(Vinod Anand)
India, along with China and Brazil, has recorded the fastest growth of single-person households. Purvaja Sawant asks Eric Klinenberg, the author of ‘Going Solo: The
Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone”, why urban dwellers the world over are choosing to live alone
In the past 50 years, living alone has become one of the most rapidly increasing social trends. Listed by Time Magazine as the #1 idea that is changing and shaping our lives, the single life — for men and women — isn’t viewed as a social taboo anymore. On the contrary; it’s becoming one of the most popular lifestyle choices all over the world. In his book, as ment6ioned above, Eric Klinenberg, sociology .professor at New York University talks about the fascinating rise of sassy singletons, and reveals why solitary living is actually a sign of accomplishment.

Excerpts from an interview...

Most people confuse living alone with being alone.
Living alone, feeling alone, being lonely, and being isolated are four distinct conditions, but we often combine them. Singletons, my term for people who live alone, are generally neither lonely nor isolated. They are actually more likely to spend time with friends and neighbours than married people, and volunteer in civic organizations too.

A lot of people, even sociologists, believe that living alone is a sign of the disconnected world we inhabit these days
Social isolation is worrisome, and so is loneliness. But living alone need not be. In fact, we can see it as a sign of accomplishment, because it requires affluence, social security, freedom of women, and cultural tolerance! It’s hard to go solo in a poor nation or neighbourhood; in contrast, it’s now ubiquitous in the world’s most developed and open societies.

Do you think people who live alone for a long time find it difficult to adjust to living with a partner or spouse later?
Yes, it takes adjustment. But there’s no evidence that it’s harder for people who’ve lived alone for a long time to stay married.

Why are more and more people finding the singleton life so appealing?
First, let me say that very few people want to live alone forever. It’s not a life goal, but something that people choose to do at certain points in their lives. Most people do live with a partner for at least some part of their lives. That said, living alone comports with many of our most sacred modern values — freedom, control of one’s own time and space, the search for solitude and the capacity to socialize on our own terms, which is appealing to millions of people around the world. Today, people live alone wherever they can afford to do so and have the freedom to determine their own fate.

Is this generation more equipped to deal with the challenges of a solo life?
Yes, it’s more common today because there’s less stigma. Also, this generation has mostly grown up in a private bedroom, which means they know how to be alone. Moreover, social media has ensured that people live alone yet stay intensely connected to others — not just on the screen, but face-to-face as well. For all our anxieties about the problem of internet addiction, the heaviest users of social media are actually the people most likely to spend time with others face-to-face.

What’s the most common reason people gave for choosing to live alone?
It beats living with the wrong person — particularly a romantic partner, but also roommates and parents.

It’s often thought that soloists are people who haven’t found their match and are always on the lookout. Did people in your research talk about this misconception?
Probably, most singletons are interested in finding the perfect partner, but they are not always on the lookout. They get annoyed when their married friends and family members talk to them as if that’s all that matters. Too often, we project our own anxieties onto single people, rather than simply trying to understand their own desires and needs.

Which gender handles living alone better, and why?
Women are more likely to live alone, mostly because they outlive men. Women also do a better job of maintaining relationships with friends and family. They are less isolated, and more socially active.

Are people who live alone happier and enjoy life more than their married counterparts?
It’s hard to say. People who are successfully married do relatively well on conventional happiness measures. Do they enjoy life more? I don’t know how to assess that. But then there are all those who marry and then divorce or separate. People who live alone tend to be happier than them.

What are the disadvantages of leading a single life?
The disadvantages are that it’s expensive, sometimes impossibly so. It can be lonely, and if you get depressed while living alone, the problem can spiral out of control. Also, aging alone can be brutal, particularly if you are
Then again, one of the most powerful things people told me in interviews is that, as hard as it can be to go solo, there’s nothing lonelier than living with the wrong person. And human history is full of people living, trapped, in marriages that are lonely and isolating. Living alone can be a way of escaping that.

You said in your book, many divorcees could choose to move in with roommates or family but prefer to stay on their own. Do you think people fear living with the wrong person more than living alone?
I wouldn’t say that. We are an optimistic species! Ever hopeful, we continue looking for the right person, even when we’ve been hurt in previous relationships.

