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Research suggests some potential benefits to being a loner (bbc.com)
244 points by raphar 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 153 comments

I have the usual reasons for preferring solitude over socializing, but there's also a sort of meta-reason that causes me to want to socialize even less:

When I am asked about what I've been up to, and I'm honest in that I spend a lot of my time in a balance between intellectual pursuits and mundane chores, I am treated as if I am crazy or deficient. People who don't require my level of solitude see it as a sign that I'm broken, and they never grasp that I prefer it because it helps me stay healthy and creative.

I recently took a two week vacation from work; I had been working non-stop for over a year and needed some time to not code or work on anything. I drove out to Arches National Park, spent some time in nature, came back, and simply relaxed at home. Read some books, played video games, etc.

According to everyone, I should have gone out to see the latest movies, taken a cruise, traveled to cities, experienced night life, seen family and friends, and filled all my days with "activities". My life is supposed to be exciting, by their standard of what exciting is.

It's pretty insulting, especially because they don't even attempt to see it my way. I perfectly understand why others don't want the kind of solitude that I desire, and I don't deride them of it. To be a genuine person only to be met with implications that I'm not living my life correctly makes me think "Why am I bothering with this shit?" So I socialize even less.

To me, socializing for the sake of it is rarely worth the time. It's good practice for when you want to socialize with people who are worth your time, but the returns are pretty diminishing. I don't need to continually explain to people why I'm not filling every moment of my life with "activities" and why I care about my craft(coding). People who value socializing often talk about being a good listener, but they rarely do this themselves.

If people were more open in their attitudes, I'd be more likely to want to socialize with them.

According to everyone

tldr; try to get to know different 'everyones'

This sounds very, very familiar for me, were it 5 years ago. Then I took up some new hobbies which involved meeting new people. Which I was first reluctant to, not being the most social being out there, but then did it anyway because I really wanted to do new things. Man, did I not regret that for one moment. Turns out there are other types of people than your standard 'everyone' as well. You just need to find them (well, or you don't, up to you, but for me it was really an enrichment in life to meet similar-yet-different-minded people). Like you and me, basically. Not only won't they be quick to judge, but if I tell them 'oh I've been alone for 4 weeks' they just nod and say 'yeah, understandable, did the same last month'.

You sound like the sort of person they are describing.

They don't "need" to find anyone at all. They know who they are, and seem self aware enough to know that they enjoy their own company

Yes that's exactly what I meant with the part of my comment in brackets.

But just to clarify: I always thought 'I don't need no-one else'. And while that is still true, I could do fine without the people I know now, my main point on this is: since I know them, and meet them from time to time, my life simply got more interesting. Is that truly needed? Well, no, I wouldn't immediately die without it, but it surely did add a myriad of interesting aspects. More to think about when alone, for one. Something to look forward to which I couldn't imagine I'd ever look forward to when I was younger. Finally the realization of why others seems to crave social interactions, I just never truly understood that earlier. Realising I can go on with being myself, but still from time to time have social interactions which are actually worth it. Etc. Not sure if this is all clear, I mean, I still have a hard time expressing feelings like this :P

Congratulations! You're winning at life! I'm working on it. But I think you've got the right idea. Being an introvert, all this introverts need to be alone empowerment bullshit pisses me off, as much as any other extreme. It's not about avoiding people, it's about knowing how much interaction you can handle before needing to recharge.

Can you be more specific about which hobbies are social but welcoming to extreme introverts? I'm seriously looking for one.

Yeah didn't include that because it's purely anecdotal and I have no idea if my experience applies in general, in other countrie, etc, and I didn't want to sound like 'do this and it will work out', and it would take a while to properly explain it..

But here it goes: main one was volunteering with a local nature/environmental organization. Got into that after buying a scythe to keep the garden under control. Because I like proper tools etc. Turned out there was a local group scything in places, usually nature reserves, where that can make a difference with regards to preserving/enabling rare fauna and flora etc. And it turned out they were, almost to a scary extent, very like-minded on the bigger aspects in life while still having completely different backgrounds than me. Moreover I learned a ton of interesting things about biology, how current agriculture/inducstry/... is detrimental, etc. Which definitely creates bonds.

Second: volunteering in an organization helping the poor/disabled/... Same story as above. You don't do that stuff just for yourself, but because you want to help. Turns out I'm like that, and only really like others like that.

Third: climbing (mainly bouldering, not sure if that matters). To a lesser extent than above, but still.. Also interesting: like 1 out of 2 people I really consider worth my time there (without wanting to sound like an arrogant fck, but that's just how it is for me), happened to be connected to the same and/or similar volunteering organisations as mentioned in point 1 and 2. So the real connection is there probably.

Last: I always liked freaking out on hard, underground music (think goa, acidcore, tekno, mental, some dnb styles, some metal, ...). Even despite being older now I still do that once in a while, but instead of just doing my thing all alone I know tend to talk to people more. Ok there's the occasional uniteresting drug-heads and drunks, but also a striking amount of like-minded ones. Seemingly way more than on the more commercial styles.

Wow, thank you for such a detailed answer!

You can work at your introversion. Introversion is about energy loss, you can develop a tolerance for interaction. It's like a muscle, the more you practice the more stamina you have. Horrific and all as it might sound, look for a local toastmasters club, go a couple of times, give some speeches. After a few months you'll be amazed at what you've achieved, and how much more easy it'll be to be a more social person. It just takes practice and effort.

Edit: I made that sound very straight forward, it isn't. But toastmasters clubs exist for you to practice interaction. It's very empowering. Go a few times, listen to others, start small, give a 1 minute speech, when you're comfortable, develop some more, talk a bit more. Force yourself to make progress, build that social muscle, gain stamina.

I'll chime in as well.

+ Weightlifting at the gym. Met a lot of really nice people who I wouldn't normally talk to. Can be hard to make friends this way if you just go during the lunch rush, but try and go early on the weekends.

