Being alone in the era of social media

Being alone in the era of social media

Being alone in the era of social media


I have shared with the readers on an earlier occasion, my reservations with regard to active participation on social media platforms. Somehow, for one reason or other

I have shared with the readers on an earlier occasion, my reservations with regard to active participation on social media platforms. Somehow, for one reason or other, I recently started using the WhatsApp on my phone. The original idea was to confine its use strictly to facilitating my writing work, and communications relating to that activity.

But, then, as Oscar Wilde said, I can resist anything but temptation! So one read the occasional post and, occasionally, began responding to it. While doing that, I came across an interesting piece which went like this:

'God created man and endowed him with wisdom, strength, courage, confidence and foresight. Then God developed a fear that man would, with those qualities, become a danger to nature. He then decided to hide man's strength in a place where it would be difficult to find.

An Eagle approached God, and offered to hide man's strength in the sky. God declined, fearing that, one day, man would conquer the skies. A fish then offered to hide it in water. God had a similar reservation.

Next, a mouse offered to bury man's strength deep underground. God felt that man would easily dig and find it there. Then, finally, a monkey came forward, and suggested, cleverly, that all the strength of man should be hidden within man himself!

God agreed, knowing that man would go everywhere, and conquer all frontiers, but would never think of, or be able to, go deep enough within himself to find the strength hidden there. Ever since then, man's main strength lay hidden deeply within himself, yet to be found!'

Most people look at being alone as a negative state. As a matter of fact, it helps to drop one's "social guard", now and then, and enjoy the freedom of introspection, without being swayed by the thoughts, and feelings, of others.


There are mysterious treasures, as well as exciting pleasures, to be discovered in the deepest recesses of one's own inner self. They have to be experienced to be believed. Which is probably why the statement, "I am never less alone than when alone….", (quoted from Scipio by Cato and recorded by Cicero), has, for long, left a deep impression upon me.

There is an apt Tamil expression which also conveys a similar sense. "aalai vutta podum", meaning all one wants is to be left to one's devices.

Studies have it that 'alone – time' can cause a feeling of greater empathy towards the people around one. It creates an opportunity to connect with nature, and to challenge your body, mind and soul. Peaceful solitude results in many psychological and physiological benefits from improving attentiveness to relieving stress.

In these days of intense competition, be it between countries, races, cults, religions or even individuals, the need to get away from it all and discover the true value of being a human being cannot be over-emphasised.

And the art of being by oneself can be practiced in various forms. Easily the most effective, though somewhat difficult to master, is the practice of meditation. It comes in many forms and the one I came across, seeing my friends and relatives trying it, is what is called Transcendental Meditation. I must confess that I, myself, have never learnt it. But I understand that it gives one a sense of deep peace, and serenity and detachment from worldly worries and tensions.

In my own case, I have found that the three spells of prayer, that are part of my daily routine, serve the purpose of making me lose the connection with the external world. What is more, as I am used to combining prayer with exercise, the body and mind are totally engaged in such intense activity, that the conscious mind becomes completely oblivious of the surroundings.

Even when exercise is not possible like, for instance, when I am travelling, I have found it possible to just shut my eyes and become oblivious of connection with the surroundings as soon as I begin to pray.

Another method, much easier to learn, and to put into practice, is one of playing games. The famous card game 'Solitaire' (now available in various versions as a computer game) is one which I like best. One can spend hours and hours completely lost in the permutations and combinations the patterns of cards offer, as one clicks the mouse.

Reading, listening to music, watching movies and playing a musical instrument are also very engaging forms of solitary activities. The habit, however, can sometimes take an undesirable form such as soliloquy, which is actually a disorder requiring treatment.

And when one emerges from a spell of physical exercise and intense mental activity, one feels a sense of great relief; a feeling of being purged of the toxic effects of exposure of body and mind to the environment.

Extolling the virtue of exploring the inner self should not be taken as detracting from the value of companionship and relationships. They are essential for living in harmony with fellow human beings in society. And a healthy degree of communication also helps one retain a sense of comfort and balance.

It is because man, essentially, is a gregarious being – a social animal comfortable in company, that the value of being alone is rarely recognised or understood. If one looks at the issue dispassionately, all living beings are in the ultimate analysis, by themselves. They enter this world, spend their lifetime, and exit, essentially by themselves.

Being by oneself has the effect of bringing one close to the inner being, and can help unravel the creative and intuitive qualities otherwise lying hidden. Therefore the greatest gift you can give yourself is your own time and energy! After all, one can hardly have a healthy relationship with others, if one has yet to come to terms with oneself!

(The writer is former Chief Secretary, Government of Andhra Pradesh)

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