In an age of hyper-connectivity, we have lost our capacity for solitude.
Driving in a car or walking the dog were once moments of solitude. Even air travel was once a valuable block of time during which one could ruminate, cut off from phones and the rest of the world. However, today, all of these activities are inundated with noise from our various devices, ultimately robbing us of sacred blank space. Technology is encroaching on our organic moments of solitude and we must reclaim them.
Sadly, as a society, we have stigmatized solitude because we equate it with loneliness. Some psychologists speculate that our negative association with being alone exists because isolation is sometimes used as a form of punishment. Studies confirm people’s discomfort with solitude: In one study, one-quarter of women and two-thirds of men chose to receive an electric shock over spending time alone for just 15 minutes. Our fear of solitude may explain why we have so eagerly adopted a technological world that is always on.
But maybe this is a mistake — we shouldn’t be so quick to renounce moments that let us sit alone with our thoughts. Experts claim that this time can benefit relationships, increase creativity and help regulate one’s emotions. We are best able to reflect on our thoughts and decompress when alone, allowing us to grow our character and unearth new passions. Many influential historical figures, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Emily Dickinson, leveraged the restorative power of solitude in their work and lives. However, psychologists emphasize that we may only reap the benefits of solitude if it is voluntary, which means we must be active agents in carving out these times.
Our society’s aversion to solitude affects all aspects of our lives, and we’ve come to depend on technology almost reflexively. Why would someone sit alone on a bus, staring into space, when they could be texting a friend? Why would someone drive a car in silence, when they could play their favorite artist instead? The digital world is an ever-present distraction which we embrace willingly. Instead of wrestling with our thoughts and engaging in internal dialogues, we reject our small moments alone whenever we can. We have become so overstimulated by our incessant usage of technology that we don’t know how to be alone without it.
Ironically, we are seeking refuge in the very driving force behind our loneliness. While the online arena enables instant connection with people and communities around the globe, it also interferes with in-person, human interaction. Thus, even though digital advancements have revolutionized how we connect with others, the illusion of hyper-connectedness online is making us feel more alone than ever before.
Digital connections are being made at the expense of more authentic and sincere relationships. Technology is a poor substitute for face-to-face human interaction — when we connect with online avatars behind a screen, we are still physically alone. The more we adopt technology as our preferred form of connection, the more we will isolate and silo ourselves from our current reality.
Technology is dichotomously an assault on our alone time and the very force deepening our loneliness. As technology continues to colonize the unprotected territories of our life, we must learn how to defend them. The more we can allow and accept these spaces of solitude, the more we will build strong, mindful practices that fortify our ability for introspection.
Yael Wellisch ’26 can be reached at email@example.com. Please send responses to this opinion to firstname.lastname@example.org and other op-eds to email@example.com.