Living alone: not so lonely

Nick Jahnke, Columnist

For most, college is a time of growth and transitions. The average student is still on the front end of a long journey. They have a lot to figure out and more to learn. During this time, it is extremely important to build a base of knowledge about yourself. It can be more difficult to do this when living with others, whether that be with a partner or roommates.

This is not meant to be a promotion of antisocial tendencies. There are few things worse than feeling a lack of social interaction or friendship. The college years are meant to be fun and we will all be hard-pressed to find another situation where socialization comes more easily or is more accessible.  However, spending most or all of your time around another person can blur the line of where their personality ends and yours begins.

Psychologist Shilagh Mirgain said in a UW Medicine article that happiness and mood are not simply personal experiences, instead, they are also affected by those around you. 

“How an individual feels can ripple through his or her social groups and actually influence how the group feels in general,” Mirgain said in a UW Medicine article. “In some ways, our emotional states are like a virus – we can spread the positive and negative experience to those around us, even with strangers.”

Teagan Kimbro

If your mood can be so heavily affected by the moods of those around you, it shouldn’t be a huge leap to say that personal growth or personality development is affected in a similar way. 

From the experience of someone who has lived both with roommates and alone, being around others the majority of the time is a big distraction. Especially when living in a house with multiple people, a group mentality can start to form. We’ve all heard the saying, “you are who your friends are.” This may take the shape of tailoring your opinions to fit in better with the group or taking on the traits of the others.

Spending time alone has a lot of potential benefits. Without the constant outside influence of others, one has more freedom for independent thought and reflection. For some, that may be a scary thing. Without proper distraction, one may have no choice but to think about the problems or stresses in their life. Although sometimes unpleasant, it is in these moments that we begin to find out more about ourselves.

It should be said this is not suggesting you should live alone your whole life. There are benefits to independent living but also drawbacks. One of the most glaring drawbacks is the risk of loneliness. According to an NBC article, there is a need on a biological level for humans to live in close proximity to one another. The article states that being lonely is linked directly to physical and emotional health.

Beyond the mental effects of constant social interaction, there are practical and economic benefits to sharing your space. Some examples could be a cheaper living situation, shared transportation or just having someone around were you to have an accident.

All in all, there are plenty of arguments for and against living alone. The threat of becoming isolated and lonely is a very real one and this is certainly not meant to promote isolating yourself. The important idea is there is a huge benefit to giving yourself the time and the opportunity to let your mind go where it may, unadulterated by distractions. This may as well be a public service announcement for meditation. For those who feel they are struggling to organize their thoughts and keep up with our fast-paced society, this may be for you.