Valentine’s Day – the holiday of handwritten notes, gigantic teddy bears, and undying companionship – has arrived.
For all the single students out there, Valentine’s Day might just feel like another day of feeling alone. But in all honesty, what’s so wrong with being on your own?
Anyone who’s opted to take food from Rendezvous back to their dorm room over sitting alone at Bruin Plate can tell you that we are wired to believe being alone equates to being lonely. As author Gianluca Russo writes, films and other media have a strong tendency to portray people who are single, or simply on their own, as lonely and pitiable figures. But this shouldn’t necessarily be the case.
“Romantic love is not the only love there is,” said Cora Fahringer, a first-year environmental science studies student. “All you need is you.”
In the age of social media and its glorification of life itself, the image of a happy and carefree life seems ubiquitous – it seems as if no one is ever alone. However, in a recent survey conducted by Cigna, 46 percent of Americans reported sometimes or always feeling alone while 43 percent felt that their relationships were not meaningful.
An article published by Healthline reveals that our interaction with social media unintentionally invites social comparison, causing us to reevaluate our lives. It’s been widely acknowledged that we post the most appealing versions of ourselves on social media – watching our peers do this too much can pull on our insecurities and dissatisfaction, isolating our feelings until we convince ourselves that we are alone. Like many teenagers, first-year environmental science student Kevin Santiago, said he’s felt these social media-created pressures.
“(Social media) sets a new standard for relationships,” said Santiago. “If it isn’t like everyone else’s, it is not perfect.”
However, our loneliness affliction extends beyond social media. In an interview with Fortune Magazine, John Cacioppo, author of “Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection” and director of the University of Chicago’s Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience explained how humans are social beings programmed to interact and form bonds with one another. When we fail to make such bonds or lack a sense of connection with those around us, it is natural to feel a void, he said.
For first-year undeclared student Joycelyn Liu, Valentine’s Day epitomizes society’s fixation on avoiding being alone.
“It can be a good reminder to cherish people you love, but there is also pressure to have a date, make it a big occasion or make your relationship known,” Liu said.
By emphasizing a holiday that capitalizes on romance and external love, we devalue the “lone wolf.” But the data suggests we should be thinking otherwise: According to the United States Census Bureau’s report on Unmarried and Single Americans Week: Sept. 17-23, 2017, 45.2 percent of residents 18 and older are single. Despite a movement toward independence, societal judgment still exists.
In an article by The Globe and Mail, Olivia Laing, author of “The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone,” said, “We are obsessed with the idea of romantic coupledom as the absolute achievement. That’s how we believe our lives should run.” Anyone that deters from this idea is deemed an outcast.
It is only when we fully embrace the beauty of solitude and realize that love comes in different forms that the social stigma of being single may disappear. Rather than constantly chase down our soulmates, it’s important to strengthen our friendships and find love within ourselves first.
Valentine’s Day, regardless of relationship status, shouldn’t deter you from appreciating the most important person in your life: yourself. The first step in overcoming loneliness is not a relationship, and it’s not a new batch of followers on social media – it’s self-discovery.
“Get comfortable with your lone self before you go find someone else,” Fahringer said.