Table for One

Daphne Merkin, Stephen Marche, Gretchen Reynolds, and others on the art and science of loneliness.
5 stories

Are we better off alone?

Despite ample evidence that more Americans are choosing to go solo, Daphne Merkin never understood the appeal. "These days," she wrote in Elle earlier this year, "living alone often seems closer to a sentence of solitary confinement—an advanced course in living within the boundaries of the unaccompanied, unechoed self—than it does a racy prelude to a more domesticated future."

Jennifer Senior explored whether living by yourself in a city exacerbates a sense of loneliness. "The fact remains that a city, New York especially, might be the best place to ride out that period of lonely toil," Senior argued. "Because New York, like the Internet, also offers a rich network of acquaintances, or what sociologists like to call 'weak ties.'”

Or is the Internet making things worse? In an Atlantic cover story this year, Stephen Marche questioned whether social media was actually making us feel more alone. "Loneliness is certainly not something that Facebook or Twitter or any of the lesser forms of social media is doing to us," Marche wrote. "We are doing it to ourselves. Casting technology as some vague, impersonal spirit of history forcing our actions is a weak excuse. We make decisions about how we use our machines, not the other way around."

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