The self cannot be escaped, but it can be, with ingenuity and hard work, distracted.
Donald Barthelme

One of the interesting subjects in Newport’s (2019) «Digital Minimalism» is his take on Solitude. Going back to Kethledge & Erwin’s (2017) definition of solitude:

His message in a nutshell is that humans are not wired to be constantly wired. We need to move between state of solitude and connection. With digital/social media, we are always connected — we are online constantly (or listen to other people’s thoughts and emotions, e.g., via podcasts, music, etc.). Thus, digital/social media led to solitude deprivation, with negative consequences to our mental health. He stresses that solitude is needed to clarify hard problems, to regulate your emotions, to build moral courage, and to strengthen relationships.

He also recommends three practices (see also the previous posting):

  • Leave your Phone at Home: Smartphone usually does not matter or makes things only slightly more convenient. Can keep it reachable but not on you.
  • Take Long Walks: Can be used to simply enjoy the weather, think about issues, or emotional regulation. Walk without Music/Podcasts/using smartphone apps, otherwise it is not solitude.
  • Write Letters to Yourself: Keep a Journal or Notebook. Capture ideas, values, clarify issues (writing itself is key).

I think this is solid advice, esp. if you are creative. You need your own thoughts to come up with new ideas, and you need to feel your emotions, not the ones instigated by music. And yeah, this confrontation with yourself without the usual distractions can be aversive, but that would only point to a problem that should be solved, not avoided. And yeah, most of the early thoughts in solitude will refer to whatever happened last. But then they will develop more freely.

And looking at solitude in my life, I try to have fifteen minutes to myself in the evening — without any external stimuli. And I mean without any stimuli, which is one of the reasons why I do not use a meditation app. As nicely designed some apps are (e.g., the stoic app), they are an external input. And I don’t want to be prodded by notifications and external questions.

It also reminded me that podcasts and (occasionally) music has crowded out solitude out of my life. I usually listen to it to/from work. Perhaps it’s time to use the Ohropax-solution. Would allow me to drown out all the annoying street noises and protect the solitude.