Chosen loneliness or rejected loneliness?

Experts highlighted the "chosen loneliness" phenomenon, which has glorified living alone in social life in recent years and presents it as a choice of individuals, and experts emphasize that it is not correct to present this trend as a healthy norm. Noting that individuals who are pumped by popular media products and social media, who live only for themselves without taking responsibility for others, who pursue pleasure, are almost blessed, experts say: "This lifestyle is a situation in which people are pushed into it for structural and cultural reasons, rather than a choice.". Experts point out that in the consumer society, the system encourages the individual to be lonely, and that among all age groups, white-collar workers in their 30s feel the loneliest.

The white-collar workers feel the loneliest

Üsküdar University Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Head of Sociology Department Prof. Barış Erdoğan made an evolution on loneliness, which is one of the most important problems of modern societies, and the phenomenon of chosen loneliness.

Chosen loneliness is not a healthy norm

Noting that in recent years, there is a phenomenon called "chosen loneliness", which celebrates lonely life in social life and presents it as a choice of individuals, Prof. Barış Erdoğan said, “Chosen loneliness thinkers, scientists, Sufi conversant artists and people who want to make an important change in their lives may have a preference to isolate themselves from the society for a while to increase their productivity and develop new ideas. However, I do not believe that it is right to show this kind of loneliness as a healthy norm in society in general. It will be necessary to open up the concept of loneliness before addressing this issue more broadly.”.

Loneliness can be examined in three terms

Stating that loneliness can be considered in three concepts as "being alone", "living alone" and "feeling alone", Prof. Barış Erdoğan said, “We can examine the concept of being alone within the framework of lack of social integration and the concept of living alone within the framework of the absence of family. The concept of feeling alone perceives loneliness as a social experience. Whether this experience is due to social isolation or within the context of professional or family situations, it is about feeling lonely. The individual avoids so to protect themselves from the toxic relationships, insecurity, the job they had to do unhappily, and the unstable family relationships in modern society. They turn the house where they live alone into a sacred place where they take refuge. In other words, even the social contacts themselves can cause a person to 'feel alone'.".

Living alone is associated with chosen loneliness

Noting that the conceptualization of "being alone" is associated loneliness with the lack or absence of social contacts and connections, Prof. Barış Erdoğan said, “The number of face-to-face relationships with family and friends decreases. You spend your time on social media or you even begin to go to social activities alone.”.

Loneliness is seen as a new way of living

Expressing that the phenomenon of 'living alone' is mostly associated with chosen loneliness today, Prof. Barış Erdoğan said, “Those who define loneliness in this way see it as a new way of living rather than a social problem. These solitary individuals are not considered as isolated from the society, with weak social relations or without them. This social group, whose subject is single people, has chosen to sleep alone in the evenings, but they are presented as ‘happy’ people who participate in social activities together. This approach, which is compatible with the individualism that dominates the society and the consumption culture desired by the capitalist system, reformulates loneliness as ‘solo life’ in order to save loneliness from a negative prism.”.

Loneliness is not a choice, but a situation in which a person is rejected

Prof. Barış Erdoğan said, "I do not believe that it is right to look through rose-tinted glasses in this situation” and Prof. Barış Erdoğan stated, "This lifestyle is more of a situation in which people are forced into it for structural and cultural reasons, rather than a choice.”.

The system encourages individuals for loneliness in the consumer society

Noting that individuals who are pumped by popular media products and social media, who live only for themselves without taking the responsibility of others, who pursue pleasure, are almost blessed in the popular media Prof. Barış Erdoğan said:

“In the consumer society, the system requires individuals to be more and more as consumers rather than as workers, people caring for savings. In this case, the increase in the number of people living alone causes many products to be used and sold more, from residential use to household goods.”.

Those who live alone are a good customer base

For the entertainment and tourism sector, those who live alone are a good customer base. Dating sites, which are mostly preferred by those who live alone, are the most profitable investments of the Internet world. In addition, those who live alone can spend more money to make themselves happy. In this case, it appeals to the dreams of people, especially young people by descripting mediatic stereotypes such as lawyers, architects, self-employed individuals who are successful in series and media news and who are constantly having fun and traveling.”.

The best way to get rid of loneliness is to live a meaningful life

Stating that the situation is very different in real life unlike the intended way shown in popular culture, Prof. Barış Erdoğan concluded his words as follows: “However, single men and women living alone do not lead lives that have become clichés in these popular culture products. Realities are very different from the dreams presented to society by the media. Whether in developed industrial societies or in a developing country like Türkiye, the 'chosen loneliness' is a multifaceted and challenging test in terms of psychological, economic and social relations for many individuals. The best way get rid of loneliness is to live a meaningful life. A meaningful life also connects us to a social environment in line with a goal, and saves us from the feeling of loneliness.”.

Relations with the social environment are weakening

Stating that everyone is getting more and more lonely in modern society, Prof. Barış Erdoğan said, “Due to the gigantic metropolitan environment where a fast pace of life is experienced, our family and friend ties are loosed. Our neighborly relations have been severed in the high-rise complexes we live in. Especially in white-collar jobs, we are forced to compete with our colleagues rather than cooperation to protect our job. All of this weakens our relations with our traditional social circle, with which we have strong ties. Maybe the number of our friends on social networks such as Instagram and Facebook are increasing, however, these are our weak ties. They are not true friends who give us confidence in life.”.

Life conditions also affect relationships

Stating that the difficult life conditions also affect the relationships adversely, Prof. Barış Erdoğan said, “The high cost of living and the decrease in purchasing power, which became on top of all these negativities, had a significant negative impact on our visits and meetings with family, relatives and neighbors with whom we have strong ties and which we can still maintain. There are some recent studies that even the dating of young people and starting a new relationship have decreased by half due to economic reasons. Meetings with friends and relatives are always postponed to a later date with an excuse. Instead of meeting in a cafe, young people are trying to maintain their ties with each other through social media.”.

White-collar people in their 30s feel lonely the most

Noting that among all age groups, white-collar people in their 30s are the ones who feel lonely the most, Prof. Barış Erdoğan said, “The reason for this is that university-age youth and new graduates still have a circle of friends that has not been exhausted yet. This group can find friends or partner candidates who both share similar tastes and have plenty of time. Moreover, materiality is less determinant in the establishment of relations compared to other age groups since the expectations and financial opportunities are lower in the youth. However, the close social spaces get narrowed, the number of people who entered their family life in their peer groups increased, and they were surrounded by office mates whom they saw as rivals rather than friends in the years when the relationship with the school was cut and people started working. We also see the results of this isolation in the user profiles of matchmaking sites. The 25-35 age group, whose circle of friends has narrowed, is the largest group in all dating platforms. As the age increases, the rate of those who are couple increases, the usage rates of these platforms decrease. However, divorce rates increasing rapidly in the elderly, especially in today's society. The individualism of the capitalist society and the development of technologies and services that support living alone make living alone an important option.”. 

Üsküdar News Agency (ÜNA)