits).
Loneliness and Solitude
Solitude is a difficult word to define, but perhaps I can best describe it by explaining what it is not. Solitude does not mean strictly being alone. One can be alone without being lonely, and one can be lonely without being alone; therefore, a person can be in solitude while still surrounded by other people.
A state of solitude is within oneself. If a person is by oneself but is not alone or does not feel lonely, i.e. if there is another presence around, like God or Nature, then that person is not in a state of solitude. I would also not think of that person as feeling lonely, since at that moment in time, that person is not truly lonely—that person has God and/or Nature. If, on the other hand, that person does not feel a presence or a sense of connectedness with anything, and that person feels lonely, and that person experiences “darkness” or “nothingness,” only then is that person truly in solitude.
The idea of solitude is neither unsettling nor soothing for me. Being caught between the generation gap—30s/40s on one side, teens and 20s (the Web generation) on the other—makes me feel both restricted and free. The feeling that I am of neither generation (and so, neither solitary nor gregarious) is reflected in that I am terrified of being alone, but I thoroughly enjoy being left alone. I want to stay connected to people (and in my career, I will need to), but I also like having a part of myself that no one else knows about, that no one else is allowed to see: it is just for me, my space, my own little world where things make sense to me and me only. For social acceptance, though, this mindset does not get me anywhere; it will not build my brand; it will not sell books. So, I’m torn between wanting to stay out of the limelight, and wanting to be wrapped up in it.
Since I am caught in the generation gap, I am torn between agreeing with Deresiewicz’s statement in “The End of Solitude” and disagreeing with it. On the one hand, “loneliness is the great emotion of the Web generation” (Deresiewicz 96) makes perfect sense. People (especially teenagers) these days do not seem to want to be alone—ever. They always seem to be “plugged in” and they do not seem to take time for themselves to be alone with their own thoughts. On the other hand, there are exceptions. Although, at (almost) 28, I technically fit into the “teens and 20s” age bracket, I do not feel the need for constant connectivity to people. I want to be alone because I do not generally get enough “alone time.”
As a parent, I find the Web-generation-loneliness-concept a disturbing one because I wonder what kind of a world I will raise my son in. I strive to think for myself, to draw my own conclusions, and to first form my own opinions within my own mind and without the input of others. I want my son to be the same way. I do not want him to be swayed by popular opinion or consensus. I want him to figure out things on his own. Will the world my son grows up in still be considered the Web generation, or will it be something else more terrifying? He is not quite two years old, but I think he already “walks to the beat of a different drummer” (Deresiewicz 98). This is a little disconcerting because I worry he might continue to be antisocial. I like that he thinks for himself and wants to find out for himself, but I want him to be socially accepted, if for no other reason than it would make life easier for him.
The online class experience is one that I enjoy because I can work at my own pace, and I can answer honestly, to the best of my ability, and without holding back (as I would likely do in a traditional setting). It gives me the freedom to process information on my own terms, without anyone’s input if I want, while also letting me interact with other students in the discussion forum. I do not think that taking an online class is “lonely,” but that may be because I crave “alone time.” I do not need other people to validate my opinions or thoughts or feelings. They are my own, and they remain my own more easily in an online forum. I definitely would not say that online classes are rich with “liveliness.” Instead, I think their greatest strengths lie in that they can be completed somewhat leisurely, on one’s own time (to a certain extent), and without the input from others to sway opinion or cast judgment. I’d pick these qualities over liveliness any day.
How would you define “solitude”?
Have you experienced an online class? If so, was it lonely?
- Solitude or Loneliness (sparshturaga.wordpress.com)
- More About Solitude (christopherscottblog.typepad.com)
- solitude (rufinalee.com)
- The Deliciousness of Solitude (writingpromisingchange.wordpress.com)
- Solitude (gleaningsinloveoflife.wordpress.com)