How to Become a Recluse

DATELINE: Social Isolation by Choice

You do not become a recluse overnight. If you are in the style of B. Traven, J.D. Salinger, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, or other celebrities, you have withdrawn from public scrutiny—because of public scrutiny.

Yet, there is at the base of these departures from social exposure a feeling of having suffered disrespect in your privacy and personal space. In order to guarantee it, the subjects removed themselves from easy access by all levels of society.

Imagine their horror today with social media, Internet intrusions, and tracking by advertisers. Whatever you research, whatever you question, however you reach out, it is saved by some little cookie somewhere. You can only cut so many cords to remain independent and isolated.

The last option is simply to withdraw from any public course of activity. It is easier than you might think.

You may go out on a shopping trip, though this too is less likely if you are willing to use Internet services for grocery delivery or Amazon products. You do not go out to theatre, movies, concerts, or the like after years of doing so. Your main interaction is with delivery service workers who likely drop off materials at your door—sending you an online notice. You open the door, grab your item, and shut it again.

You may go out once in a while to start your car, drive to the doctor, or go to the local service station for fuel. You may try to avoid credit cards, but it is difficult if you want to stay apart from society. You have to pay for upkeep of property with a crew of unreliable snow shoveling grass mowers. You could simply let the property deteriorate, but that may bring intrusions.

If you no longer work or work at home, you can increase your isolation. A writer is a perfect avocation in that regard, though you cannot meet readers in libraries, bookstores, or classes to whet their reading appetite. They see your author page, that is updated now and then.

You may limit your friends to phone calls, or now the more isolating text message. There is contact ongoing to an ever-decreasing number of people. As you grow old, you may even find your contacts decreased by infirmity and death, dementia and lack of response.

Family is easy to disregard if you are unmarried and have no children. Nephews and nieces prefer a distant, oddball relative who will one day out of the blue die and leave them money. No contact beyond that is required.

You may learn how uninvolved people are with your existence. Once separated, your distance becomes normal and your contacts are even more deeply absent for weeks, then months. Your well-being check-up is hardly a priority with anyone. Don’t worry about wellness checks.

If winter is long and cold, you may not step outside—and you have a legitimate excuse or explanation that neighbors accept. Good fences still make good neighbors—and those who are quiet and invisible are even better to the locals.

You may be seen going to the mailbox or putting out the trash, unless you do this at odd hours. Those actions then become mysterious and occur almost magically without anyone thinking twice. You are at long last a recluse.