The Innovation of Loneliness


Shimi Cohen’s video, The Innovation of Loneliness, is a beautiful visual reflection on the invention of loneliness. Starting with monkeys, detouring through sociology and ending up at online social networks, Cohen’s video is a quick trip through the history of the experience of loneliness–which he claims is the most common ailment of the modern world.

It’s hard to know if that’s really true–we’ll let history decide that, but Cohen also hits on a point that Christians would do well to remember:

“If we’re not able to be alone, we’ll only be able to know how to be lonely.”

Whether you agree that this is the most lonely age or not, solitude has always been an important part of the Christian life. St. Alphonsus Liguori named solitude, along with silence and the recollection of the presence of God, as the first among the three requirements towards maintaining constant union with God.

Google’s Ngram tool shows us the occurrence of the words loneliness, solitude and isolation in books between 1800 and 2000 and reveals an interesting trend: as the usage of solitude declines, the usage of loneliness increases and the usage of isolation skyrockets around the 1980’s:

Today, more than ever, Christians can be important advocates for solitude. How do you practice solitude?

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About the Contributor

Benjamin Robertson

Benjamin Robertson
Benjamin Robertson is a founding editor at Second Nature. He has worked in advertising for the Chicago Tribune and Gannett, and now is a web developer at Mediacurrent. He studied Communications and Media Studies under Dr. Read Schuchardt at Wheaton College in Illinois. He has presented papers on Marshall McLuhan, media ecology, and Christianity at the Media Ecology Association, National Communication Association, and the McLuhan's Philosophy of Media Centennial Conference in Brussels. He lives with his wife, Ruth, in Greenville, SC. His personal website is

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