+ Martial arts. You tend to become good friends with people when you spar with them weekly.

+ Hiking. In the US, see if you have a local Sierra Club. The ultimate introvert activity.

Table top gaming. Board gamers are particularly keen to be around people while being totally engrossed in not talking to others. And there are some really good games that have proliferated in the last 2 decades.

You may have to find a way to work past some asocial/antisocial behavior. But they certainly won't judge you not wanting to experience 'the nightlife'.

Board games perhaps?

The more technical disciplines of climbing are usually welcoming to introverts. However, it can be a dangerous sport, and it's certainly not for everyone. Assuming, you're able to judge risk and look out for your safety, there is nothing else like soloing to a location where few have ever stepped foot, at a view that few have ever seen, and in complete isolation. At high altitudes, there aren't even other animals. It's just you, and nature.

At the same time, team endeavors allow you to achieve goals you can't achieve by yourself, and require teamwork at a level not found in any other sport I can think of. You must trust your teammates completely, or else you'll never achieve your potential. Your closest friends will always be those you can trust your life with.

When I'm out alone for long periods of time, people always ask what I do. I must bring tv shows to watch, or books to read at the very least, and sometimes I do bring a book, but often I'm just enjoying being where I am. The odd part, is that I used to get questioned about being an introvert all the time before climbing. Now, unless people know we well, they'll just assume that I'm an extreme extrovert for performing a dangerous activity.

This really made me anxious when I was younger. Someone would say to me “what do you even DO in your spare time?” and my first instinct would be to lie.

These days I try to be as honest as possible. Mostly I still get raised eyebrows and weird looks when I say that I spend a lot of my time learning new things and getting better at this or that, but every now and then I find people who don’t recoil or laugh, and they’re usually the ones I most enjoy talking to.

I think people would be more understanding if it was more widely known that a) it’s possible to teach yourself new things, and b) it’s one of the most satisfying things you can do for yourself. Or maybe most people just wouldn’t find it that satisfying, but I find that hard to believe.

What have you been learning about? Do you dabble in various things or are you continually learning more about something in particular?

I'm a dabbler by nature, and while it feels rewarding to get to that high-novice stage each time, I've got a nagging disappointment in not making it much past that in anything.

I can tell you about what I learn about. It's hard for me to pin down whether it's dabbling because it's not as if I become disinterested once a spat of study has run its course.

Here's are some examples of how I've used my spare time:

- I once was taking math lessons through Khan Academy from the ground up. Yes, this meant going all the way from arithmetic to at least college algebra. I wish I could have gone a lot further, but I had to devote my time back to programming and other topics. I did this because I have always been absolutely terrible at math, and as I got older I didn't feel good about it.

- For a while, and still off and on, I became fascinated with player pianos, music boxes, nickelodeons, and orchestrions. More specifically, I was very interested in understanding how self-playing instruments could function without electronics. I spent many nights reading through patents and Mechanical Music Digest trying to understand the basic inner workings of self-playing instruments, and even got in contact with a retired player piano repairman. What I learned was that a lot of the basic concepts in electronics existed in pneumatics before electronics took off.

- I have a casual interest in my local botany, edible plants, mushrooms, etc. I'm actually pretty good at plant identification and remember the scientific names better than the colloquial ones. It's a very interesting experience to forage for your own food in the wild.

- One of my interests of the last ~5 months is learning the mechanics of nuclear explosions, radiation, fallout, etc. Of course I have recent events involving North Korea to thank for that. Since I live in a likely target for an ICBM, I wanted to learn just what it can take to survive such an attack. I've learned that most preppers are woefully underprepared.

- There's a nearly unlimited supply of lectures on YouTube about human psychology, theoretical physics, etc. I usually pop one up on my Chromecast while I'm doing work on something else.

You and I should go bowling sometime (or actually maybe just watch a YT video about professional bowling and not go anywhere). There are some real treasure channels on Youtube. Here's a curated list of some of my favorites: 3 Brown 1 Blue and Numberphile (phenomenal math topics), EEVblog (electronics and electrical engineering), AvE ("shop" stuff and mechanical engineering), Louis Rossmann (electronics repair), SeamlessR (music/EDM production), 628DirtRooster and Jeff Horchoff (beekeeping), Gavin Webber (cheese making), Corning Museum of Glass (glassblowing), Chess Network (chess), Exploring Abandoned Mines (self-explanatory), Alpha Investments (Magic the Gathering), Cody's Lab (science experiments), Chubbyemu (interesting medical stories), Youtuber Law (internet lawyer), Isaac Arthur (futurist ideas).

Great list, saving for later!

I live for the kind of vacation you describe. Almost everyone I take, I do get my family with me (so not exactly solitude), but freedom to do what I want is the main chase there.

But do give bandwidth to the 'everyone' you talk about: In my experience, many people look at communication as a 'contributing' activity: meaning they want to add to it with their own color / knowledge rather than listen to what you are saying and go "that's awesome dude!" and move on. I would assume some like it too instead of looking at it as one-upping because this is pretty wide spread. I just look at it as chatter rather than judgment nowadays, frees me from the insulted feeling. I didn't do that for their approval, so while approval would feel nice, I am totally free to ignore their judgment :)

I would like to sit in the same general area as you, as we simultaneously read our books in complete silence.

That's quality socialization right there. After a few years, we could even work our way up to having personal spaces overlap a little.

The people who don't understand this already probably won't ever understand.

Some people having different ideas about what's exciting needn't necessarily lead to solitude. People have overlapping interests with each other and gathering around these common interests can provide a frame for socializing. Maybe that's a garage band, or a hiking group, or a hackerspace, or a board game night, or a book club, or something else.

> Some people having different ideas about what's exciting needn't necessarily lead to solitude.

You're kind of proving his point by saying this as if solitude is undesirable, when clearly it is desirable to him (which I understand completely).

> According to everyone, I should have gone out to see the latest movies, taken a cruise, traveled to cities, experienced night life...

