In 1897, Mark Twain summed up “urban loneliness” as the following:
I have at last, after several months’ experience, made up my mind that it is a splendid desert—a domed and steepled solitude, where the stranger is lonely in the midst of a million of his race. A man walks his tedious miles through the same interminable street every day, elbowing his way through a buzzing multitude of men, yet never seeing a familiar face, and never seeing a strange one the second time. He visits a friend once—it is a day’s journey—and then stays away from that time forward till that friends cools to a mere acquaintance, and finally to a stranger. So there is little sociability, and consequently, there is little cordiality. Every man seems to feel that he has got the duties of two lifetimes to accomplish in one, and so he rushes, rushes, rushes, and never has time to be companionable—never has any time at his disposal to fool away on matters which do not involve dollars and duty and business.
Some people have blamed urban loneliness on poor planning, while others argue if it even exists in the first place. Yet Mark Twain is not alone in observing that cities seem stuffed with lonely souls: J.D. Salinger, Haruki Murakami, and others have all described this modern phenomenon.
What do you think: are people more alone now than they have been before? Are people living in cities especially lonely? If so, why?
Photo courtesy of urban-photos.
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