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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The BattalionMay 4, 2024

The value of solitude

Blank pages are scary no matter how much you write. And so, in preparation of written expression, I surround myself with the necessary equipment to make the experience as painless as possible: crappy Dell laptop (“Napoleon”) – check. iPod – check. Instant messenger – check. Facebook – check. Cell phone – check.
I’m surrounded by sidekicks. These tools of communication my generation depends upon invade my daily life, and I now realize there’s something oddly perverse about how meager machinery overwhelms us.
The convenience of technology creates an interconnected, global world. But through this, our society loses an element past generations considered a value: solitude.
The voices from the radio fill a silent room. Walking to class is accomplished while listening to an iPod. Some find sleep impossible without the aid of a TV’s buzzing glare. As I ride the bus and watch other passengers energetically text (or fake text) on their Crackberrys and iPhones, it is evident I’m not the only one afflicted.
We’re never alone. Over the last several decades, we’ve become terrified by the notion.
We tag ourselves in pictures on Facebook, as if to scream out, “Look, I have fun! I am visible!” Perhaps visibility is exactly what we seek in this technology-apt world.
William Deresiewicz, writer for The Chronicle of Higher Education, elaborated on this issue in his article “The End of Solitude.”
Deresiewicz writes, “[t]he great contemporary terror is anonymity… if the property that grounded the self, in Romanticism, was sincerity, and in modernism it was authenticity, then in postmodernism it is visibility.”
Every individual naturally desires to be the main character of their story. Once we mailed handwritten letters to our loved ones to share life’s narrative. Black ink marks stained an avid letter writer’s
fingertips. Now, our existence is recognized by the hundreds of Twitter followers or Facebook friends.
So why should you care? What’s my point?
There isn’t a simple answer to these questions. While I studied abroad in England, I traveled to London to visit a British Museum exhibition that related to the term paper I wrote for a history class. I wanted to peruse the museum at my own pace, something I always desired, so I went alone. Somewhere between the Thames, a narrow alley and the ruins of an ancient cathedral (whose name is still unknown to me), I became completely, terrifyingly, “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego” lost. Void of the convenience of a cell phone or a friend to rely on, I eventually sat beside a rock wall of a nearby street, stressed and as the British say, “knackered.”
I remained there for an hour, quietly observing the occasional passerby or black taxi whizz by. It’s extraordinary to watch the world turn around you while you are thinking about it. Though it may seem pretentious or unbelievable, I discovered more about life in that one hour than many discover in a year.
Only through being alone with one’s thoughts can certain important realizations be found. The value of self, reflection, mindfulness and introspection have been devalued through technology’s invasion of our lives. Between our deadlines, assignments, appointments, meetings, tests, quizzes and social lives, recognizing the importance of solitude seems trivial.
But you’ve got to stop and smell the roses in life. And, sorry, but the picture of flowers decorating your iPhone background doesn’t count.

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