I love it when the glow of my laptop is the only light in my room. I love sitting under a pile of blankets with nothing to do other than independently exploring the world of information before me. Being cozy and enjoying free time by yourself can feel like a form of rebellion in a culture that demands constant productivity and glorifies extroverted behavior. In a world where individual value is often measured in terms of individual achievement, and achievement is thoroughly enmeshed with a cultural idealization of activity for activity’s own sake, rejecting the pressure to “do stuff” and prove yourself in favor of comfortably pursuing your own interests for their own sake can feel incredibly liberating.
That said, as someone who finds themselves regularly fighting to rip themselves away from their self-created cocoon of material warmth and information overload, I have to wonder where the line is between romanticizing coziness and glorifying laziness. To what extent am I bravely resisting the shallow, controlling expectations of late-stage capitalist society, and to what extent am I simply hiding from the world? How much does the difference matter?
It seems that, in theory, life should not feel like a constant battle to tear oneself out of the warmth and safety of their own mind (and away from the devices that now act as its extension) and into a seemingly cold and incomprehensible outer world. Technology — and the illusion of freedom, safety, and “coziness” that I’ve learned to associate with my use of it – has become my personal comfort zone. Wherever I am in the world, whatever challenges I’m facing, I can turn to the familiar digital topography of YouTube, Google, and Wikipedia and dive into a space where I feel (quite eerily) at home and (falsely) in control.
Scarier still is that these tendencies are quite deeply rooted. I can’t blame technology for what seems to be a sort of inherently detached disposition. As far as I can tell, that’s all on me. However, when I got an iPhone at the age of 13, that detachment was given an excuse. I discovered that I had a profound new superpower: I could immediately reduce both my own awareness of my isolation and the frequency with which anyone tried to disturb it by simply focusing really intensely on whatever was on my phone. I wasn’t shy or socially inept…I was just busy doing something else…something that middle school me just absolutely needed to get done right now before I walked into dance class. I would shirk interactions with classmates and teammates because it was absolutely essential that I finish reading this one Wikipedia page about Aquilolamna, an extinct genus of cartilaginous fish. Technology became a crutch through which I believed that I could apparently justify my isolated tendencies to both myself and to others and safeguard myself against a lived reality that I was afraid to try and fail at navigating.
I don’t necessarily think that this is a bad thing at all. I have no idea what interactions I missed out on, and I learned a lot of really fun and interesting things about cartilaginous fish. At the end of the day, I regret nothing. But this pattern of behavior laid the foundations for what has now become my tendency to glorify withdrawal. To spend whatever free moments that I can wrapped in a blanket with a warm beverage at hand, watching my favorite show and perceiving the world beyond myself and my device as fundamentally Not For Me. Coziness and independence are all entirely well and good; until reality itself begins to feel like an unnatural habitat.
It is incredibly important that we maintain a skeptical attitude towards messaging that sways us to equate our value with our output. It is essential that we maintain interests and goals and a concept of ourselves that is able to stand apart from others, and apart from its monetizable worth. But it is also important not to pursue these goals at the expense of engaging with the world at all, and to make sure that pursuing alone time doesn’t come from a place of fearing or fundamentally distrusting others. When independence and comfort begin to bleed into isolation and apathy, that is when it becomes necessary to reevaluate.
Barring incredibly dramatic unforeseen circumstances, I will likely always be someone who prefers to spend their time locked in with whatever they’re doing on their own. As maliciously addictive and exploitative as we know technology to be, I will never get over how cool I think it is that I can just type something in and know all about it and quickly move from one source to another. But it is important to maintain an awareness of the lines between wanting to be alone and wanting to avoid people; between being skeptical and being misanthropic; between being kind to myself and ceasing to challenge myself; and between allowing myself to be intrinsically motivated and allowing myself to become so estranged that I dismiss all extrinsic aspects of being altogether.