I spent quite a bit of time alone as a teenager, licking my latest social wound, brooding over the meaning of life, mooning over Connie or Marie or Carole. (At one point, I recall, I was besotted with all three.) For a few hours of each day, I deliberately cut myself off from both adults and my fellow teens; there was so much to process and figure out, and it seemed natural to withdraw into these ruminations while bicycling down to the harbor, or looking out from my bedroom window over the rooftops of my Brooklyn neighborhood. This kind of extended alone time, I now see as a parent of two teenage girls, is as outdated as a rotary telephone; in a world with the constant inputs of Facebook and texting and tweeting and IMing, no teen need be—can be—alone for more than a few minutes.
Truth is, there were times in my teen years when I would have killed for the distraction of some online friends. But I don’t envy the Facebook generation. Living in the blab-o-sphere, with a half-dozen open channels at all times, seems more like a burden than a pleasure, and the endless back-and-forth more an addiction than a choice. I know: I sound like crotchety old Andy Rooney, scowling at this newfangled world from beneath the disapproving hedge of my eyebrows. But there is something to be said for looking for solace, and clues, inside your own being. Alone, you have no choice but to make friends with yourself; if you never manage that, your virtual friends won’t do you much good.
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