This response makes me wonder how exactly you are answering the question. I can't image almost anybody giving guff for "honestly i've been working non-stop and just needed to unwind and clear my head".

I find such reactions very common.

Worse yet, I'm asked by friends and family why I spend my free time doing work(that I enjoy doing), and why I'm not dating anyone. "Aren't you worried you're going to get old and be all alone?" they ask. No, I'm not, because I've always had people around me. I just don't need them for every waking moment of my existence. "Don't you hang out with anyone?" they ask. I've got my neighbor, who's a good friend I see around once a week, my best friend who I see a few times a year, a female friend I see about twice a month, and regulars I'll see at meetups. The rest of the time I spend alone, and it's great. I don't need a gaggle of friends to be with on weekends. I actually don't want many friends at all. My time is valuable.

Nothing against people who live their lives differently than mine, but the least I could ask for is some basic respect when my life choices harm nobody else. I'm sure many of them are enjoying their lives. That doesn't mean that I would enjoy their lives, and it isn't my problem if some folks don't grasp that.

I ran into this just the other day. Feeling burnt out at work, I said "I need a vacation." In response I got "You are going on that trip in a few weeks." I was thinking time at home to relax and it never occurred to me that one would be thinking about activity-filled trips.

I'm reminded of a Gustave Flaubert quote (paraphrased) to the effect of: Keep your (personal) life simple, so your work may be chaotic and original.

I wonder whether there's a fixed total amount of excitement most people can tolerate, which we have a choice of distributing as we see fit between different kinds of pursuits. Most people don't have control over their work life and it's often monotonous, leading them seek excitement in personal life.

That sounds like a reasonable thought. However, although that may be true for a segment of the population, I believe that the level of social activity a person desires, and the level of excitement a person desires, are orthogonal to each other. I, for a sample size of one, need high levels of excitement. I absolutely need something to be going on at all times. What is chaotic, and stressful for most individuals is exactly the type of environment I pursue. However, I just don't derive my excitement from social activity.

I took off a week at the end of the year and didn't go anywhere. I stayed home, went sledding with the kids, worked on some projects around the house, hiked around nearby. I've never been more relaxed at the end of a week.

There are vacations to go see things and vacations to relax. For me, they aren't the same. I can see how for others going somewhere would be just as relaxing, but I'm quite happy to avoid crowds and popular places.

We have a toddler and long for the simple joy of some quiet time in nature, so totally with you

Seems like a perfectly reasonable holiday to me. I'd be more concerned that you worked for over a year without any time off.

The best part about being comfortable as a "loner" is that your daily state of existence moves from one of need to one of curation and choice. Being alone is where I thrive, so any break from that requires a better return. My social moments have meaning to them now, because I choose to allow them to happen. It's very difficult for toxic people to get in my space because I don't live with the need for company, regardless of whether that company provides actual value to my day.

This. What you're describing is freedom from needing to have people around.

I've found that as I spend far less time with people, I am much more attentive, patient and kind when I do spend time with them, especially when it's with people I choose to be around.

I get time to reflect on things too, because there's enough space in-between to go 'oh, I was starting to get agitated when this happened, that's interesting'.

With strangers, it's a different vibe too, because it's fun to see what they'll do. I don't have a perpetual self-defense shield up, because I'm not emotionally destabilized from over-stimulation - from interactions I'm forced to be in.

So yeah, it's great to be able to choose :)

Serious question, how do you deal with being invited to parties when you don't have the mental stamina and emotional resources for it at the time?

I'm a bit of an edge case, I'd presume, because I'm very very social when I want to be. Maybe that's not weird, after all. But at the end of the day, I either a) don't go because I don't want to (adult choices!!!) or b) just try to reframe my mental state. Check out a podcast called Good Fortune, episode 1, A Festival. It very briefly addresses this challenge from a stoic's point of view. Worth a listen.

I wanted to add to this because I feel that I'm a beginner at being a stoic and putting value on being alone:

- I make choices and I learn from mistakes. I'm trying to be better about not having regrets as in repeatedly reflecting emotionally to mistakes and misfortune in my past.

- I try to do things that are important to me when I have the time for them. I'm choosier with what movies I watch, games I play, and the things I do. This beats going to parties sometimes.

- I'm honest about why I can't go to a party. I take my feelings out of it - if I am genuinely tired and need rest, then I say that. If I'm sick or have a headache, then that's what I say. If on the other hand I have nothing better to do, and I'm being lazy - I go to the damn party. 9 times out of 10 I end up having more fun than had I not gone.


>If on the other hand I have nothing better to do

Ah ha! This requires having something planned or desiring to do something at that time. For me rather than phrasing it as "nothing better to do" it comes down to "I don't have any current plans and while I may feel lazy and unmotivated, there's value in socializing with others". And yes, 9 out of 10 times I'm glad I did!

I like it! :)

>I'm very very social when I want to be.

I'm the same. If I want and choose to be social I can be. I can easily be the center attention and a goof ball having silly fun or just a social participant in a social gathering.

As I have gotten older I tend to pass more on being center of attention goof ball (it is fun and it is fun laughing with others) and spending more of my time doing things I currently value as being more important.

It's easy for me, because for the most part, I don't really care what people think or if we are friends after I say no, so I just say, 'No, I'm not really up for that today'

All you have to do let them know that you still want them to invite you next time, even if you say no now (or regularly).

“Guys I feel like sh!t, maybe next time.”

I just say I'm not in the mood. Friends never give me any grief for that.

Your ideas are intriguing to me and I need someone/something to reinforce the feeling I got from reading them.

Being a loner and socializing seem to occur in proportion to your personality, which let's say has an inherent value across the spectrum. That value can shift depending upon your emotional, psychological, and physiological state. There are times when shifting along the spectrum either by conscious choice or social coercion (benevolent I hope) is very useful. I think your personality is constructed through the interaction of waves of perception and understanding of oneself generated by you and others who know you: this seems to make your personality whole because others can help you understand yourself either directly or indirectly through shared experiences. In addition to the usual self-analysis/introspection, others can act as a mirror or microscope to examine oneself.

