People have never spent so much time alone. And alone time is rising sharply for every demographic—young and old, male and female, white and non-white, metro and rural. But is aloneness the same as loneliness? And can we really blame technology for it?
A Survey started in 2003 that studied friendships, and between 2003 and 2013, people spent basically the same amount of time with their friends.
They spend slightly less than seven hours [per week] with friends.
If you expand the definition of friends to include family and neighbours and coworkers outside of work, that whole set of people—including your friends, and companions—they spent about 15 hours.
And then in 2014, we started slowly kind of ticking down. And by 2021, we’re spending less than three hours [per week] with our friends, we’re spending less than 10 hours with our companions, and what are we doing with that time we used to spend with our friends and companions- we’re now spending it alone.
We’ve increased the amount of time we spend alone by almost 10 hours.
About every year since 2010, we spent less time with friends. Almost every year since 2013, we spent less time with companions, and so alone time ticks up and up and up.
This seems to be true for every age group, for every gender, for every income level, for people in metro and non-metro areas, for white and nonwhite, those living with a spouse or partner, not living with a spouse or partner. Everyone seems to be spending more time alone.
So what are we doing with all this alone time?
The research shows, we’re watching a lot of TV, and looking at our phones or the internet.
There are other things. We’re exercising more alone a little bit, we’re shopping more alone, so we’re not going to the mall with our friends or whatever.
But the bulk of it is, we’re taking advantage of the fact that we can stream and sit alone in a corner of our house and not have to fight with our spouses about what to watch.
It’s important to note that this aloneness didn’t start with the pandemic, it’s something that has increased over time and was accelerated by the lockdowns.