Friendship, for most of my life, has been a word packed with conflicting emotions and unwelcome baggage. In second grade, as a quiet, slightly chubby and bookish kid, I didn’t have many friends. But things got much worse when I moved to the city and began elementary school all over again. Making friends admittedly takes time, but months passed and I hadn’t a single friend. I was designated the “uncool” kid of my new second grade class.

Let me tell you a story about a disease straight out of Stephen King’s darkest novels. Once you’re infected, there’s a high chance you’re doomed. But you won’t know it for a while. Instead, for eight to 10 days you’ll seem normal, talking to your friends, doing your homework, eating, sleeping and procrastinating. The usual. Even as the signs begin to show, you won’t know what it is. The dull thump of a headache and the mild warmth of a fever will tell you you’ve got the common cold. “I’m not feeling too well today,” you might say to your roommate. “I think I’ll sleep in a bit tomorrow.”

Last Sunday, the six a cappella groups of Amherst College combined their collective energies and talents to put on the first showcase of the year. The first-year a cappella showcase in Johnson Chapel was intended to give the entering class of 2018 a taste of a cappella at Amherst and what each group had to offer. From hip hop to R&B and jazz to contemporary, the variety of the performances presented both familiar sounds and bold departures from the norm.

Both within the “Amherst bubble” and beyond, loneliness has become a taboo word. No one wants to talk about it, let alone admit that they themselves are — gasp! — lonely. But silence only breeds ignorance, and ignorance gives rise to misinformation, fear and exaggeration. Claims that we’re now suffering from “unprecedented alienation” and that as time passes, we have “less and less society” — from a viral 2012 story in The Atlantic that spawned both outraged criticism and enthusiastic consensus — abound. So do links between loneliness and premature death, arthritis and heart disease.