Humans rely on a set of social validations to guide them in their actions. The more public the environment, the more a person is affected by that environment in choosing what to do next. The greater the threat of invalidation, the more externally-controlled actions will be.
THE PRESENCE OF OTHERS IS TIRING
It is inherently tiring being in the public gaze. This is one reason why, for instance, walking around a city centre is so mentally tiring. We have to make thousands of little decisions about pavement positioning, posture, body movement, sound emission and word choice.
PRIVATE TIME CAN BE RESTFUL AND NURTURING
This is why it is so important, for mental health, to spend time in environments away from the gaze of others. A private bedroom, or living space, enables a person to have a rest from burdensome social requirements. A developing child or adult can then learn more about what they naturally like to think, feel and do – about their inner world.
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF OTHERS’ GAZE
The concept of being watched, and how it affects our behaviour, is a developing psychological topic. See, for instance, the 2019 article ‘The Role of Eye Gaze During Natural Social Interactions in Typical and Autistic People‘.
PUBLIC OR PRIVATE – IT DEPENDS
Although it is tiring, being subject to others’ gaze can make us more effective in certain ways. Being watched generally makes us more alert and responsive than when we are in private. However, it depends on the nature and difficulty of what we are doing. An inventor, academic or artist, working on a highly innovative, in-depth piece of work, may be inhibited by social gaze, and need to get away, and achieve privacy, to function properly at a high level.
THE PUBLIC GAZE BRINGS BASIC PRODUCTIVITY
In a work context, therefore, we might be generally more productive (in basic ways) when placed in a more public setting. Pupils at school, and employees at work, are more likely to chip in and perform to a minimum standard.
PRIVACY CAN BRING DEEPER THOUGHT
However, where more complex and challenging tasks are required, a public context may cause ‘dumbing down’. A very focused scientist , working on a discovery, may find that it cramps their style to have to engage too much socially, when they would prefer to be working intensely inside their own mind.
I will notice, today, how I behave differently depending on whether I am alone, or under the gaze of others.
I will notice how my level of arousal increases in the company of others – my behaviour is more controlled, and I become concerned with ‘fitting in’, and being considered a ‘valid person’. I may become more productive on a basic level, though slightly more dumbed down in order to fit in.
I will also notice how my level of arousal reduces in private. I can sometimes flop and relax too much. Sometimes, though, I can do my best creative and in-depth thinking alone, because I am not dominated by the anti-creative constraints of social obedience.
In designing my days, I will try to give myself some social time, and some private time. Both are important. My social time will help me to be socially engaged and productive. My private time will deepen my experience of life, and give me rest from the sometimes oppressive presence of others.