In Western cultures, it is very common for day-to-day activities to be done alone.  Living in an individualist culture, most of what is done is often done independently.  Though human beings are social creatures, with the rise of social media and digital communication, is it possible that our culture is becoming lonelier than ever? 

Many have stated that Vancouver is one of Canada’s loneliest cities. The YouTube channel, Discover Connectioncreated a video in which they asked Vancouverites if they believed that Vancouver is a lonely city.  The common answer was, “Yes.” Although Canada is known as a very friendly country, some Canadians have labeled Vancouver and the people living here, as cold and rude – not making eye-contact or smiling while passing each other on the streets and not being friendly enough to be able to approach.  It is also common for those born in the Eastern part of Canada to visit the city and find the people here very different. Vancouver culture is a prime example of an individualistic culture. We pursue our own agenda in the cafes, on the busses, and in other public places with our eyes on our devices, missing the opportunities for connections.

Grade 12 student at Riverside Secondary, Gianfranco Borrelli, agrees with the conclusion of the poll in the video. “I grew up going to Vancouver, and now that I’m old enough and have visited it more, I have noticed how unfriendly the city is,” said Borrelli.  “I could imagine someone coming from a different country and feeling really alone if they don’t know anyone here.” Though Vancouver is known for its beauty, for some, that means little with the lack of connection people have, the lack of a sense of community. 

Riverside Marketing and Entrepreneurship teacher, Mr. Richard Rothenberger, contributed his thoughts to the issue.  “I really started to notice how cold Vancouver was for people outside of town when I went to Kelowna.  I saw first-hand what it’s like to try and make friends here; it was difficult,” said Rothenberger, regarding his own experience. Moving to Vancouver at nine, he had grown up here and began to compare it more as soon as he visited other places. 

In many other cultures, such as in Asia, South America and Africa, collectivist traits are more prominent than individualistic ones. In many of these cultures, there exists inter-generational living, households in which three or more generations live together.  Such conditions when families are brought very close together results in people growing up less lonely. What differs from our individualistic society, is that people living in these collectivistic cultures tend to value selflessness, family, and working as a group more than those living in Western cultures, where the values tend to be more career-driven; people focus on economic prosperity often to the detriment of cultivating personal connections.   

What can also contribute to the “loneliness epidemic” of today is the rise of social media.  Those born in later generations – millennials and everyone born after, have grown up in an age of technology.  Many depend on texting instead of talking face-to-face.  It is so easy to scroll on social media for hours, filling your head with mindless information, is not considered out of the ordinary.  Group hangouts online and sending others videos on Instagram and Snapchat are considered by some as less boring than family dinners. While “phones as better entertainers” may be true, such digital interactions can also be full of false comparisons and online bullying. 

Though social media was created to share, many have noticed the amount of distance in which today’s generation holds from one-another.  Although, there are many positive outcomes of social media, such as long-distance communication.  

Does loneliness come down to the individual or the culture in which they are living in If our culture is lonely now, how lonely will it be in a decade when technology is even more integrated into our lives. So next time you’re in Starbucks, look up from your device and say hello to another, real, human being.

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