In molecular biology, when we cut and paste DNA together and then let the bacterium E. coli replicate and propagate that piece of DNA. The goal is to isolate a single colony that contains the DNA construct of interest, usually a plasmid containing an insert with your favorite gene. This is a case of isolation being a good thing. In science, isolating the thing that’s causing the other thing is often the goal. Get rid of the noise and find the signal. The opposite is true for humans.
I wrote a few weeks ago about feeling isolated. I have been thinking more and more about why that’s a problem for me, specifically (it might seem quite obvious, I realize).
Here’s a list of why I find it problematic:
- Dealing with stress: I found this TED talk from Kelly McGonigal interesting. Stress can be good for you in part if you think it is and also in part because it can cause outreach to others. The problem for me is that having those immediate people to reach out to don’t exist (yes, I can and do email and talk to my friends who live far away). This keeps my stress mostly bottled up.
- Energy: I find that even for me, the introvert who needs time alone to recharge, being with people I like and am close to is in fact energizing. If I’m by myself, I find that I get run down more easily, I won’t push myself as much.
- Determination/Inspiration: If you’re a runner, you may know the phenomenon that running in a group seems to improve performance. It’s simply being around other people that helps.
- Serendipity: Interesting and sometimes messy things happen when people get together. In my overly isolated life, those things don’t happen as often. Be it business opportunity, dating, whatever, it just doesn’t come along as often. And again, some of this can be done over the Internet. Twitter is full of this kind of interaction, but again, it doesn’t substitute fully for real-life interaction.
- Lack of feedback: Again, something the internet can help with, but isolation means that I feel like I’m in my head too much and can second guess myself like a champ. And it’s not just feedback that ‘you’re becoming reclusive and weird’, it could be positive feedback as well.
I’m not saying that being alone is a problem all the time, but humans aren’t meant to be isolated. I think ‘Doctor Who’ explores this with The Doctor quite a bit; he’s better off with a companion and can go off the rails without them.