Alone in a Crowd

One of the most deep-rooted needs of human beings is the need to belong. It is a core need that is also an intrinsic motivation among human beings, a motivation that drives many actions and decisions… and also instills the fear of being alone.

I have kind of always suspected the co-relation between needing to belong and the fear of being alone, but the past five years have been an education, thanks, of course, to Facebook and Whatsapp in particular. It’s one thing to share life experiences, it’s another thing to do stuff alone, and then while you’re doing it, to be on social media exhorting others to do the same thing.

Stuff like: I’m sitting down to watch this great movie on so and so channel – why don’t you watch the same movie? Or, I am all ready to watch the great Wimbledon final… you get the drift.

It’s absolutely fabulous, this inability to do anything on one’s own, to have this need to be talking to someone, anyone, all the time. It’s as if you are running away from yourself, fearful even to be with yourself, afraid to be alonnnnnne.

I like company, I like talking to people, meeting friends and strangers alike, learning new things, listening to what others are doing, spending time on social media … but I love my own company. Being on your own without the need to connect takes practice if you are not ‘born to it’. And it’s much easier being connected to others online than being with people face to face (you have to pick and chose company, take the good with the bad, etc) or with yourself (too many decisions and thoughts to deal with). Online networks are fantastic because you can decide what to react to, what not to, and keep saying/sharing/communicating all you want to.

The online world fulfils one need that is greater than belonging: the need to be heard. Most people listen because they await the opportunity to say, and social media is the perfect anti-thesis of socialising – it’s a media that allows you to stay in society even if you are anti-social at your core, and to keep expressing yourself without the burden of listening.

In fact, Social Media is the most passive form of social interaction I have ever encountered. And it gives a complete new level of meaning to the phrase: “Alone in a crowd”. It’s fascinating.

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