Are you aware that shyness seems to be increasing in modern society?
Besides the fact that surveys, at least in North America, show the number of people who perceive themselves to be shy increasing (it’s usually over 50% now), in sociologist Eric Klinenberg’s 2012 bestselling book, Going Solo – The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, he documents a world-wide trend towards more solitary behavior.
Klinenberg reports that in 1950, in the USA, 9% of Americans were living alone. Today it’s 28%. A million people in New York City live alone, and half of the residences in Manhattan have a single occupant. In Stockholm, Sweden, 60% live alone.
Through interviews with these people, Klinenberg demonstrates that living alone is usually by choice.
Most writers on this subject assume that this is something negative, a sign of some psychological disease. I think it’s just the opposite – a sign that we may be coming to our senses, that we might be returning to a saner world. If we lived in a world where most people lived alone, would we have the same appetite for war? For unbridled economic expansion?
In my book The Shyness Guide, I’ve discussed this phenomena. Among other things, I suggest that over thousands of years an increasingly social lifestyle has been suppressing shy instincts, but this is now coming to an end. I offer this explanation:
Tribal society created the village, then evolved into the town. But when cities developed, the tribal system began to break down. Today when shy genes – wilder genes – enter cities where shyness is a better fit, they’re re-activating. New York City is a relief to shy people who grew up in small towns where their lives were scrutinized by other people. In cities all over the world, shy people are living in a new freedom.
If you’re interested in reading more, here is a free 77 page abridgement of The Shyness Guide: