I spend a lot of time alone.
It gives me a lot of time to dwell on inane and important issues. In fact, my brain never shuts off. On any given day, I’ll think about classic gay porn director Steve Scott, food abandonment issues in the TV series Gilmore Girls, the rise of neo-feminist post-riot grrl discourse, finding a non-freelance job and whether my essential tremor is ever going to go away.
I’ve been a loner for as long as I can remember.
I’m a social person when I’m out—I like to meet people a lot, and I enjoy engaging strangers in conversations. I like being on, and telling jokes, even when they aren’t funny. But ultimately, I have my most important conversations with myself and the Internet, and I’m fairly convinced I’m not a sociopath. I can trace this behaviour back to my first two years of study at university. I wasn’t out yet, and most of the friends that I had clung on to from high school weren’t around. But instead of attending parties, or talking to my fellow students, I sat in lectures quietly, and I took notes. I went weeks without actually opening my mouth. It sounds crazy, but I am able to recall 5-day-long periods (120 hours) where I didn’t utter a single phrase or quip to anyone. I was voluntarily giving the world the silent treatment. It’s why I consider myself an observer and storyteller to this day.
In an effort to be a good student, I would take the many thoughts I had collected during this self-imposed silent period and I would fuel debate during tutorials. This was akin to what Mean Girls popularized as “word vomit.” That was essential speaking, and as an opinionated person, discussions often became fairly heated. But as soon as it was done, I returned to being quiet. As lonely as being a loner is, I find a certain amount of comfort in my alone time. I can think whatever I want, do whatever I want, and just live however I want. It also seems a little selfish.
The loner wasn’t always a desirable archetype. The name ‘loner’ alone suggests a brooding, rucksack carrying meanderer who keeps to himself and may kill you some day (What’s in his bag? A gun? Corn? Collier’s magazine?). But what the classic loner didn’t have was the Internet: a place where loners like me flock to share their “word vomit” with the world. In a weird way, this socialization has its perks. It doesn’t necessarily help with real life relationships, because the way people interact online is too quick and devil may care to reflect the slow, non-Dawson’s Creek-like discourse of the everyday human being (I still sometimes talk in sentence fragments, but catch them more and more each day). But it does help with getting ideas out there. For me, the Internet is like the university tutorial of life. At every turn, there will be someone to support or squash an opinion. And, just like university, everyone thinks they’re right. Whether I’m right or wrong, I’ve come to rely on the Internet as a way to get some relief from thought stockpiling.
People feel discomfort when they hear what I’ve done with my life over the past few months since being laid off. They think writing and reading alone in my apartment with my cat and transporting myself to Star’s Hollow for hours a day is sad, and lonely. It is, but it isn’t. On the one hand, I don’t have as many personal, life-affirming stories to retell, because I’m short of human interaction. But on the other hand, I’d argue that my life is not unlike the average alive person (the jobbed and the jobless), and that in itself makes me feel like a peer.
I haven’t received a phone call in years that has lasted longer than 2 minutes (with the exception of boyfriends). SMS words have become the new mouth-using, and Twitter has become the new Philosopher’s Café. Slang has even evolved to complex sequences of Emoji and .GIF reactions. Physically distancing ourselves from each other with technology isn’t a new argument by any means, but I find it interesting that my life without me began even before I had Internet on my cell phone. My Internet lifeline (blogs, LJs, Xangas, Friendster, Myspace, ICQ, MSN, Teen Chat, forums, Tumblrs, AOL Chat, troll accounts) alone suggests that I was bred to be a loner, forever occupied with producing, rather than reproducing.
I’d be worried about all of this if Henry David Thoreau hadn’t existed, or if I didn’t have the forethought to know that I am just like everyone else. We have all become loners, and yet we are a lot less lonely for it.