Since the focus of this blog centers on the art of living with others, I am always curious when I read about any anthropological assessment of living situations. So, naturally, when the weekly update from one of my favorite blogs, Brain Pickings, arrived in my inbox, the commentary on Eric Klinenberg ‘s “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone” intrigued me.
Klinenberg invested seven years of research into this book, conducting more than 100 interviews across the country with people living alone. He fully acknowledges that the opportunity to live alone is afforded to those in the middle class and above, thus potentially impacting his assessment. Nonetheless, from young professionals to senior citizen living, “Going Solo” casts a wide net to survey the life cycle opportunities where we live by ourselves.
From Maria Popova’s overview of the book, these quotes resonated powerfully with me:
Despite its prevalence, living alone is one of the least discussed and, consequently, most poorly understood issues of our time.
Commentators tend to present it as an unmitigated social problem, a sign of narcissism, fragmentation, and a diminished public life.
As I began to read the book, these phrases also stood out as fascinating analysis:
Hermit crabs, as it turns out, are actually quite social, living in communities of up to one hundred, because they can not thrive alone.
Human societies at all times and places have organized themselves around the will to live with others, not alone.
We are learning to go solo and crafting new ways to live in the process.
One million people live alone in New York City, and in Manhattan, nearly half of all residences are one person dwellings.
The second driving force behind the cult of the individual is the communications revolution, which has allowed people throughout the world to experience the pleasures of social life even when they are home alone.
Some of us lived alone in our twenties or thirties and viewed having our own place as a mark of distinction or reward for professional success.
I hope you’ll also check out the book to discover more on living alone.
The photograph I chose to represent this blog post carries a purposeful negative connotation. Because, for the most part, as Klinenberg writes about how living alone has been looked down upon in our society. However, as one of my favorite childhood games which I played with others while in a communal living situation at camp, I could not think of a better contrast to the vast past public opinion on the shift towards opting for the studio than Old Maid herself.