Singletons are also largely perceived as selfish people...
It’s an old cultural baggage. The stigma of singlehood is already less biting than it used to be. It should continue to diminish in the coming years.

Are you advocating living alone?
No. Let’s be clear that Going Solo.., is not a work of advocacy. I’m not championing living alone— after all, I’m married with two children, so that would be hypocritical. I’m trying to understand why so many people are going solo, and what this change means for our families, communities, cities, and personal lives.

What do your critics say about the book?
Some think it’s too optimistic, others think it’s actually sad and bleak. I think the book’s become a cultural Rorschach test. People have strong feelings about the issue, and the challenge is to suspend your pre-existing beliefs and see what the evidence really shows.

Did you reach any conclusion after researching for your book?
The conclusion I drew is that it’s our interdependence that makes our independence possible. Since we are more social and connected today, singletons find it easy to live on their own.

In essence,
1. “Probably, most singletons are interested in finding the perfect partner. But they are not always on the lookout, and they get annoyed when their married friends and family members talk to them as if that’s all that matters. Too often, we project our own anxieties onto single people”.
2. “Living alone comports with many of our most sacred modern values: freedom, control of one’s own time and space, the search for solitude, the capacity to socialize on our own terms. This is appealing to millions of people around the world”

Author's Bio: 


Born in 1939, and holding Master’s Degree both in Mathematics (1959) and Economics (1961), and Doctorate Degree in Economics (1970), Dr. Vinod K.Anand has about forty five years of teaching, research, and project work experience in Economic Theory (both micro and macro), Quantitative Economics, Public Economics, New Political Economy, and Development Economics with a special focus on economic and social provisions revolving around poverty, inequality, and unemployment issues, and also on informal sector studies. His last assignment was at the National University of Lesotho (Southern Africa) from 2006 to 2008. Prior to that he was placed as Professor and Head of the Department of Economics at the University of North-West in the Republic of South Africa, and University of Allahabad in India, Professor at the National University of Lesotho, Associate Professor at the University of Botswana, Gaborone in Botswana, and at Gezira University in Wad Medani, Sudan, Head, Department of Arts and Social Sciences, Yola in Nigeria, Principal Lecturer in Economics at Maiduguri University in Nigeria, and as Lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in Nigeria. Professor Anand has by now published more than 80 research papers in standard academic journals, authored 11 books, supervised a number of doctoral theses, was examiner for more than twenty Ph.D. theses, and has wide consultancy experience both in India and abroad, essentially in the African continent. This includes holding the position of Primary Researcher, Principal Consultant etc. in a number of Research Projects sponsored and funded by Universities, Governments, and International Bodies like, USAID, IDRC, and AERC. His publications include a variety of themes revolving around Economic Theory, New Political Economy, Quantitative Economics, Development Economics, and Informal Sector Studies. His consultancy assignments in India, Nigeria, Sudan, Botswana, and the Republic of South Africa include Non-Directory Enterprises in Allahabad, India, Small Scale Enterprises in the Northern States of Nigeria, The Absolute Poverty Line in Sudan, The Small Scale Enterprises in Wad Medani, Sudan, Micro and Small Scale Enterprises in Botswana, The Place of Non-Formal Micro-Enterprises in Botswana, Resettlement of a Squatter Community in the Vryburg District of North West Province in the Republic of South Africa, Trade and Investment Development Programme for Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises: Support for NTSIKA in the Republic of South Africa, and Development of the Manufacturing Sector in the Republic of South Africa’s North West Province: An Approach Based on Firm Level Surveys. Professor Anand has also extensively participated in a number of conferences, offered many seminars, participated in a number of workshops, and delivered a variety of Refresher Lectures at different venues both in India and abroad. Dr. Anand was placed at the prestigious Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), Shimla in the State Himachal Pradesh, India as a Fellow from 2001 to 2003, and had completed a theoretical and qualitative research project/monograph on the Employment Profile of Micro Enterprises in the State of Himachal Pradseh, India.