Here is the conclusion of the article:

"Thus, if your personality tends toward unsociability, you shouldn’t feel the need to change. Of course, that comes with caveats. But as long as you have regular social contact, you are choosing solitude rather than being forced into it, you have at least a few good friends and your solitude is good for your well-being or productivity, there’s no point agonising over how to fit a square personality into a round hole."

There were articles and discussion yesterday and in the past about the dangers of loneliness which may be salient as social networking creates a paradox of socialization: I'm with all my friends (maybe even humanity), but physically I am alone.

> https://hn.algolia.com/?query=loneliness&sort=byPopularity&p...

This has not been new knowledge for several thousand years, at least. Marcus Aurelius, from the Meditations:

"Men seek retreats for themselves, houses in the country, sea-shores, and mountains; and thou too art wont to desire such things very much. But this is altogether a mark of the most common sort of men, for it is in thy power whenever thou shalt choose to retire into thyself. For nowhere either with more quiet or more freedom from trouble does a man retire than into his own soul, particularly when he has within him such thoughts that by looking into them he is immediately in perfect tranquility; and I affirm that tranquility is nothing else than the good ordering of the mind. Constantly then give to thyself this retreat, and renew thyself; and let thy principles be brief and fundamental, which, as soon as thou shalt recur to them, will be sufficient to cleanse the soul completely, and to send thee back free from all discontent with the things to which thou returnest."

But Marcus was no loner, and neither are the people who are able to use isolation healthily, for the most part. We should neither over- nor under-emphasize "the things to which thou returnest."

I have been collecting mystic quotes in the same vein.[1] This one, from Bernadette Roberts, is my favorite:

> There is a silence within, a silence that descends from without; a silence that stills existence and a silence that engulfs the entire universe. There is a silence of the self and its faculties of will, thought, memory, and emotions. There is a silence in which there is nothing, a silence in which there is something; and finally, there is the silence of no-self and the silence of God. If there was any path on which I could chart my contemplative experiences, it would be this ever-expanding and deepening path of silence.

[1] http://99theses.com/articles/on-awakening-no-thought

In my experience, society pressures many bad decisions on people out of social conformity or expectations. For instance, it’s pretty hard to live a genuinely healthy lifestyle in the US. Most jobs are sedentary. Diet options tend to be heavily animal based and fatty or otherwise nutrient poor and calorie rich. Everybody loves tailgating the car going the speed limit, etc. simply opting out of those things will probably result in better health outcomes.

It's funny. I see heavily animal based and fatty as healthy.

I'd write this as: "diet options tend to be sugar based and nutrient poor, filled with soy and corn syrup."

It depends on the animals and fats. eg red meats correlate with heart disease and some cancers.

On mobile, sorry for my lack of sources. If I recall, the animal meats/fat's linked to cancer studies claim themselves that it could be the way factory farms work or the meats being processed that caused the correlation, and they did not reproduce results with organic meats. As for the heart disease, there is a well known heart sergeon who seems to have studies supporting that it is excess carbs that lead to inflammation in the arteries that leads to plaque build up that leads to heart disease. Food for thought.

And there are other well known surgeons that have articles indicating animal based diets lead to inflammation and etc. I’m not trying to argue vegan vs Keto or whatever here. If you choose either of those options you’re almost immediately looking to cook more for yourself -the diet equivalent of being a loner (sorta). (Side note, though, the animal based options are much more prevalent than the vegan options.)

This may seem a small thing, but people really do socialize around food to a large extent.

This is contested now--in part due to the sugar industries tactics of trying to make saturated fat the evil.

They didn't control for nitrates/processed meats either in some of the studies.


As well, the fact that starch and sugar are essentially identical metabolically is a key point that people don't believe, mostly because they don't want to at a deep emotional level. Replacing doughnuts and chips with bagels and pasta can make no difference, except other people's perception.

Don't let perfect be the enemy of good here, replacing doughnuts , chips, bagels and pasta with say black rice or boiled potatoes still has nutrients benefits. Just choose something with an incrementally better nutrients profile.

Totally. I deliberately chose bagels and pasta as being foods as calorie rich and nutritionally empty as a can of coke. Yet people think their pasta salad is healthy.

And I completely misread what you wrote at first, we're in perfect agreement :)

Oh absolutely. Trying to diet in a major city without spending a lot of time cooking is impossible. And it feels like most cuisines are vegetable-phobic which I cannot for the life of me understand.

Lots of healthy stuff that doesn't take long to cook!

Sprouts or similar type stores have pre-prepped ready-to-cook (sometimes even just microwave!) fresh veggies and the like. Lentils will get you a bunch of protein and fiber and cook in ~30min, without a bunch of excess carbs or sugars. Legumes in general are going to be your friend. If you want meat, do something like get a bunch of frozen tuna steaks or chicken breasts and then toss one in the oven - under an hour total, most of which is just oven pre-heating. Beans take longer to cook, but it's mostly just occasional stirring, so not that big a deal.

The secret to keeping cook time down is to minimize prep and ingredient count but experiment a bit to find good combinations of minimal seasonings and such. Or just accept a blander main course as a trade for not spending hours prepping and all.

One of my tricks is to invest time on the weekend to making something very spicy and flexible. I can stir my vegan “carne adovada“ into a can of cooked vegetables and have a decent spicy soup in microwave time.

Yes, and as I have been trying to go vegan I’ve noticed how many animal products are put into food needlessly. I shouldn’t have to eat egg or milk in a tortilla, salsa (animal stock), bread, burrito, McDonald’s French fries (!), cupcake, etc.

It's not needless, the reason for all of this is flavor. Meat fats/proteins have a very appealing flavor for most people. So when companies perform taste tests, the richer, meatier flavors have more broad appeal.

