Quicklink: One’s A Crowd

The mere thought of living alone once sparked anxiety, dread and visions of loneliness. But those images are dated. Now the most privileged people on earth use their resources to separate from one another, to buy privacy and personal space.

Living alone comports with modern values. It promotes freedom, personal control and self-realization — all prized aspects of contemporary life.

It is less feared, too, for the crucial reason that living alone no longer suggests an isolated or less-social life. After interviewing more than 300 singletons (my term for people who live alone) during nearly a decade of research, I’ve concluded that living alone seems to encourage more, not less, social interaction.

Very interesting article from the NYT by Eric Klinenberg

Klinenberg, a professor of sociology, has written his conclusions from years of studies and interviews up into a book, “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone”.

In the process of googling around for other info on the rate of living alone, I discovered that nearly ten years ago Barbara Feldon (yes, Agent 99 Barbara Feldon) wrote a book called Living Alone and Loving It which is more a personal motivation and how-to book, but I imagine it would complement Professor Klinenberg’s more scholarly work nicely.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies (an agency coming under the portfolio of the the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet) has a PDF outlining recent Australian trends in living alone.

h/t to an invisible friend

Categories: relationships, Sociology

Tags: ,

3 replies

  1. That’s a really interesting read!
    I have slightly darker thoughts on the subject, though, than this author does. I’ve lived alone almost all of my life, largely as a function of class privilege. My parents had enough money to have a large house in which my siblings and I never shared rooms (and even had our own bathroom separate from our parents), and there was the whole large house and big backyard and plenty of nice empty spaces in the neighbourhood where I could play alone. Same as a teenager – I always had a large bedroom to myself, with a computer and TV in it and everything. Now that I’ve moved out, I have enough funding to afford a one bedroom apartment to myself. I never lived in residence, except at summer camp, I guess, and have yet to learn how to share space in close quarters. I’ve never even lived with a romantic partner!
    I don’t think being a “singleton” make me a bad person, exactly, but I’ve grown suspicious about the values of individualism, personal freedom, self-reliance, and self-realization in the way that they are so over-emphasized in contemporary society. It may be that people who live alone have to go out more to get their fill of social interaction, but that’s a different kind of interaction than you get when you live with and among people, and see them at their best and worst. It makes sense to me that self-reliance and independence would have an especially salient meaning to older people who have been living with other people their whole lives and are often disregarded as frail, but I do wonder if the increase in people of all ages living alone would necessarily be so benign. From a specific social justice perspective, I often wonder if my lack of collective, co-operative living experiences hampers my ability to imagine and realize collective justice solutions.
    I don’t think there should be a stigma against living alone, by any means, but I don’t know if I’d like to see it become the norm. It’s certainly not as environmentally-friendly, space-efficient, or cost-effective.

  2. I would love to see more discussion of this and breaking down of myths, because I live alone! I do go out a lot more than the partnered people I know, but a lot of that is that they usually have kids. I go out for live music, to have dinner with friends, volunteering, dance classes and dancing, and to hang out with friends, including friends who have little kids and babies at home 🙂
    Anyway. I moved interstate so that I could live where I grew up and so I could afford to live alone. I couldn’t hack living with housemates any longer – I always thought that by this stage I’d be living with someone. Sharehousing’s not like living with a partner, where you can have a conversation about the little aspects of running a house. And, I always seemed to get housemates who wanted to sit in front of the tv (I’m very active and like to have friends over sometimes). I always felt I had to ‘live in my bedroom’, and I got so tired of it. Most of my friends also talk about being glad to get past sharehousing, but they mostly managed it due to moving in with a partner.
    I do get lonely, but not nearly as much as when I was living with a housemate who wasn’t very friendly. I decided it had to be less lonely having my own space, and I was right. I have lots of fun 🙂

  3. The more I reread the terms ‘freedom, personal control and self-realization’, the more confused I am about what any of those terms mean (and yeah, similar to Jadey, I have profound skepticism – and mostly dislike-for them).

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