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Loneliness shouldn’t be the reason great people don’t do great things
Waterloo is where loneliness meets the brightest people.
The University of Waterloo is the school for entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation. But it’s also so hard to find friends, let alone a community that fosters entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation. And this isn’t because people here are just simply anti-social, it is just what’s been modelled to us - we become normalised to it - co-op terms away, high workloads to achieve higher grades, what it takes to get a high paying job, etc.
Let’s normalise loneliness. No, not normalising actually being lonely, it sucks. But admitting that solitude is sometimes…just loneliness. And no not being single as your relationship status, but like actually lacking a network of people you feel comfortable with. We may not even realise it’s a problem, or that it’s hindering us. The actual feeling of loneliness may be so normalised to us that we assume it’s the system of growing into adulthood and we must succumb to this game of Darwinism to ensure our egos do not get hurt in the process. We try to enjoy alone time, harden ourselves, and embrace individualism. Essentially, we develop a coping mechanism by holding on to the ultimate fragile belief of “I’m fine” – until we’re not.
The stats exist for this silent epidemic of loneliness. It’s been reported that ¼ people aged 15 to 24 in Canada report feeling lonely often, if not always (Government of Canada, 2022).
The debate of collectivism versus individualism is one we see across many fields of academia. The west versus the east. Ultimately, it does not take a comparison of these two to recognize that the community aspect of collectivism fosters empathy and support. Community brings us closer to people with shared values, beliefs and ideas. It’s the sense of belonging that we’re all yearning for – the “I found my people”.
Lack of motivation
Let’s drop the “I can do anything on my own” (and I’m sure you can) mindset for a second and be honest - if you aren’t surrounded by people with a similar mindset and interest as you, how deep are you actually going to explore your interests.
If you aren’t surrounded by people who like watching football (soccer), you’ll find it easier to miss a bunch of WorldCup games.
If you aren’t surrounded by people who like playing sports, you’re less likely to attend all your intramurals.
If you aren’t surrounded by studious people, you’re probably not going to study as much.
Ultimately, if you aren’t surrounded by people who like to create, you’re less likely to create.
The lack of ability to connect and develop ideas with others can lead to underdeveloped ideas, creations and skill sets. We motivate ourselves by motivating each other. We bounce ideas off one another. We learn new skills from one another. We gain feedback from our circles. We trust in that feedback. The first step to building anything is to believe that people care, and it truly helps if your circle is the first to say - I care.
What is extra lonely about Waterloo?
It’s not enough to be around people that look and act like you – you also need a shared common interest and time to discover it. The pace of the education experience and the competitive environment it occurs in does not allow the time and space to discover and share. At least not easily.
While sharing this observation with fellow students, comments were collected that illustrate the point “in their words.”
“Coming from high school, it’s easy to feel like an outcast if you don’t look or act like everyone else in that small community. So coming to university, I was excited to find my people and join communities thanks to the diversity on campus. But I soon realised, it’s not as easy as I thought it would be.” - 4th year science
“I’ve made friends but I often feel like I am over-conforming to their personality, it’s been hard to find people with common interests. I feel like I’m networking.” - 1st year math
“I just feel like I struggle connecting with the people around me.” - 4th year engineering
“I look around in my large lecture halls and everyone appears to be sitting alone. Class ends, they leave. No one is looking to socialise. I always wonder, is school all they do? What are their hobbies? Is there any way I could ever find common ground with them?” - 3rd year computer science
Bright people also need communities. And loneliness shouldn’t be the reason great people don’t do great things. So right here in Waterloo, let’s build.
At Eigenspace we are keenly aware of the long term effects of loneliness on entrepreneurs and alumni. We believe by building up and supporting things that combat the isolation people feel and connecting with like minded people, we can greatly increase the chances of finding success.
One of those things is the Socratica group. They gather weekly, work on ideas, and then share those ideas with one another. Eigenspace is a proud supporter of the students behind this organisation.
“I came to Socratica for the first time and I wanted to just give up on my project but knowing I told everyone about it I felt like I had to finish it …I drove home, got my keyboard, came back and got some progress in and demoed it. And I am so happy I did, I got so much feedback.” - 2nd year engineering
Our co-op terms and other events are designed to compliment this desire by builders to connect and find those interested in products, venture capital, and entrepreneurship. We inject Alumni stories to both inspire and amplify the work people are doing as well as create connections between those that are familiar with the loneliness of campus but also treasure the long term connections they made on campus.
Building community and networks between students and alumni will combat loneliness, enhance opportunities for lifelong success, and create lasting connections.
Government of Canada. (2022, January 26). You are not alone. Statistics Canada. Retrieved December 7, 2022, from https://www.statcan.gc.ca/o1/en/plus/274-you-are-not-alone