When loneliness is a choice of well-being

Since, almost a decade ago, social networks have become the global phenomenon we know so well today, the theme of loneliness and social isolation has become a matter of wide and undisputed interest.
On the one hand, there was once the fear of migration towards digital environments of an extraordinarily large number of relational forms. On the other hand, the fear of the increasingly widespread inability to develop a healthy relationship with oneself, impeding one's space for reflection free from continuous external stimuli. In all this, a question that foreshadowed a sort of paradox emerged: were we becoming more and more isolated and, at the same time, more and more incapable of isolating ourselves?
For some, this is precisely what confirms the birth of a social problem: the moment in which there is a word that identifies it precisely. And there is no doubt that many people, when they first heard about FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), felt that very special feeling typical of the moments when you discover the exact words to define what you are feeling.
It is like a corroboration of legitimacy: if it has happened to other people as well, it means that it is real, and if it has been codified, it must also be quite common. The mention to the popular proverb, at this point, is almost a must: “misery loves company”. And here's the explanation of the relief that comes from the language.
The FOMO, perhaps there may not be the need to explain it, is the fear of being cut off, of losing something, of not being in the place where you should be, or not having seen, read or listened to things that you should have seen, read or listened to, only because everyone else might have done it. This is a true form of social anxiety, fueled by the constant connection provided by social networks, and in a mechanism that is self-powered, to such cost connection induces: to be sure not to lose anything, it is essential to know everything that is happening. 
The consequences of such a system are obvious to everyone: when you are alone, the temptation to look outward (but lowering it on the screen of a smartphone) is uncontrollable. And even if you manage to avoid access to Instagram, your thinking is increasingly focused on what you're doing, and almost never on yourself. The result? Loneliness is a perspective that is looked at, today more than ever, with fear and apprehension.

When and why loneliness is good for you

Nonetheless, taking the time to stay alone is a sign of which an increasing number of scholars are stressing the importance, even claiming that dedicating time to oneself, and only to oneself, is as essential as regular training and respecting a balanced diet.
Thus, along with the numerous and necessary warnings about the risks of social isolation, exhortations of the opposite are also emerging: solitude is, in many cases, a healthy choice.
In an article published by The Atlantic magazine, the American sociologist highlights how being alone is fundamental, first of all, to trigger and develop an intense confrontation with oneself. But the benefits of loneliness, says Fong, go far beyond this: for example, in order to identify the toxicity elements that inhabit the social context which one is part of and then be able to combat them, it is essential to periodically move away from them, at least for a while.
There are also numerous references to loneliness as a mean to stimulate creativity. From the biographies of artists to studies on innovative thinking, the opinion is almost unanimous: loneliness, in encouraging contact with the inner world, is an indispensable element of creative work.
According to some, what makes loneliness such an important ally of intuition and focusing is its ability to lead to a state of "active mental rest", which allows the brain to operate completely free from distractions, even minimal or unconscious.
In addition, people accustomed to spend time alone have turned out to be on average more satisfied with themselves and their lives, better able to cope with stress and less prone to depression, demonstrating how loneliness is crucial to mental well-being.

Yes, alone, but with some conditions

If loneliness has so many benefits, then, one wonders why social isolation is often perceived and communicated as a very serious problem.
The studies of Kenneth Rubin, developmental psychologist at the University of Maryland, shed some light on this apparent contradiction: to be healthy, beneficial and productive, loneliness must "respect" certain criteria.
First of all, it must be a choice: loneliness is good only if it is voluntary. In order to benefit from solitude, those who choose to isolate themselves must still have the opportunity to return to a social group whenever they wish. In addition, a person must be capable of effectively managing his emotions, and able to develop and maintain positive relationships even outside his social group of reference.


With these parameters in mind, isolating yourself from time to time seems to be a genuine choice of well-being. So much so that the author Anil Dash, in one of the most successful posts of his personal blog, thought of creating a word that could indicate the exact opposite of FOMO, namely the Joy of Missing Out (JOMO), or the ability to appreciate the time spent alone, moving away from everything (also and perhaps especially from the smartphone) to cultivate the relationship with oneself.

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