Marissa Korda has spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to be lonely. The creator of The Loneliness Project — billed as “a digital space to cultivate compassion” — Korda has received over a thousand stories from around the world about the experience of loneliness.
It all started as a passion project at her day job as a Toronto-based graphic designer, sparked by an interest in empathy-building.
“Empathy and compassion are things that I’ve been thinking about a lot in the past year-and-a-half, two years, as I feel like I’ve been seeing news and a state of affairs in the world that I think does not promote empathy, compassion, [or] kindness — and I think those are values as a society that we don’t really promote as much as we should,” says Korda.
After thinking about how she could make a difference, she came up with An Imperfect Archive of Us — a project focused on telling stories about the less-glorified elements of the human experience — and started with loneliness.
“Loneliness is something that everybody at some point in their lives has experienced,” she says. “Everybody has context for it; they know what it feels like and how terrible it can be at times. Because loneliness is a very common experience, it’s a way to […] connect people in a really effective way through stories.”
“To me, loneliness is universal […] I’ve read over a thousand stories from different people, and so I’m trying to think of an answer that represents all of those people’s stories. And because they’re so diverse, I can’t — but at the same time, they are very, very similar.” – Marissa Korda
Korda began by soliciting stories from her family and friends, branching out into her online network in search of willing participants.
“I was like, ‘Hello, I’m either your Facebook friend or a random lady with a Google Form. I would love for you to tell me some really personal things about your life. Go!’” she laughs. “And people did, which is the most amazing thing. I was shocked that I got almost 100 stories before the site even existed.”
Through her website and social media, she has created an online community of sorts, catching the interest of Buzzfeed, CBC News, The Walrus, and the Toronto Star. Stories have come in from 60 countries around the world and counting. Through the process — which began in May of 2017 — Korda has gained a unique insight into how loneliness is experienced by young and old alike.
“It just made me realize how universal the stories are. They’re not different. The stories that I get from China are the same as the stories from Canada,” she says. “They’re very, very similar, the things that people feel they’re missing in their lives.”
Where once she might have felt resentment for the feeling, Korda has gained an acceptance for loneliness, too:
“It’s not anything abnormal; it’s just part of what it means to be human. It’s okay.”