Saturday, April 16, 2016

Does the university culture spawn anti-social people?

Something I forgot to post 8 years ago....observations around friendships in university.

Yes and no.

I accidentally sent a friend I hadn't seen in over a year a text message I had meant for another friend with the same name. Embarrassed at this realization, I quickly sent the friend I had just accidentally sent a text message to another message apologizing and explaining that I had meant the message for another person. About ten seconds later, I got a call from said friend saying that she just got a message and didn't know who had sent it. Apparently, she doesn't have caller id. I guess this is a mistake I was happy to have made in the end because we ended up talking for about an hour and a half catching up but acting like no time had passed.

We talked about so many things - what we were still doing in school, topics that would have some people screaming "nerds!" such as religion, egotistical guys, the overrated bar scene but most importantly, we vented about how difficult it is to make (and keep) friends in university.

I'm sure most people have "made friends" in some form or another whether you regularly talk to the same people in your classes or have added just about every school acquaintance on your Facebook. But there's that awful word...acquaintances. I truly believe there's different levels of friendship but somehow, it seems acquaintances have slithered into friendship territory. My friend and I both noticed that the trend in school, if you're lucky enough to have a friend in your classes who isn't a high school friend, is to use the classroom friend as some sort of academic tool. You help each other with notes, bitch about the prof if the prof deserves bitching, perhaps even study together for finals but beyond that, nothing happens. No weekend plans to go out, emails are exchanged not phone numbers and even after you've spent four or even eight months sitting and talking beside the same person, you end up parting ways as if the bonds that were being made over such a lengthy time were quickly undone. Like what the hell!??

But let's back up here for a second. When the semester begins and you don't know anyone in the class, there's that anxiety that takes hold as you walk through the door and scan the room to see someone that seems worth sitting beside. Perhaps you've already taken a seat and someone decides to sit beside you. Now here's the hard part. Initiating a conversation. This isn't so hard if you happen to be in a small class that forces partner work or group discussions but when you're in a big lecture hall and have a prof that simply talks during the entire class, it's easy to stay in your own little bubble and say absolutely nothing to the people sitting beside and around you. My friend, being in the Faculty of Science, has been dealing with this for four years straight. I feel her pain because I felt the same way when I was in Sciences for a couple of years. There are labs and seminars but everyone seems too freaking competitive or anxious that responding to someone who's trying to be friendly is just simply not a priority.

Not that Arts and Science students are all that different from each other when it comes to anti-social behaviour. In both faculties, classes will inevitably get smaller as you take higher level courses. And most likely, you'll start recognizing a person here or there who've been in your previous classes. Do you acknowledge that you've been in the same class before? Unless it's a language class (and I'll get back to that in a while), most likely not. Instead, people either ignore each other or act like they've never seen each other before. But as the classes get smaller and smaller, that gets more and more awkward. Yes, I'm guilty of this but I have my reasons.

So here's a question: Why is it so hard for people to say "Hi"??? Why is it so hard to introduce yourself or initiate conversation? Why do I always find myself having to be the one to put in all the effort??? My friend and I agonized over completing this simple yet somehow horrendous task. Why?? Because people in general don't seem to be doing it! Even if you do manage to establish some sort of relationship with someone over the few months your in classes together, it rarely goes beyond the classroom.

What's even more awkward is when you see someone from one of your classes outside of your class but in such close proximity. I'll use my Italian 111 class last year as an example. Language classes are some of the easiest classes to make friends in but that's not always the case. I actually had a friend from high school in this class. When she dropped out of it two days later, I wanted to murder her but I did manage to make a friend in that class. That's besides the point, though. One of the guys in that class also happened to be part of a student group I was in. I think there were a few opportunities here and there where we could have introduced ourselves to each other but just didn't. I was waiting for him to say something but maybe he was waiting for me to do the same. Maybe I came off as a snob of sorts. Who knows? After a couple of months of no acknowledgements, I finally tried talking to this guy. I really felt like I had no choice, though. We happened to be in an elevator together and there's only so much awkwardness I can take. Another girl in my Italian class became friends with my friend but we basically never talked to each other. I guess it's that awful case of "you're friends with my friends but that doesn't make us friends". Anyway, this girl happened to take the same bus as me to school from time to time and maybe she knew it or not but she never acknowledged it or even tried talking to me. One day, I finally just asked her if she took the same route as me to school. And we got along like peas and carrots. There was this other guy in this class who almost always took the same bus as me on the way to work but I never worked up the courage to say anything...and I guess I could say the same thing about him.

Experts say that people rarely become friends with acquaintances and only stick with a small group of close friends because of time constraints and cost reasons. But doesn't our society foster such an idea? Everyone's so overworked (whether out in the real world or in school), they barely have time to meet up with friends (and if they do, schedule conflicts can become a problem) much less meet up with acquaintances to get to know them better.

No comments: