Critique: “Talking to yourself: a good antidote to loneliness – or the sign of a real problem?”

By Nafisa Mayukh


With a title posed as a questionー half rhetorical, half solicitedー this intriguing piece by The Guardian takes a unique approach in its attempt in being informative whilst maintaining a very personal voice. 

The question is rhetoricalーfor the sheer provocation for drama and solicitedーa genuine inquiry for an answer. The title teases readers with both possibilities of talking to oneself, being an “antidote” but also inciting the mystery of ‘or is it?’.

Tagged with “health & wellbeing”, the article provides an insightful look into the subject of mental health, with the phenomena of individuals inherently taking into the act of speaking with oneself and backed up with accounts by professional health specialists in the field of psychology.

With the word ‘loneliness’ plastered on it, the article brings in the discussion of being home-bound in the midst of the pandemic, without a deliberate need of spelling it out, as seemingly the subject of loneliness has now become synonymous with life during these strange times.

The author opens with a unique lead, by implementing a conversational anecdote with none other than… himself. The quote is concealed as a typical conversation; “C’mon!” I yell. “God! Fine, then!” he shouts back” with the first few lines giving the initial impression that it’s yet another usual banter, a direct quotation of remarks exchanged by the writer has with another subject, but quickly reveals as an element of surprise, serving as an ironic introduction to the focus of the piece.

“Only there is no we. There’s only me.” The author voices.

It constructively creates an effect of suspended interest, stimulating curiosity through anecdotal storytelling and direct quotation in the first two paragraphs of the article. Thus, unlike the usual hard news writing technique, where the first couple of paragraphs are focused on summarising the entire gist of the story, the author reveals very little about the subject of the article, instead dedicates it solely to draw in interest.

The author uses his personal experience and struggles on the subject as a base of the story, utilising the first-hand narrative with the use of ‘I’, ‘me’ and occasionally the direct use of his own name. This not only gives it an informal tone for an easy read but also creates a connection with the readers who are facing a similar situation. 

The author also implements comedic elements, with self-deprecating humour saying; “The problem with this is I know everything about me; me got boring fast, so I began to argue with me. And I always lost.” Almost complementing the issue.

However, the article doesn’t make light of the situation either, smoothly transitioning between humour and factual information, in support. This essentially makes the piece more interesting, as the topic of mental health and loneliness can easily turn very depressive, dampening the flow of the piece.

In respect to that, the author makes appropriate use of direct quotations from interviews with individuals connected to the topic of mental health such as psychology lecture of psychology, providing a credible source of opinion on the topic. 

There is also good use of statistical data from studies referenced; “paper, published in 2014, said that those who referred to themselves with second-and third-person pronouns managed their thoughts better than those who spoke in the first person”, providing the piece with viable information to support the statements given. 

In addition to the medical professional quoted, the writer also provides accounts by a common individual facing the same dilemma, which provides an additional perspective to the issue. The account, however, quotes an unreliable source, citing the interviewee as “a 23-year-old IT student from Washington DC” whose name is parenthesised “not his real name”.

This can be considered as an unsolicited source of information, yet it provides an additional account of another individual other than the author himself, facing a similar situation, yet differently, “Gilham isn’t having full-blown shouting matches with himself …like I am” presenting an alternative look in the experience.

The article also wraps up by remaining faithful to its focus and lead. As the writer skilfully turns back to the conversational self-quotation method used at the beginning with what “Danny says” and “I say”. It also effectively provides a conclusion to the question prompted, answering it with the author’s take on it 一 coming in terms with himself and his habit of talking to himself. 

As he quotes himself, “I think I just like the sound of my own voice”.

All in all, the article is a light yet informative piece that utilises humour to draw readers in, whilst providing a possible answer to a subject most of us can connect to, perusing through the limited socialisation of the pandemic life – me included.***

(This article is written as part of individual assignment series for Feature Writing class)

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