This is Ryan O’Connell on the pervasiveness of loneliness and alienation, which sometimes is connected to being overly busy:
It’s taboo to be lonely. It’s taboo to find yourself all alone in a generation that prides itself on being busy all the time. But guess what? It’s happening. You’re lonely, you’re alone, and it feels like it always does. All the Netflix queues and tweets can’t save you from this familiar feeling of alienation.
It’s comforting in a way, it’s comforting to know that no matter how much things change, you can always go back to this place of feeling restless and disconnected. You’re working 60 hours a week, you’re getting drinks with the people you adore, and you’re still finding yourself isolated between the hours of 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. It doesn’t happen as much as it used to, you’re certainly happier now than you were last summer, but occasionally you find yourself exactly where you started: Looking for human connection and coming up short…
Sometimes being busy only magnifies the loneliness. Sometimes you’re better off just being honest with yourself and lying in bed. Be bored. Enjoy the boredom. It’s so rare these days. Stop trying to fill every second of everyday.
The NY Times published a thoughtful Op-Ed, The Busy Trap, that made some good points about how Americans, in particular, pride ourselves on being busy.
Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. I once knew a woman who interned at a magazine where she wasn’t allowed to take lunch hours out, lest she be urgently needed for some reason. This was an entertainment magazine whose raison d’être was obviated when “menu” buttons appeared on remotes, so it’s hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of institutional self-delusion. More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.
Personally, I feel most alive when I’m working hard, and when I’m so exhausted I don’t have time to think about whether I’m lonely or not. By devoting myself to writing and growing as an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that I literally cannot work all the time. When I’m not busy, I am sometimes quite lonely.
But sometimes the company of others is more lonely. The same is true of boredom. I learn a great deal about my habits and patterns when I’m bored.
The most valuable lesson of my loneliness and boredom has been learning to cultivate genuine connection with my friends, relatives. This is why I disagree with generalizations that claim that the Internet or too much TV alienates us. I’m more interested in how to make friends with my loneliness, since it’s a natural emotion, just like love.