I absolutely understand your frustration with this. Especially because it's certainly not obvious that many of these items contain animal products. I hope that one day the US adopts the green/red mark system for distinguishing between vegetarian foods, but for now, it's probably best to assume that all ready-made food in the US contains meat products, unless it's explicitly labeled otherwise.

I doubt anyone can taste the difference in a tortilla. You probably can in French fries, but that’s hardly a common practice outside of McD. Umami definitely wins approval, but I doubt meat would provide umami in so many foods without the subsidies in place.

> I shouldn’t have to eat egg or milk in a tortilla


Lard, OTOH...

Used to feel that way until I got a high-power blender (Vitamix, Blendtec, Ninja, etc) and a juicer. It's very easy to make vegetable soups with a blender. I still eat meat though.

So interestingly I found a way. I am not in a major city though. Whole Foods! They have cooked food inside this magical place. I eat there every single day.

> Trying to diet in a major city without spending a lot of time cooking is impossible

What? Are you expecting to be able to eat high quality, nutritious, and tasty food without investing either more time or money? I live in NYC and you can absolutely eat healthy food without cooking, it just costs a bit more.

From what I can see, an issue here is the default experience of going out for a meal in the US. Food is very associated with social activities pretty much everywhere, but the United States restaurant experience too often involves way too huge portions. This portion size ballooning certainly has contributed to the United States' obesity (https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/news-even...).

From what I see, in New York City and other major cities, it's a lot easier to find restaurants that are more balanced in portions and/or promote healthier fare. This is not necessarily true everywhere in the United States... and even in NYC, I'm sure there are quite a number of restaurants that fall into that ballooned portion size category. If a group of folks decides that this type of restaurant is what they want, if you are on a diet, what do you do?

In this sense, I actually think the introvert has an advantage here. Heck, so many of the US social activities revolve around often junk-y food and/or alcohol... whether it be a celebratory party, a pancake breakfast, a picnic lunch, a potluck social, gathering to watch a game, etc...

Beans, gluten, rice, potatoes, etc are all commodity goods and very cheap. Nuts can get pricy but they’re so calorically dense that you don’t need many of them either. You’re not going to convince me that cooking a baked good with a chia substitute for egg is more resource intensive.

Where this argument fails is probably due to lack of economies of scale. Ie if those substitutions were made with the subsidies and scale of their animal based contemporaries they would be dramatically cheaper.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but why do you associate chia substitute for egg with health?

If for nothing else, it’s a choice society makes for me and does not offer the later substitute. This reinforces the original post. Much of modern food have ingredients with sizable populations of people with allergies to those ingredients - gluten, peanut, etc. There may be more options now, but those allergies still force people out of the usual options most of the time. “Being alone” in this context would mean cooking those things at home - and generally be healthier as a result, for whatever that person deems healthy.

“Those who really want to be Yogis must give up, once for all, this nibbling at things. Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life — think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success, and this is the way great spiritual giants are produced. Others are mere talking machines. If we really want to be blessed, and make others blessed, we must go deeper. The first step is not to disturb the mind, not to associate with persons whose ideas are disturbing. All of you know that certain persons, certain places, certain foods, repel you. Avoid them; and those who want to go to the highest, must avoid all company, good or bad. Practise hard; whether you live or die does not matter. You have to plunge in and work, without thinking of the result. If you are brave enough, in six months you will be a perfect Yogi. But those who take up just a bit of it and a little of everything else make no progress[…]”

Excerpt From Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda Swami Vivekananda https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/complete-works-of-swami-viv... This material may be protected by copyright.

This resonates with me, being a bit of an introvert. There is something rather lovely about encasing yourself in your own thoughts without the pressure or prejudice of other opinions. I do enjoy company as well, but I really feel alive and free when I can think clearly, which happens most often when I'm alone - it actually gives me a profound sense wellbeing.

There's an entire genre of science clickbait where the title is extremely noncommittal, and it gets upvoted because it jives with users worldview and self-rationalization.

"See, it's ok to be alone. That one study from 2011 of pizza chain efficiency suggests there could be potential benefits to being alone."

"See, it's actually a good thing to drink alcohol everyday as long as I do it 'in moderation'."

Not only that, this is based on self-reporting and then coming up with some model that fits their own beliefs. Wasn't there recently an article that said how people don't really know themselves that well? How ironic. I have seen a lot of nerds falling for this kind of fake-science. IME the people who claim to be logical are most likely to believe this kind of BS.

Historically, the ability to spend time alone with one's thoughts has always been a luxury, available only to those with the means to own or rent their own living space. Everyone else in the world dealt with highly-communal living spaces where you didn't have any choice but to socialize with virtually 100% of your non-sleeping time.

You simply didn't have an option to develop introversion unless you were extremely lucky.

Maybe in cities, in rural areas it's pretty fucking easy to end up alone for a while, even in the middle ages or antiquity.

Actually, it's probably easier to be alone in a city, depending on your definition of what being alone means. It's in the small towns where you can't take a walk without being harassed by one of your obnoxious neighbors because everyone knows everybody else. In a large city, you do not know most of its inhabitants and most inhabitants don't know you, and everyone minds their own business. And unlike rural areas, you've still got the social presence without the unwanted social engagement.

It depends on what your preferential definition of "alone" is. For some it's environmental quiet, for some it's freedom from personal attention as you mention. But still, in a denser place there's a ton more non-human factors (like advertising) battling to inject themselves into your attention.

See Henry David Thoraeu for ref.

Not really. He was rather active in his community.

> The premise of Walden—a man adventuring in a hut he builds for himself near a lake—seems like the ultimate boy ’s fantasy, and the convenient proximity of Thoreau’s cabin to friends and neighbors can remind one, a bit wryly, of a child pitching a tent in his parents’ backyard.


Yeah Ed Abbeys probably a better example.

not to mention he had his mom who lived nearby do his laundry

You've made a great point easily dismissible with the word "fucking". (Sorry for being annoying but it's a key point I wished I learned when younger.)

