Are Single People, Who Live Alone, Selfish?

September 6, 2012  |  

Are single people selfish in nature?

More particularly do single people, who live alone, detract away from the greater good of society?  According to Benjamin Schwartz, writer for The August issue of the American Interest, they do. In his column called Selfishness as a Virtue, Schwartz says that the more than 31 million Americans, who are single and live alone, are squandering the tradition of moral reasoning this country was built upon just for selfish pursuits of individualism.
Taking particular shots at Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone by Eric Klinenberg, a book that champions the virtues of singlehood, Schwartz writes, “Individuals don’t transfer values from one generation to the next. Individuals are biologically incapable of producing a next generation except in the crudest possible sense of the term. Socialization—the process through which a person internalizes what is good and bad, meaningful and meaningless—is shaped by one’s relatives, the friends and associates who surround a person, and typically a canon of texts that is revered and consulted for guidance. The values of expressive individualism guarantee that the values of future generations will be more or less up for grabs for the simple reason that expressive individualists have a difficult time replicating (the demographic data don’t lie) and an even more difficult time socializing a child. ”

I haven’t read the book Going Solo however I am very familiar with the stigma attached to those who choose to create a habitat of one, especially if you are a woman of a certain age. Single people are supposed to be selfish and lonely and miserable. Your life is a tale of tragedy usually reserved as an example of what not to become. At best you are immature, caught up in a perpetual arrested development, which won’t allow you to face real adulthood. And at the most, you are eccentric weirdo, who is only 12 felines away from being the cat-lady.  And now thanks to Schwartz, we can add immoral, valueless sycophants to the list. No way can individuals, living individually, work towards the greater good of society. We are all too caught up in our demands for privacy and single serving packages of meat (seriously, can they get around to making that) to actually want to share any redeeming values, worth sharing with the next generation.

Can single people be self-interested at times? Sure. I used to think that the older I got, the more set in my ways I had become. Now I’m starting to think that it is living alone has more to do with my desire to maintain my blissful habitats and the comfort I created in my own life’s routine. I have a two to three hour window of tolerance for company of others because being around people requires a lot of energy and patience. It’s nothing that they are doing wrong – per say. But let’s face it: Isn’t everyone annoying to a certain extent? Including me.

But does my appreciation of “space” and “privacy” mean that I value selfishness? I think not. I don’t just give to charity, I actually volunteer time in the community, helping neighbors and pitching in wherever I can. I am a mentor to a high school, college bound senior and I am also involved in the lives of my little nephews and niece.  I not only spend time with my family; but I am more likely to offer support, financial and physical, to my extended family than my brother, who is married with children (no disrespect to him).  In fact, my single status has afforded me more time for sharing and caring, as opposed to doing it out of obligation, which tends to be the case for those who are married or with children.
And this is not just my experience. A recent national survey suggest that single people are more likely to visit, support, contact, and advise their siblings and parents than married or even previously married people. And according to an article in Science 2.0, research in Portugal and Belgium, has concluded that better societies are best formed when individuals are free to act as they wish, as individuals, as opposed to acting in more restrictive social and political dogmas.

I have met many single folks who have packed up their lives on a whim to go off to some far away land for volunteer work through some overseas aid organization. More domestically, we can’t forget about the single folks, who work extra hours at the company while the married folks are off on maternity leave, tending to doctor visits and parent/teacher conferences and jetting off for family emergencies. Without the selfless sacrifices of single people, much of the vital work needed to maintain the ‘greater good’ wouldn’t get done.

Yes it is true that human beings are naturally pack-like creatures. Married people tend to suffer less mental illness and are in better physical health. However, for a growing number of folks, marrying and having kids is not their definition of the good life. And being forced to co-habitat and procreate can have a bigger impact on your health than just remaining a household of one.

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  • XJ

    single ppl have so much joy that make married ppl jealous! haha I cherish my alone time so much as how I cherish my family and friends. I would admire someone I love to get married, but if I cant find him, I would not mind spend my life happily alone! I developed myself so much when I am alone and I set high standard for myself. Honestly, I am laughing everyday and when I see someone looking miserable I feel so bad for them coz I am happy haha!

  • Pingback: Ladies: You Have the Right to Remain Childless « Daree's Insights()

  • SMHgurl24

    Now that I think about it even in the media they potray single people as crazy sex driven lunatics. Sad that people would rather be unhappy with someone for appearence sake then happy by themselves.

