Befriend Solitude

by
Amir Bagheri

It’s 7am. You’ve just got a good seven hours of sleep. You get up. Shower. You make breakfast. Eat it. It’s already 8am. Time to get ready. You put on some clothes. You’re now seated in your car. Traffic is already ruining your day. You’re at work.

It’s 9am. You log onto Facebook. Your friend from high school got married. Your other friend from campus is living the life you wanted to live, travelling with your first crush.

It’s already 11am. Damn, you forgot to check your emails. Fifty-six emails to get through. You don’t even care about half of them. You respond to the important ones. Back on Facebook. The friend you were always slightly jealous of posted a picture of his lunch. You remember, it’s lunch time.

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You walk to the closest McDonalds. As you dip your fries in the tomato sauce, you scroll down on your Instagram feed. Your cousin posted another picture of her boyfriend that you don’t like so much. You feel bloated. Time to walk back.

Back at work, and you don’t feel like working. Back on Facebook. You see that your girlfriend was tagged in a picture from the party she went to last night. Your calendar notifies you that you have a meeting with your manager.

It’s 3pm. Your manager pisses all over your already bad mood, and now you are frustrated with life. You go on Twitter and rant about how you hate your manager. You spend the last two hours of work on YouTube watching Vine videos.

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5pm. You are going to the bar across the road with all your colleagues that you hate. First round on you, just to impress everyone. You have three more drinks. You are tipsy. Your girlfriend calls. You ignore it because you’re mad at her.

8pm. You drive drunk. You’re home. You make a quick meal. You eat. You call your girlfriend. You end up fighting with her.

10pm. You are watching some mindless television. You go on Tinder. Swipe left, and right. Time to go to bed.

Repeat.

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In an era where we spend more than a quarter of our daily life behind a desk, and another quarter of it sleeping, making a decision as to how you spend the remaining hours of your day becomes a critical, and difficult task. It is only then, when you put things in perspective, that you realise how precious your time is, that you understand how every minute should matter.

Millennials are often accused of wasting their time on social media. There are times that I would plead guilty of such accusations.  In a world where consumption of information through social media has become a habit, it is difficult to switch everything off and just digest the realities of our lives, offline.

What is really upsetting about this new way of life is that many people often live their lives in a manner only to impress their friends and colleagues online. Taking selfies, checking-in at different locations, and posting pictures of their food. These things are hardly ever about you, but rather about showing those around you what a “great” life you are living. 

This was taken on W. Broadway, between Wooster and Prince *************** This set of photos is based on a very simple concept: walk every block of Manhattan with a camera, and see what happens. To avoid missing anything, walk both sides of the street. That's all there is to it … Of course, if you wanted to be more ambitious, you could also walk the streets of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx. But that's more than I'm willing to commit to at this point, and I'll leave the remaining boroughs of New York City to other, more adventurous photographers. Oh, actually, there's one more small detail: leave the photos alone for a month -- unedited, untouched, and unviewed. By the time I actually focus on the first of these "every-block" photos, I will have taken more than 8,000 images on the nearby streets of the Upper West Side -- plus another several thousand in Rome, Coney Island, and the various spots in NYC where I traditionally take photos. So I don't expect to be emotionally attached to any of the "every-block" photos, and hope that I'll be able to make an objective selection of the ones worth looking at. As for the criteria that I've used to select the small subset of every-block photos that get uploaded to Flickr: there are three. First, I'll upload any photo that I think is "great," and where I hope the reaction of my Flickr-friends will be, "I have no idea when or where that photo was taken, but it's really a terrific picture!" A second criterion has to do with place, and the third involves time. I'm hoping that I'll take some photos that clearly say, "This is New York!" to anyone who looks at it. Obviously, certain landscape icons like the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty would satisfy that criterion; but I'm hoping that I'll find other, more unexpected examples. I hope that I'll be able to take some shots that will make a "local" viewer say, "Well, even if that's not recognizable to someone from another part of the country, or another part of the world, I know that that's New York!" And there might be some photos where a "non-local" viewer might say, "I had no idea that there was anyplace in New York City that was so interesting/beautiful/ugly/spectacular." As for the sense of time: I remember wandering around my neighborhood in 2005, photographing various shops, stores, restaurants, and business establishments -- and then casually looking at the photos about five years later, and being stunned by how much had changed. Little by little, store by store, day by day, things change … and when you've been around as long as I have, it's even more amazing to go back and look at the photos you took thirty or forty years ago, and ask yourself, "Was it really like that back then? Seriously, did people really wear bell-bottom jeans?" So, with the expectation that I'll be looking at these every-block photos five or ten years from now (and maybe you will be, too), I'm going to be doing my best to capture scenes that convey the sense that they were taken in the year 2013 … or at least sometime in the decade of the 2010's (I have no idea what we're calling this decade yet). Or maybe they'll just say to us, "This is what it was like a dozen years after 9-11". Movie posters are a trivial example of such a time-specific image; I've already taken a bunch, and I don't know if I'll ultimately decide that they're worth uploading. Women's fashion/styles are another obvious example of a time-specific phenomenon; and even though I'm definitely not a fashion expert, I suspected that I'll be able to look at some images ten years from now and mutter to myself, "Did we really wear shirts like that? Did women really wear those weird skirts that are short in the front, and long in the back? Did everyone in New York have a tattoo?" Another example: I'm fascinated by the interactions that people have with their cellphones out on the street. It seems that everyone has one, which certainly wasn't true a decade ago; and it seems that everyone walks down the street with their eyes and their entire conscious attention riveted on this little box-like gadget, utterly oblivious about anything else that might be going on (among other things, that makes it very easy for me to photograph them without their even noticing, particularly if they've also got earphones so they can listen to music or carry on a phone conversation). But I can't help wondering whether this kind of social behavior will seem bizarre a decade from now … especially if our cellphones have become so miniaturized that they're incorporated into the glasses we wear, or implanted directly into our eyeballs. If you have any suggestions about places that I should definitely visit to get some good photos, or if you'd like me to photograph you in your little corner of New York City, please let me know. You can send me a Flickr-mail message, or you can email me directly at ed-at-yourdon-dot-com Stay tuned as the photo-walk continues, block by block ...

The definition of solitude has changed over the past few years due to the effects of social media in our lives. Solitude is no longer about spending time alone, because as long as you are online, you are never really alone. In an interconnected world where you can be connected to almost everyone through your fingertips, solitude has become a difficult task. 

From my experience, solitude does not merely mean spending time on your own, but also how you spend your time with yourself. It goes without question that social media can be very helpful in many aspects of our lives, but we also can’t deny the negativity that we often find online. It can be toxic.

Solitude, in the sense of being away from people and disconnected from the online world, will allow you to measure how fulfilled you really are. Being able to read a new novel, listen to a new record with your eyes closed, or even create something with your hands can be a very rewarding experience that can only be achieved when you choose solitude over other things. If you feel lonely while you are alone, you may need to take a deeper look at your life and your relationship with yourself.  

Discovering yourself is important. Solitude can offer you continuous opportunities to reflect on your life, your values, and your wants and needs. It allows you to re-evaluate your priorities, and re-plan your life.

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So close your laptop, switch off your phone, and go do something that you enjoy doing alone. Reread your favourite novel. Listen to that R&B record that you used to sing along to as a teenager. Plan a trip to a destination you always wanted to visit. Trust your instinct and just do it. And remember, you don’t need to post any of it on Facebook or Instagram.

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One Reply to “Befriend Solitude”

  1. The state of being, I love it mate.

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