Profane words cannot possibly invalidate a point by themselves. I personally don't mind swearing, unless it is used in a context to offend someone/something (which can always still be done with an alternative, "safer" selection of words).

While that is true, it was the most efficient way to state that while putting emphasis on how easy it was. "Freaking" or some other substitute for the word "fucking" is the next easiest. Simply leaving out the word completely changes the meaning a little.

I'll eat the downvotes without caring, in case it makes one person think, because it's the advice I needed 10 years ago to be a more effective communicator, which I didn't take.

Consider "In rural areas, which reflect the dominant lifestyle of human beings for 10,000 years, it was common to have many hours alone to think while performing labour. Hence it's obviously not a privileged mode of thought."

While you've made a cogent point, brevity is often your friend when it comes to communication. Becoming a more effective communicator is the ability to say more with less. Not say the same amount with more.

That's a fine wording if the setting calls for such a tone, but is it not the same tone as the original. Your sentence is too formal for many settings. Occasionally, it would be correct for HN, but HN trends towards a more informal yet educated tone. Used in the wrong setting, it just seems at best wordy or at worst like you are trying to prove you are smarter than the other.

It is difficult to replace such an intensifier as "fucking" without simply using a common replacement (bloody, for example). The most neutral I could come up with is something akin to "counfoudedly", and naturally one would do away with the word "very". Another simply worded option would be to repeat the word "very" once or twice more. I'm more likely to use the latter in some spheres online or with my mother or in an English speaking workplace, especially in the US. (Norwegians seem a bit freer with expletives, especially the English word "fuck").

Just my opinion, but the original sentence containing the vulgarity is more clear and concise. It feels more human because that's how lots of people talk when they are in an informal setting (which an internet message board certainly is).

Well, you could just replace "pretty fucking easy" with "very easy", and then you'd have even more brevity and the same clarity, but without the extra distraction.

If you use expletives all the time, they lose their value, which is the ability to make a very strong point, such as expressing utter disgust.

Also, HN tries to be more than just your average internet message board, and making it just a little less informal may be what helps keep it a generally civil place. Our comments are going out to the whole world here, not just to a small group of our friends who have similar backgrounds and preferences.

It's much more concise, and much less persuasive to someone entering the discussion with preconceptions.

I try to not judge an argument by it's language. It feels close to ad hominem reasoning to me.

That was my argument ten years ago. I'm just challenging people to think of communication primarily in terms of how an aggregate of how hundreds or thousands of people will perceive it, because this was a key that led to me being much better at making my points and getting what I want. Letting go my ego that it violates a core value of being true to myself.

In other contexts I just want to fucking vent about some stupid shit that dumb people say. But I'd suggest this site isn't the best place for that, and I wouldn't expect such a tone to help people consider my point of view more carefully.

Huh? There are still plenty of hunter gatherers around that don't hunt or gather shoulder to shoulder and neither do farmers or shepherds. Communal living did not mean spending all your time in company of others.

If you weren't, you generally were working. A lot of that was accomplished with others too.

All I'm saying is, that the things introverts take for granted today, like the ability to opt out of social hierarchy, was not available to most people throughout history.

I don't really see why you couldn't walk away for some period of time, and something tells me plenty of people did. Not to mention, we don't know that much about those time periods in general, so this seems like an odd statement to make.

"Well, it was a lot worse before, so you should be happy!" is a terrible message on multiple levels.

Last week a documentary aired about our (Belgian) National Rail Service. They interviewed the "punctuality manager" and he was kind of angry about how all personnel wants fancy IT infrastructure and better tablets and integrated systems that communicate quickly and smart. He was angry because when he started working carbon paper had just been invented and how much harder his job was back then.

I thought dinosaurs were extinct but that guy proved me wrong.

> "Well, it was a lot worse before, so you should be happy!" is a terrible message on multiple levels.

That wasn't my intent at all, rather to add weight to the thesis of the article. Aloneness is something humans naturally seek out, not something to fear.

I am guessing you are not an introvert yourself.

We certainly cannot opt out of social hierarchy and being one does not mean I want to be alone every waking moment. It does mean however that I like and need to be alone some of the time (alone, not idle).

I happen to like being idle some of the time too, because I think it makes me more creative in the long run, but I don't actually need it otherwise.

For the past 2k to 4k years maybe. Before, it was very easy to spend time alone. Walk 10 minutes away from your tribe and bam - you're all alone.

Make a habit of doing it for very long periods of time and it affects your social situation.

Think back to high school. Sure, you could go off and study by yourself if you want. But the ambient social situations around you can't be banished for long.

That reminds me of my experience, haha—

I spent a lot of spare periods buried in mid-20th century Canadian and American literature and would often isolate myself in the cafeteria to read since a lot of classes would occupy the library during regular periods.

The school's resident radio DJ-hopeful (and a swell guy) would hop up on the table in a reclined pose, head-on-hand, and ask me why I was sad.

Not sad, just reading. It was surprisingly hard to communicate that to some people. And I was one of the AV/creative guys producing the in-school TV show!

Yeah, the "you're being quiet, you must be sad!" thing is awful. No, I'm really just enjoying myself, alone.

Ahhh.... stop bringing relevant context to everything.

I wanted to just use this article (without reading it) to explain to my wife and kids why I need a few hours of alone time on Saturday.

My desire of being alone most of the time is what has made me avoid marriage. But if I continue down this path, I'm sure that in my old age I'll regret it and long for company. I don't know whether to favor the present or the future.

i'm sure you have at least a few counterparts among whatever gender you find attractive. no need to rule it out altogether.

Unless, of course, one were to go for a walk, or go outside.

I don't think this is a true statement. Children can be pretty vocal about their needs. I grew up as an introverted child and refused to go to relatives/gatherings etc. whenever I didn't want to. My parents understood early on and gave me space.

I am pretty sure other kids have done this as well in at least the recent human history.

