While trying to understand loneliness as a societal phenomenon, the nature of society in today’s day and age has to be considered. The fast pace at which things move tend to make us desire the capability to fend for ourselves and emerge as successful. Cultural differences in the way we perceive society and their evolution with time are definitely linked to globalization. Western influences pervade the Indian context for today’s millennials. The way western society is structured allows people to fend for themselves and function autonomously. This philosophy that guides  western ideology is known as individualism. 

As individualism pervades eastern society, the nature of society changes To make individuals desire autonomy in their actions. This could possibly correlate to people wanting to be by themselves, turning lonely in the process. Eastern society is characterized by a collecTivistic point of view, where the community or in group of an individual are considered as most important. The greater good is often looked at in this case. With the forces of globalization underway with fever pace, it is but natural that there has been a slight assimilation of these ideologies in the east. 

The constructs of individualism and collectivism have been discussed in both eastern and western literature. However, it was Hofstede who posited how they can be used to understand cultural differences. Along with his associates, he tinkered away to understand these constructs through the notions of culture, ideologies and patterns of thinking. It was found that highly urbanized societies were characterized by their penchant for individualism. The ties between individuals were loose, and one was expected to care for their own families. Rural societies were characterized by tha is intense bonds of kinship, calling for more collectivistic patterns of living. According to this construct, members of an in group are indebted to help one another by a pact of collective loyalty. The greater good is often the moral stand in these cultures. 

Let’s understand these constructs in a simpler manner.

Individualism

  • One’s own autonomy and the well being of an immediate family becomes important.
  • Independence and autonomy are encouraged.
  • Being dependent upon others is sometimes regarded as an embarrassment.
  • People tend to be more independent.
  • The rights of individuals tend to take a higher precedence than that of a large group.
  • People think that standing out as unique is important.

Collectivism

  • Collective rights of a community are seen as valued.
  • The greater good of an ingroup is looked at.
  • Kimship dictates that people of an ingroup must assis one another.
  • Direct confrontation is often avoided.
  • People tend to be more rooted within their communities and live in sync with them.

The pervasiveness that Western media has in the eastern context affects the way contexts like our Indian one think. Maybe our thirst to absorb individualism has led us to believe that loneliness and me time is the best way to go about things. When we’re able to strike a balance between the two ideologies, the quandary disappears. When we look at culture as a set of practices or behaviors, it become clear that all cultures will have their high and low points. Looking at culture objectively and taking the best from what we find can help us live more complete lives. Culture is a label. When we look beyond it to see behaviors and how we evaluate them, we can understand what kind of environments suit us best. You may want some me time or the liberty to do something sutonomously, but your job might need you to work collectively. In this case, figure out how to elicit the best from a collectivistic ideology. This might make you want to change your mind about doing things alone.

Let’s take a little minute to just think about loneliness and being alone. Loneliness is a state of mind. It’s when you think that there is no one that understands you or that wants to hear you out. This leads us to feel the emotion of sadness. Being alone is a state of being, when there is no one around you. When you are alone, take it as a way to figure yourself out rather than immerse yourself in loneliness and sadness. When you feel lonely, think of the people close to you, and try to understand that talking to them might help you feel better about the emotions you are facing.

An undergraduate in Psychology, Shantanu is an aspiring Educational Psychologist who will be pursuing his Master’s in 2018 at the Ohio State University. He is adept with psychometric and statistical research, and has honed his grasp over psychology through a 4 year undergraduate course in Liberal Education at FLAME University, Pune.