As K-pop grows in popularity, people all over the world are becoming united through a common musical front. But this increase in recognition calls to mind a time before K-pop was gaining worldwide interest, a time before it was easy to find another person (either through the internet or face-to-face) who listened to the same music as you. These were the times when a new music video came out and you didn’t automatically have someone to run to and fangirl with. The times when you were telling only yourself — not 500 followers — to stream music for points. And finally, these were the times when the friends who visited your house didn’t understand the posters on your wall.
K-pop was lonely. And sometimes, it can still feel lonely.
While the musical world can bloom with new friendships and connections, it can also be a very isolating place. Anything from race to location can be used as an isolating factor, and quite frankly, it’s saddening. The fans in the music community are supposed to have each others’ backs, and when one fan begins to feel separated from the rest, it can take a toll on their happiness and self-esteem. Questions like “Why don’t I fit in?” and “Am I not welcome here?” float around in the mind the same way they did when everyone was transitioning through their awkward middle school phases. Except now many are struggling to continue feel included in a cluster that is already exceptionally difficult to join.
Start with race. There is no question, slander against all races is a prevalent issue in the K-pop community. It has been largely targeted toward Black culture, but in order to not further the divide between fans, the issue is going to be dealt with inclusively with all races (currently, anyways). Blackface among Korean idols is a slap of disrespect to Black culture and creates a cultural isolation that only serves to sadden a group of fans. On the fans’ side, taking to Twitter and making statements like “This group doesn’t like Mexican people” or “______ just cancelled white people” generates the same effect and separates a whole culture from an assembly that is supposed to be all-inclusive.
Another severely debilitating cause of loneliness is location, location, location. Where you live, whether it is the postal code, country or continent, location can mean you’re either at the hot spot of every concert or you will never see your idol live. Sometimes, being in a certain location can result in having no K-pop familiar friends in the area, or not being able to have merchandise delivered to your area. No matter the distance, it can still be frustratingly difficult to have miles be the difference between isolation and inclusion.
The reason why all of these can be so emotionally crippling is because they’re not always easy to change. Racial issues can take years to overcome and location does not change overnight.
My advice to you comes from the heart of someone who has been there and knows what it feels like to share a common interest with thousands of other people and still feel as lonely as ever. Reach out. Do not ever be afraid to reach out. If you have social media accounts, then don’t be afraid to try and make friends (responsibly) with people who listen to K-pop. Emotional isolation from a friend or group can trigger negative feelings and thoughts, so it’s better to try and reach out than to feel like you have to suffer alone.
If you know of any groups or open-minded friends that are near you, try showing them a video or have them listen to a song to see if it sparks their interest! If it doesn’t work, that does not mean you have to stop talking about it. Many people assume that because nobody around them shares their favorite pastimes they have to stop talking about it — but that is not true. You don’t have to STOP being interested just because they didn’t BECOME interested. Who knows, maybe your interest will rub off on them one day and you won’t feel quite as isolated anymore.