You dont develop introversion, you have it or you dont.

There is a high correlation between high IQ and introversion. I don't actually believe most high IQ people are innately introverted. I think many of them become introverted due to being treated poorly by most social groups they encounter.

On one gifted list years ago, someone anecdotally reported being very extroverted and becoming introverted over the course of a year of severe bullying during middle school.

One of my sons is borderline between introversion and extroversion. He was an attention monger as a toddler, but became more introverted after starting school. He didn't like the weird, problematic attention he was getting at school for being more sociable and intentionally chose to disengage.

I'm highly social in nature, but my values are the opposite of what people think that means. So I never taught my kids they were required to be crowd pleasers. So he felt quite free to choose.

He is very talkative with me and his brother in private and I get reports that he is pretty popular in forums where he participates, which I have seen firsthand in the past. But most mere acquaintances describe him as quiet and shy and are quick to conclude he is ASD, which is probably true, though he has no formal diagnosis. But he turns it on and off at will according to what makes sense to him.

I am quite skeptical that introversion and extroversion are something you are simply born with.

I wouldn't be surprised if this is the case. My experiences with the subject are very mixed and weird. I generally call myself an introvert because I can be by myself for weeks without being too bothered by it. But I also really enjoy spending time with people, as long as they're the right kind of people. But those people are hard to find, and mentioning this on its own tends to bring ire...

If I don't want to meet with someone, there's often a very distinct draggy feeling as if meeting them is associated with something unpleasant.

Yes. I was there for the founding of a list for the "extra" gifted and trying to get people to talk was quite the challenge. Everyone was apologetic, embarrassed, uncomfortably aware that just joining the list was a form of bragging, etc.

I was the lead moderator and I think I ultimately led by example because this was a support group. So I just leaned heavily on "We all have terrible baggage over this and we all have our war stories." and I think I got people talking about that stuff and people eventually opened up.

But I never had to work so very hard at getting people to talk. I am just a magnet for total strangers wanting to overshare like I am their new BFF and I actually have worked at trying to tone it down and discourage such. So it really stood out to me as a stark contrast to my usual experiences. I have moderated lists where people became so chatty that people complained of the excess chatter because just getting people to spill the beans by existing seems to be my peculiarity.*

* https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miss_Peregrine's_Home_for_Pe...

I think that question is far from settled.

Also, it is a characteristic of your personality you can take action to change, if you desire to.


I think the term "loner" sends mixed signals. It has a negative connotation and to me at least, it means that you want to socialise but find it difficult or awkward.

Instead, I think what this article is getting at is simply setting time aside in your agenda for yourself. That's it. Whether it be to hone some skills, relax, meditate, plan your future, whatever. It's super helpful. I live in a small village and commute every day by train or car. Sometimes I take one hour walks with my dog and talk with myself. I look forward to it sometimes. It's like catching up with a friend after a busy week.

Tiny definitions like these can really make a difference. I wish we were more careful, specially in an era where people only read headlines and feel they gained knowledge.

In either Age of empires, or Rise of Nations, soldiers take steady attrition damage operating on enemy grounds. And, gain health just by being on home or ally territory.

I think this analogy works for introverts vs extroverts.

Introverts take attrition damage dealing with others - especially extroverts.

Extroverts take attrition damage when alone or on slow paced periods.

What I like about being a loner, is that no one can influence me.

My decisions are all my own.

I used to live with roommates, and it was too mentally exhausting. Once I was able to afford my own 1-bedroom apartment, I moved out. And I found serenity.

No more mess to deal with that wasn't my own. No more roommates bailing on me, causing unnecessary drama. You now have better control of your life and destiny.

When I traveled for work, I had to travel alone. I found the best place to sit was at the bar. The sports game on TV provides distraction. And sometimes, you get to strike a conversation with another fellow traveler.

unnecessary drama

That's the thing I dislike, along with needy people.

Reminds me of Crocodile Dundee having come to the city from long walkabouts alone in the outback - "Must be real friendly people to all want to live together like this!"

I'm curious if there is any research in Computer Science Education / Software Engineering that looks at some of the more holistic aspects of group work. One of the supporting arguments for things like paired programming is the idea that software developers, previously stereotyped as being isolated basement dwellers, need to be able to socialize in the business world. It seems then counter-intuitive to do these types of activities if they work stump creativity in problem-solving.

Furthermore, what about isolation while learning/homework? NCSU requires introductory CS students to work in groups for lab assignments. Research my lab currently is doing shows collaborative students can have good learning gains, as well as a person who "does all the work". How does this article's points align with these types of findings?

I'm not sure I'd classify myself as a loner(married, fairly large social circle) but I definitely value my self reflection time. I do think I tend to be more 'dense' in my social interactions as the article suggests. Ie if I"m gonna spend a lot of hours doing something social(parties, meet-ups etc), I'd prefer there to be some observable benefit. There are plenty of ways to I know of it improve/expand my knowledge on my own: skunkworks projects, reading etc. Think it's pretty much like anything else in life: find the balance of alone time and socialization that works for you and you'll be healthier and happier for it.

My category of clickbait includes almost every single "Why X may be Y" headline

That's great. It doesn't even apply to this title, however. Furthermore, I'm not sure how you can convince yourself to read studies in psychology (among other fields) if you hope for certainty and absoluteness in every implication.

article title is "Why being a loner may be good for your health"

I don't avoid lack of certainty... I've just found that article titles that conform to "Why X may be Y" are what I consider clickbait enough of the time that I only read them occasionally.

My apologies about the title. I saw the HN title ("Research suggests...") and ignored the BBC title when I went to read the article.

Yeah, the BBC probably has like 3 other titles too.

The original BBC title is in the URL:

> there-are-benefits-to-being-antisocial-or-a-loner

Yes, Psychology is not really a science. I suppose certain topics appeal to the HN audience..

