COLUMN: Isolating yourself makes reality harder to deal with

Tuesday, August 10, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

I have several acquaintances who have over the past few years isolated themselves from their communities. Two of them have lost close family members and have not recovered from that loss, which is understandable. Others seem to have just bonded with their televisions or their Internet buddies and disappeared into a shell.

I understand it's a lot easier to love some people from a distance, and I do know a few people who successfully live in the world by themselves, but the question I keep raising with the people I know who are doing this is if they are certain they really want it that way.

One of these people moved to my neighborhood a few years ago. I went out of my way to try to be neighborly because she complained about a community she formerly lived in where no one was friendly. She has had a very sad life and because of family issues she is estranged from her two sisters and all but one of her four children. Her son is the only person she is in contact with on a regular basis. I've never asked this woman if she's sure she wants to live in the world by herself because I'm convinced she does. People who have met her find her to be anti-social, and she openly admits she doesn't see any reason to change her attitude. She seems to be content with her life.

Fortunately, most of these hermits are in good health and think it's really too much trouble to interact with other people. One person in particular has given her neighbors a bad impression because the only time she seeks them out is when she wants a favor from them. She chooses not to remember that successful living is a process of give and take. I'm afraid she is going to need something, and no one will accommodate her.

I understand loners because I am one myself. When I think about this aspect of my character, I know I tend to do most things alone. That's because I make a lot of decisions on the spur of the moment, and most of my friends are the kind of people who like to make their plans in advance. Otherwise, while I may not be fond of all the members of the tribe I like enough of them to want to spend time with them on a fairly regular basis. Besides, there are times when you really do need other people. For example if one's house is on fire, it's probably not a good idea to try to put it out by yourself.

People keep telling me I need to join a social network. I can understand why those who don't know many people who share their interests should join one. After all, in a social network, there are thousands with whom one can converse. But I guess I'm fortunate to know enough people who have interests like mine that I don't need to go shopping on the Internet.

Furthermore, I prefer to look at people face to face when I'm conversing with them. Not many people socialize in person anymore. It's a lot more difficult to find foursomes for cards or badminton than it once was. Those activities cannot be duplicated on the Internet. I think you need real, live human beings for that kind of stuff. And to be absolutely honest, I haven't found real life so unbearable yet that I need to seek escape. To be sure, the two political parties and some network news programs are doing their best to see that we all get to that point, but I'm not there, yet.

Our world needs a lot of work, so it's a good idea for people to keep an eye out for ways that they can make things better. We have a lot of hurting people facing challenging situations, so those of us who have had a better way of life need to lend a helping hand every chance we get.

I understand the temptation to create one's own world, but living a fantasy life only means that waking up to reality gets harder all the time. Maybe thinking less about our own desires and more about the needs of others would make our lives more meaningful and productive.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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