Recently I’ve been reading more and more about people who are turning into isolationists, is this trend good or bad? Is being an isolationist an outcome of years of disappointment, or is it just something that occurs over time as we deal with cumulative disappointment?
Is it healthy? Does it lead to bad outcomes (e.g., suicides, drug overdose deaths, violence)?
Originally the term referred to being an isolationist around foreign policy, but these days it’s more at the individual level.
Recently in an interview, Stevie Nicks speculated about Prince’s untimely death:
“You’re not married, you don’t have children… you don’t hang out with a bunch of people because you’re really an isolationist.”
These comments are extremely thought provoking. I’m still putting together this ‘isolationist puzzle.’ A few months ago, I read that Enya lives alone in some large castle, why? Surely she can find friends and be popular, but she too chooses this isolationist life like Prince, and she lives alone in this large and luxurious dwelling.
Why is this an increasing phenomenon, especially among some very successful talented people? We learn from psychology that humans are pack animals and social interactions are good for our mental health, so this increased trend toward isolationism may go against what’s ‘good for us.’ But the underlying assumption about hanging out with friends, is that our friends, at minimum, are a decent bunch. These friends may not be our soul mates, but they keep us sane. Even if we don’t feel like going out, our friends talk us into it and we come home feeling better. I’ve had some personal experiences with family members who never wanted to go out, but once they did they felt good. Of course, these family members had bouts of depression, and depression too can make you into an isolationist even if you have great family and friends, but this new phenomena is different. I’m not a psychiatrist, but this new phenomena of isolationism doesn’t feel like depression, instead it feels like a deliberate choice to be alone. Maybe not the ideal choice, but the realistic one. As someone recently told me “I choose to be alone.” At first I thought this was an insane comment, who would choose to be alone? They aren’t alone because it’s a choice; they are alone because it’s what was dealt to them by life. But now I think my first reaction is wrong.
I am not a loner (yet?), but have recently had more than my fair share (if there is such a share allocated by fate) of weird people that I’ve encountered. And recently, I’ve also chosen to spend more of my time alone too. I can do whatever I want; no demands, no compromises. In light of the recent tragedy in Las Vegas, I’ve become very skeptical about ‘what lies beneath’ a person’s exterior.
Maybe people who have turned into isolationists are right, and Prince and Enya had figured it all out. Something known as the ‘selection bias’ in statistics explains why we sometimes attract strangeness. When you are that successful and well known, you may attract the worst in society: someone after your fame and glory (and that’s relative). It reminds me of the stories I heard as a child: the prince (the royalty, not the musician) goes into town disguising himself as the pauper to really see who likes him. Someone with any level of success, accomplishments, and looks has to do the same. If you don’t, you may get people who are fascinated largely by your success or looks. I am sure Prince found himself surrounded by people who only liked him because he was Prince. And yes, it’s hard to separate a person from their success (after all it’s their essence that created their success), but a challenging, and potentially the best, solution is to become an isolationist. Maybe some humans are transitioning from being a pack animal to a lone one such as a tiger or cheetah. But this transition is not easy, even if it is the right solution.
When Prince died, I said he died of loneliness. What friend would leave someone with known issues with opiates alone, only to die alone in an elevator (with expert help coming the next day)? But it’s this exact reason that leads some to become isolationists. Certainly people like Prince can surround themselves with others all the time, but people who truly care about them (not just on social media)….not so much. So back to Stevie Nicks’ comments; after a month of thought, I think she’s right. Prince and Enya chose to be isolationists, and more and more people are doing so. I see people alone all the time and they seem fine, I think it is by choice.
I’m sure many blame social media; we can get our daily fix of social interactions on Facebook by reading comments without ever having to leave our house, or ever having to care about anyone. Are real life social encounters better? Of course, but apparently they are on the decline. What will be the outcome?