The Orb of Loneliness

I put my earphones in, shoved my phone in my pocket, and swung miserably through the doors of my dorm building into the chilly outdoors. It felt early, I was tired, and I didn’t want to go to class. I walked down the stone steps, the music making my average walk feel exaggerated, lonesome, and depressing. I passed a few other people in their own musical worlds, staring at their iPhones without acknowledging my presence. A rare few were walking hand-in-hand with a romantic partner, and I quickly avoided looking at their smiles and loving glances towards one another. Instead I took my phone out of my pocket and pretended to text imaginary people. As soon as I entered the cafeteria, the warm relief felt artificial. Each table held one or two students, each intent on their computer screen, frantically completing last minute homework while drinking coffee and shoveling in a bland breakfast, their phones never more than a few feet away. I took my own place and did the same. All of these people, I thought, all my age, all in this same room on this same campus so close to each other, but all so very alone. I tried to concentrate on my homework that I had unwisely decided to save until an hour before class, but my gaze continuously was pulled from my paper on a book I hadn’t finished reading to the people around me, who didn’t seem to be giving me a second glance.

This, I now know, is loneliness. It’s why the loneliest people can be found in cities full of millions. It’s why human-less nature can fulfill the most socially deprived soul. And I sure didn’t expect to go to college to become lonely. To feel like a little orb floating around campus, hoping to bump into other orbs, but instead repelled away, forced to stay within the confines of my own space and my own mind and thoughts. I watched friend groups form and tighten. And I tried, somewhat, to join them as well. But my feeling of aloneness didn’t go away, it only increased until I felt pressed into myself from all sides, giving my shrinking orb no chance at all to make contact with anyone else.

One of the most difficult facts to accept is that many of us isolate ourselves when we try to stay connected over social media. No one is going to approach someone glued to a screen. Facebook and Instagram make us feel inferior because we don’t seem as happy as the huge groups of friends we see in other people’s smiling pictures. And we miss so much when we’re staring at a phone instead of paying attention to what is happening around us. I’ve hung out with people who spend more time conversing with people on their phone than they spend talking to the people next to them. As rude as it feels, when others are on their phones, we tend to pick up ours as well, so we seem as intrigued by what is happening in our virtual lives as everyone else.

I hope to surround myself with people who enjoy the presence of real people and are willing to put their phones down to truly enjoy life in a world bigger than a few inches. There is something about relationships that can’t be replaced through snapchats and texts. The simple acts of listening to a voice whispering softly next to you, holding hands gently and contently, sitting close enough to feel contact from another human, running your hands through someone’s hair, untouched by filters. A picture on a screen can’t substitute for any of this. Because what we should be living for is the ability to connect to imperfect people in a natural light that can’t be captured in a snapchat.