  • There are several points that I do agree on. Those points are the ones that say we have the time and the option to be choicy about the things we choose to be a part of. Single and previous married can allow themselves to find thier purpose in life verus those who are married or have children. If you didn’t find your voice before you married or had children you don’t know that you have choices in life. That is not selfish that is finding fulfillment in your life that doesn’t require someone else to give that to you. That is not society but it is GOD especially if GOD is the one directing your life and your purpose vs, what you think you need to do. Sadly we are so married and social driven that we do not take the time we need to unload the baggage, find our true purpose or wait on the one if there is a one for us. I admit I did it wrong too. Now I am doing it right and that is not selfish.

  • Im single, live alone, and mind my business….so whats the problem? And, I totally don’t like company for more than a few hours either. This is not a homeless shelter, no staying more than six hours or more than two nights in a row.

    • lol you sound like me after a few hours I am watching the clock waiting for people to leave.

  • Jolene

    You can still be with a partner and feel lonely around that person so being alone is a good thing. Better alone than your partner making you feel miserable and lonely. People who think otherwise are just annoying.

  • “PROPAGANDA,PROPAGANDA”.These ppl so concerned about single ppl not reproducing offspring are oddly silent when you need services to provide for the children,and/or quick to tell you that if you can`t feed `em, don`t breed `em.And american men in particular have no sociatal support when it comes to raising children,so from my viewpoint,this is another way of having ppl burdened,so elite w/m have less competition in the workplace.Not buying it ofay.

  • Candacey Doris

    I’m selfish because i’m single? I thought i was doing my part by volunteering, recycling, and being a good sister/daughter. I’m doing what i want so i have no regrets if/when i do get married. I don’t want to end up one of those people wishing that i had done the things i wanted to. And being married does not mean that you’re not selfish. Some of the most annoyingly selfish people i know are married.

  • Miss D

    What’s more selfish – being single and living alone, or being joined at the hip with your partner and needing them around you 24/7? Just sayin…

  • Kayo

    If single people are selfish by nature, that would me every one of us is selfish considering that we all have been single at some point in time.

  • Such hogwash!


    this right here…I have a two to three hour window of tolerance for company of others because being around people requires a lot of energy and patience. very true statement for me and #1 reason why i CHOOSE to roll solo!

  • Interesting. With the rate of divorce at 50%, you would think that being single would be equally as important as being married. Clearly, the author was attempting to garner attention by criticizing those who are single. I’m not biting.

  • Ms_Sunshine9898

    I’m young (24) and I like my space! Trying to enjoy it now before marriage and kids!

  • Lauren Clark

    Please stop using this science to get people to think living alone is a bad thing.

  • whatever

    I am single. I don’t have a bunch of fatherless children. I’m celibate, and am not facilitating the spread of HIV or STDs. I’m involved in organizations, I’m a student. I volunteer, and In my career, daily, I do work that contributes to the greater good of society, specifically in schools, prisons and youth groups.

    The only thing about living alone is that no one else can bear witness to your life, other than you. And sometimes, that’s the best way to be if there is no one trustworthy enough to take that role.

    Many of us single people have carefully planned out lives and have taken the care not to be dependent on, or a burden to, anyone! And that doesn’t mean we’re selfish, or don’t give back to the community.

    • Ms. Esq

      Thank you for saying what I was thinking so beautifully especially the last paragraph.

    • kitsy

      Very well said!

  • redfingerpaint

    Absolutely not! You have to love yourself before you love others, living alone is a great first step. While being in a relationship can be a great thing, being alone can be great, too!

  • Hello_Kitty81

    Just because you’re single and live alone don’t mean you’re selfish! I have friends and family members who are over 30 and living alone and have no kids but they’re not selfish, they help others when they’re in need of help like food, shelter and babysitting.

  • Tiana

    I like this article. I am single. I do volunteer when I can- and happy to do it, I am available for my parents, nephews and loved ones. I am 34, stable, good job, traveled and I am happy with myself. Just because you are single doesnt mean you will be miserable. When we stop doing and thinking so much about what other people have to say about us all of the time then we might realize we can truly be happy. Be happy and thankful for whatever you have- whether you’re single or married. Just reading some of the exhorts of the book from the article, the author seems unhappy himself and categorizing everyone. Why doesnt he just write a book about why he is unhappy being single.

  • Yokessm

    No! What the hell? I loved being single and living alone just as much as I love being married , people need to let single people breathe!

  • Single people CAN be selfish. My only responsibility is me, so why not. What’s this obsession with the bedrooms and sex lives of others? Marriage/kids are NOT for everyone. Maybe some people know they have NO BUSINESS having kids or getting married, so they refrain from both. We all know people who are like that. The moral fabric is this: Enjoy life, dont get married or have kids until you want them, can afford them, and you are ready for them.

  • Noni

    I wish there was a love button.this is my life except I am in my late 20’s