Written by Kyu Park
There is no need to emphasize the essentiality of a good friend. The feeling of loneliness, however, can exist amid the existence of such a friend. A common phrase we hear in our everyday life, especially in the Korean society, is “I’m lonely”, with many variations of it conveying a similar nuance. To cope with solitude at times unbearable, people seek bonding with others. Just like hunger, loneliness has to be fed for it to be alleviated.
It is comforting to recognize that most people can relate to this issue. But why? Hundreds of Facebook friends. Messages of extremely short intervals. Active social networking. The world has never been so undivided. The theory of Six Degrees of Separation expresses the idea that anyone would know any other individual on the planet only after six links or fewer. With the power of social media at the tip of our fingers, branching out to those people has also become easier than ever. Yet, acquiring more and more connections do not really solve the aching feeling of emptiness. Although people are social beings inherently, finding meaning through their relationships with others, many people are oblivious of the most important relationship. The relationship with oneself. Evidently, not enough time and attention is spent to foster it.
To construct a building, there must be a stable foundation. Likewise for a person to grow, he or she must fundamentally know him or herself. Meeting people only grants a little more than the temporary relief of isolation. With each encounter, a person gives a part of himself and in turn receives parts of those he meets. The learning of different perspectives, the sharing of ideas, and the formation of values occur naturally. This is why socializing contributes to each individual’s growth. If not enough time is spent on putting the pieces together, however, the pieces would become irretrievable. Identity of self the “I”, when drowned in a flood of relationships, dissolves into “one of them”. When the appreciation of oneself as a unique individual is lost, the feeling of insignificance that arises deepens the abyss of loneliness. Constant restoring of self prevents this, and this is why time spent alone is crucial - it keeps self identity under control. Going back to the initial analogy with hunger, meeting new people entails time to digest.
Some would argue that they spend enough time alone and yet feel lonely. They might even go to the extent of blaming this period of solitude as the cause of loneliness. Without realizing the difference between killing time and spending time with oneself, one would not be able to make good use of time spent alone. Many people endlessly scroll down the Facebook newsfeed, watch all sorts of youtube videos and dramas, and sleep like hibernating animals. Numerous hours are spent on these “activities” that are not active at all. This is not by coincidence. People submit themselves to such passive activities because they do not know what else to do. Everyone must have had an awkward experience with another person, not knowing how to react. In the 21st century, smartphones seem to be the prevalent tools with which to elude these situations - a way out. Although awkwardness is avoided, a potential friend is also lost. Similarly, if someone is not comfortable with spending time with oneself, his or her chance to make the time a meaningful one is lost. Subsequently, confidence dies and reliance on others aggravates. One would then try to meet even more people to substitute the voidness, and the vicious cycle of loneliness continues.
There are two key points to keep in mind when spending time with oneself. It should be active, and it should be fun. A general rule of thumb would be to stay away from electronics, since electronic settings are generally distracting. Both physical and mental activities are valuable, which can include but is not limited to meditating, reading, writing, and doing sports. The most important aspect is being engaged with oneself. One would easily realize that this, simply, is to “get a hobby”. Putting oneself together and enjoying the process of doing so leads to him or her becoming more self-reliant and composed. Meeting people is extremely important in life, but there must be a balance between “my life” and “others’ life”. Keeping in mind this necessity, and adding oneself to the list of best friends, one would not be as vulnerable to loneliness.