Click-baity or not, the article is actually a well written literature review on loneliness; I could see this being background section of a academic paper

I am fine with choosing a 'loner' path, but the hitch comes when they want civilization / society to come to rescue whenever they feel like it or are in danger or stuck etc.

I did and do pride myself for being able to be on my own but over time, I have come to see what my family adds to my existence. What I don't realize and appreciate when they are around, I completely feel it when they aren't. The social part of me is like a cat I guess: when others are watching, it just wants to hide under a counter, goes for snuggles once in a while.

As in all things, it is good to keep a moderate involvement. You can't expect them snuggles without giving something in return to family/society/country/whatever.

Time for another one of my dumb theories: The system has enabled us to be alone more and more without actually putting ourselves in the path of physical labor/danger - but I believe it is also fraying at the seams exactly because of the same. It is hard to care for your fellow man / schools / community etc. when you hardly participate and if you only react when personally impacted. Social contracts need social involvement.

I replaced going out with staying in after realizing that much of the activities weren't all that great. 'Hanging out', drinks, chasing girls, spending cash, and then back on the treadmill making cash in order to rinse and repeat.

To be fair, these things are fun but as you get older the opportunity cost is way too high for them to be worthwhile at the expense of self improvement.

Instead I work for 3 months at a time everyday in almost total solitude on an online business then spend two weeks travelling Asia or on a roadtrip. Those two weeks make up for whatever mediocre activities I missed the last 12 weekends. (The goal is not solitude, it's freedom. Solitude is simply what's required to get there).

In today's always connected world, being alone is a gift. Your time is your most valuable asset and most commitments are not value-adding so filter accordingly.

One important point: Don't use solitude as an excuse to neglect oneself. Time spent alone should be a space to grow not atrophy.

You know, the only time that I almost regretted not making a lot of friends was when my wife and I got married recently. She had a few friends there and a ton of family. I only had family. While I'm cool with all of her friends and family, it would have been nice to have had people on my side to talk to, too.

It isn't a thorn in my side; it just would've been nice.

The only way to solve a problem is to first create a problem.

1. How do do social skills influence happiness?

Answer: The potential to influence could be mathematically described as 1 + 1 = 2. Happiness, on the other hand, adds up to a single solitary state of mind: 1 + 0 = 1. Potential relies on variables.

I think many people revel in their ability to be alone, almost as if it is some special ability they have. For me, truly being alone means: no television, no video games, no internet. It is not really some special ability to watch 4 hours of Netflix while browsing the internet on your phone occasionally.

Sometimes I get the feeling that there's too much over analysis of things and too often they lead to bad unintended consequences.

Not everything needs to be "researched". Can we redirect some "research" money of this nature to things like cold fusion and curing cancer?

Do you think there isn't already ongoing research on cold fusion? on curing cancer?

Do you think money just gets allocated to these projects by some black box of a process?

Do you think there are things that humanity should just flat-out not know?

At some level I agree, but if we focused on too few things at once, we become deficient in other areas and that has consequences. Also, not all people have the passion and the talent to work do cancer research.

I bet if I google I can find the BBC refuting this statement in the past.

Everything in moderation. When I worked from home for 5 years (in a company with the same distributed ethos as Basecamp 10 years back) it was easy to become extremely socially isolated if I wanted to. And it happened a couple of times over that span, but recognizing the balance of good mental health spun that back into a balanced state. (To be sure, my wife was immensely helpful about recognizing it and forcing me out the door more.)

I've been working in offices again for the past, I don't know, 7-8 years now which initially gave me some whiplash as an introvert finding himself working in a position where extroversion tends to rule the day. Nowadays, however, I have a little electronics workshop in my basement where I can scurry off to and think with clarity all to myself after the day is done. It's rejuvenating and gives me a stronger sense of worth and balance in my overall mental health.

>Everything in moderation.

I was thinking exactly this when I saw parent's comment. Has anyone attempted to describe this theory scientifically? Is it equivalent to the "bell curve"?

It follows from the law of marginal utility.

I’m not disputing your anecdotal evidence. I’m disputing the legitimacy of the study due to bad scientific reporting. Sorry I didn’t explain that in my comment .

The article starts off talking about the loneliness epidemic & extreme social isolation, so they're well aware of the negative impacts it may have as well.

Classic media-driven science reporting:

Headline today: "Study shows X causes cancer!" Headline tomorrow: "Study shows X can prevent cancer!"

There's an important distinction between being lonely and being a loner.

Key point: A loner wouldn't get lonely, they'd be perfectly content to be alone.

The difference can be hard to tell, though - the loner might have internalized the message that they should feel lonely.

It's more about one's natural base or comfort level.

Person A, for whatever reason can't sit still and won't feel right unless they spend most of their time with other people.

Person Z, for whatever reason is drained through interacting with others.

Example: I can't read unless it's quiet or a familiar music is playing. People moving about also distracts me.

On the other hand, I know a few people who'll fall asleep reading in a library but not in a noisy area. Jazz, classical and soul music causes itching sensations in these persons.

Heck, the article could talk about Jazz lovers and pass the same message.

I can't really make sense of your post, to be quite honest.

> It's more about one's natural base or comfort level.

I mean, no, I don't really agree. Negative feelings about oneself are extremely dependent on your society, I would say more so than your personal preferences (i.e., behaving per your personal preferences when it generates negative social attention is MORE damaging than behaving per social preferences when it generates negative effects due to ignoring personal preferences). Most people can adapt. Personal baselines basically only kick in at far extremes and most people are neither.

What introverts generally hit isn't that, it's that introverts may be very different from the rest of the folk (since they're the non-default) and stand out as a sore thumb, anyway.

> Heck, the article could talk about Jazz lovers and pass the same message.

Again, what? Jazz is not a universal trait (introversion/extroversion affects everyone). Being super into Jazz or super not into Jazz is not really going to modify your life much. How is this similar at all?

>"Research suggests some potential benefits to being a loner"

... says loner.

It was a joke! (facepalm)

A better lawn ;-)

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