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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

How to find more solitude in a noisy world

Elizabeth Larson

Owning a smartphone is one of my least favorite things about the modern world. Whenever I can, I try to stay off of it.

The constant buzz of noise from X (formerly Twitter), YouTube videos pulling at my attention or even listening to music in excess makes me feel like a robot designed for consumption rather than a human being.

My dependence on social media doesn’t end with leisure –– it’s essential for professional reasons too. I have to uphold my social media presence as a journalist with live coverage of sporting events, posting my articles and looking for breaking news — something I’m admittedly not good at — but it’s also something I dislike doing.

Mr. Rogers put it well in an interview with Charlie Rose when he said, “Oh my, this is a noisy world.” And he said that in 1994 — nearly 30 years ago. If Rogers were alive today, he would go deaf.

All of this technology strips away some of the most important qualities that can improve your life, work and relationships: solitude, thinking and focus.

Solitude and Thinking

Solitude is “the situation of being alone, often by choice,” according to the Cambridge Dictionary. But solitude isn’t lying in bed watching Netflix or scrolling on TikTok.

The most important part of it is not being exposed to outside media and/or other minds, whether that’s in person, on a TV show or on social media.

Before I dive deeper into solitude and thinking, I want to say that being with your own thoughts is 100% a challenge. A 2014 study from the University of Virginia found that people would rather electrocute themselves than be alone with their own thoughts.

And your mind can be a scary, scary place. As someone who can be incredibly anxious, I know how your thoughts can be absolutely terrifying and draining to deal with. Frankly, they can suck.

But your mind is also one of the only things that goes with you everywhere you go.

Learning how to manage your thoughts and thought patterns when you’re stressed out or anxious is an extremely important tool. I promise you, it will improve the quality of your life.

Hidden feelings, thoughts or ideas will come to the surface when you spend time in solitude which can increase your self-awareness — something that’s a universal positive.

I challenge you to spend at least five minutes a day just thinking. It could be on the Quinnipiac shuttle, or in your car traveling from the York Hill Campus to the Mount Carmel Campus or it could be just letting your mind wander before you go to sleep.

Two of my favorite ways to be in solitude are going for walks and meditation, which I try to budget into my days.

However, I think it’s important to differentiate thinking and rumination.

The American Psychiatric Association defines rumination as “repetitive thinking or dwelling on negative feelings and distress and their causes and consequences.” Rumination can lead to depression and anxiety.

When you think, try to follow a logical thought pattern and not get too caught up in one idea, unless you are expanding on it or trying to solve a problem with it.

Deep breathing, being aware of your thoughts and taking care of your sleep, diet and exercise are some things that help me combat rumination and anxiety.

Focus and “Content”

I won’t harp on focus too much, because Opinion Editor A.J. Newth touched on a lot of it in her opinion about the importance of reading.

But, it’s no secret that Generation Z has little to no ability to focus, and the plethora of notifications most Gen Z members receive each day does not help.

A report by the Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan found that teenagers receive “a median of 237 notifications” per day. Couple that with the negative side effects of splitting your attention among multiple things, and you have an obvious recipe for a lack of focus.

The abundance of notifications from our phones makes it nearly impossible to focus if you’re attempting to work while your phone is in the room.

The best way to engage more in solitude and focused work is an overhaul of your digital life — realizing what works well and is worth your time and attention online and getting rid of everything else.

Some more practical tips are to keep your phone out of your workspace and to turn off some notifications, but these are merely short-term solutions to a long-term problem.

The long-term problem is that as a collective, people care much more about “content” and short-term bursts of information than silence and deep thought.

I’m tired of having my work that I spend hours putting together fall under the umbrella term that is “content.” Technically, someone’s post about an NFL score and a Pulitzer Prize-winning article are both “content.”

There’s value to be had in deep thought, solitude and focus, and we as a society miss out on great work and better relationships when we don’t prioritize it. 

“I’m very concerned that our society is much more interested in information than wonder, in noise rather than silence,” Rogers said in the same interview with Rose.

Me too, Mr. Rogers, me too.

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