The hour of the wolf and social networking

By | 2011/09/11

It’s unsurprising that a time common in literature is that period from around 2am to dawn. It can be a bleak time if you’re awake and alone with your thoughts, and as someone who not only resents sleep, but used to suffer regular nightmares, and periodically has bouts of insomnia, it’s a time I’m familiar with rather intimately.

The first term I heard for this sort of time was “the witching hour”; ironically enough to start with, it was in The BFG. However, that was a children’s story, and it was only briefly touched on, in child-like terms. In Babylon 5 though, it was described as the hour of the wolf by Ivanova:

“Have you ever heard of the hour of the wolf? My father told me about it. It’s the time between 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning. You can’t sleep, and all you can see is the troubles and the problems and the ways that your life should’ve gone but didn’t. All you can hear is the sound of your own heart … In times like this, my father used to take one large glass of vodka before bed. To keep the wolf away, he said. And then he would take three very small drinks of vodka, just in case she had cubs while she was waiting outside.”

I’d be genuinely surprised if anyone has gone through life to say, 30, and not experienced the hour of the wolf at least once or twice in their life. In reality, all you need is two things – a personal crisis or issue, and a trigger to wake up at that time.

Most recently, I had a song recommended to me called “How I could Kill a Man”, by an artist, “Charlotte Sometimes”. I liked the song enough that I bought the album, and the first song on it, “Losing sleep“, contains the following chorus that equally sums up the hour of the wolf:

I’m awake and I’ve been losing sleep.
I’ve been fighting all my demons,
I’ve been getting weak cause I’ve been
Trying, trying, trying to be
Anything other than me.

Even without a medical degree, if you look at the basics of the circadian rhythm, you can see why this time can be so mentally draining:

Circadian Rhythm

So looking from 2am to 6am, you’re at your point where your body is most inclined to want to sleep anyway, and because you’re at your least alert point in your cycle, it lets that hour of the wolf take full, devastating effect.

(At times, trying to fight emotion with logic can be like trying to fight fire with a gerry-can of petrol, and during the hour of the wolf this can often be so. However, one thing I’m increasingly becoming aware of is that by talking about things (even in this sort of forum), and pre-thinking, I can provide myself with that extra 10% of resolve for the next witching hour.)

As we approach “R U OK? day“, it’s worth mentioning the irony that the point where someone is most likely to either want another person to ask if they’re OK, or most likely want to turn to someone and ask for a hug or a chat, is during the hour of the wolf. Given the world around us at the time is quiet and most people we know locally will already be in bed, it can create an artificial sense of loneliness. Artificial because there’s the perception that people aren’t there, when in fact they are, but they’re just asleep.

I think this is where social media can fill a void that previously people have struggled with. For those of us who struggle with the notion of waking up a nearby friend, social media can allow us to talk to someone who is wide awake on the other side of the planet. This is something that more conservative communicators need to start to learn, I think. For instance, recently on Facebook, Christopher Banks, aka Bipolar Bear, who had been attending a mental health forum, commented:

Positive panel overall about social media, but surprised at the number of people expressing concern about it destroying community rather than being an outreach for people; despite the fact that 90% of the room admitted to at least occasional use of it.

Never lost for a few words, I commented at the time:

There’s a somewhat conservative view that you can’t make “real” connections on social media. I’ve seen advertising and marketing experts for instance insist that there’s no way anyone could actually legitimately develop a friend on social media – unless they eventually meet the person in real life, it’s not real. This, IMHO, is just failing to understand the changing nature of ‘community’. Instead of community referring to people nearby, community now refers to people anywhere on the planet. In some senses, it’s even better outreach. Your community includes people who are awake 24×7 – “the sun never sets on my social empire”, so to speak. What better a situation than potentially ALWAYS having someone to talk to if you need to chat?

As we move into this age of ever increasing communication (and possible mental evolution into a pseudo hive-mind for humanity), we need to be aware that harnessed properly, this increased interconnectedness can finally allow people who are in the hour of the wolf to hold the wolf at bay, regardless of whether they reach out to someone they know on the other side of the planet, or even in a pinch, reach out anonymously.

And by thinking of the possibility before the hour of the wolf, it at least gives us that extra chance that we’ll act on it during the time.