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Whether associated with education, social life, or employment, disingenuousness of people governs society today. Spotting an authentic person has become verging on impossible. But what purpose motivates and leads to this dishonesty? After years of curiosity and vigilance, I found one blatant explanation: a way to survive.

First two years of college

I became intrigued by this matter momentarily following my mustering into the Republic of Korea Army. Anybody who has experienced the life of a soldier can relate to the emotional isolation and adversity that the military atmosphere creates. In addition to the unceasing excruciating physical hardship, the sequestered lifestyle without family and intimate friends makes thinking of them one of the only paths to temporary internal comfort. Prior to completing my sophomore year of college and entering boot camp, a group of whom I believed to be close friends coordinated and gathered a couple of farewell parties, involving verbal and letters of encouragement and friendly affection, all of which summarized, “I will always remember you and keep in touch.”  Some of the most memorable and inspiring words from these events, however, created the most hurtful and stab-in-the-back scenario. Despite both the tangible and intangible regard for my safety, many of these “friends” utterly dislodged me from their lives weeks and months after I initiated a new chapter in life as a soldier. More and more friends would continue to delete me from Facebook, ignore my messages, and block any route to our communication. This series of mind-boggling incidents led to the question, “What is the purpose of this?” which I still repeatedly ask myself each day. Ultimately, how do these people benefit by being insincerely compassionate and spitting phrases they do not even mean?

Two years in the army

Once my mandatory military duty with Korea came to an end, in spite of the promise to await my return to the United States for their graduation and travel with me after, most of my friends made other plans. Thus, I had to cancel my visit to America, what I had been desperately looking forward to since the conclusion of sophomore year. I was devastated and felt betrayed, especially because I had joined the service when I did so that I could be out in time for their graduation, and seeing them again remained as my main source of motivation to persevere in the emotional desert. My father had continuously reminded me not to believe everyone else in the world thinks and acts as genuinely as I do, and this concept came to light throughout the two years of treachery.

I returned to Emory College of Arts and Sciences in August 2012 to finish my college requirements and earn my bachelor’s degree. Unsurprisingly, those who had uninstalled me from their lives for two years became the brightest and “sincerest” individuals once again, which I then figured must have been an act. I continued to notice the same trait from new people I met, as they greeted and treated me as a close friend when seen by others while completely disregarding me when not. This answered the ongoing riddle; these people were behaving this way to survive in their environment. When surrounded by others, they feel obliged to be kind, because they want to be perceived as positive and polite in this superficial society. Although this route to survival is destined to failure, through years of firsthand experience, I understand why people choose this road and hide their true personalities. Just as chameleons camouflage and spiders play dead to survive, being disingenuously benevolent leads people to “greater” opportunities in life.