Being Alone Much of the Time Makes People Feel Neglected by their Social Environment New Israeli Study Shows

And Hashem fashioned the rib that He had taken from the man into a woman; and He her to the man. Genesis 2:22 (The Israel Bible™)

“All the lonely people; Where do they all come from?” wrote the Beatles in the memorable 1966 song Eleanor Rigby. According to estimates, people in the Western world spend an average of a third and a half of their time alone every day. 

This solitude surely has an impact on their mental state. Now, an article by researchers from Bar-Ilan University near Ramat Gan that was recently published in the Journal of Personality investigates how alone time affects people’s approach to their social world. 

In a series of experiments involving more than 700 participants, it was discovered that being alone – or even merely thinking about spending time alone – makes some people, especially those with relatively low emotional stability, feel as if they are all alone in the world.’ That is, some people experience time alone as if they are neglected by their social environment.  

Thinking about – and actually being – alone induces a sense that they can rely only on themselves. Aside from feeling bad about the situation, these lonely individuals enter a “survival mode” expressed in an increasingly egocentric and selfish behavioral style. This response then hampers their ability to reintegrate into social activities, making it likely that they will eventually be rejected. 

The research calls attention to the potential harmful impact of social alienation and of the intensifying cultural phenomena of spending time alone, especially as it is expressed in the experience of certain populations.

“When thinking about themselves’ being alone, these people experience a reduced ability to trust others, escalating the experience of being alone into a broad conclusion about the level of trustworthiness of the social world,” 

With such a perception of their social environment, increase in self-reliance seems rational and even necessary,” noted Dr. Liad Uziel, a  Bar-Ilan psychologist who coauthored the study with Martine Seemann of the University of Mainz in Germany and Dr. Tomer Schmidt-Bara, of the Bar-IlaN’S School of Business Administration and the Department of Behavioral Science at the Peres Academic Center between Ashdod and Rishon Lezion. The article was titled “From being alone to being the only one: Neuroticism is associated with an egocentric shift in an alone context.” 

 The researchers stated that recognizing the dynamic between socially related needs and the experience of being alone among those with relatively low emotional stability can help create interventions aimed at easing heir social adjustment and improving their wellbeing both alone and with others.

“This research presents evidence for an egocentric shift occurring among individuals high in Neuroticism by the mere thought – and actual state –of being alone,” the authors wrote. 

“Humans are social creatures, with an innate existential need to belong,” they continued. Their dependence on the support of others starts at birth and continues throughout the lifespan, with shifting balances between physical and psychological needs. “Even as largely independent adults, humans seek, form and maintain strong social bonds and depend on other people to fully accomplish their potential in various spheres of life. In contrast, social isolation, loneliness, and loss of trust often lead to dire physical and psychological outcomes.” Notwithstanding, even sociable people spend much of their time alone.