Growing up means that you have fewer excuses to avoid various social situations. As a socially awkward person, this means I constantly find myself overthinking a multitude of simple social interactions. Is it just me, or is this whole “communicating with people” thing kind of stressful? Emailing teachers How casual is too casual? How formal…
It was a warm, lazy afternoon, and the BBQ was going splendidly. We joked about the strange antics of our parents, and then one person blurted out, “My mom is really good at dressing up like Dwight!” Bursts of laughter ensued, and I joined along even as I groaned inwardly. I knew what would happen next. I reached for a pita chip, took a hefty dollop of hummus and leaned back in my chair, physically removing myself from the conversation. It happened. And it lasted for a good ten minutes.
It was past midnight as I sat with a friend at the 24-hour Fed-Ex/Kinko’s, sharing a King Size Kit-Kat bar. We reminisced, as seniors are wont to do, about how we met. “Let’s see. I used to talk to [insert name of mutual friend] all the time because he was a really good listener. So I kept dropping by his room, we became friends, then I guess I met you through him.”
A week ago, I had an experience that raised fresh questions for me about the digitally interconnected nature of the Stanford campus. One of my classes required some collaboration for a group project, and the night before an assignment was due, one of my peers proposed that we all meet to discuss logistics — but via Gchat, not in person.
It was one of those spur-of-the-moment decisions. I had to get to the fourth floor of Sweet Hall where I was late for a meeting. But did I want to stumble into the room gasping for breath? I’m no marathon-runner, but I knew that if I ran up three flights of stairs right before a meeting, I wouldn’t make a good impression. There was only one other choice.
…As I approached, I glanced at them and realized that I did know them. I knew quite a bit about them. No, we hadn’t been introduced before. Yes, we had mutual friends. But the ultimate source of my knowledge was Facebook.
Yes, the UGRES_RCFS list is really old news. It was a popular topic for discussion through Monday, at most. Since then we’ve moved on, mostly to the Hitler parody video about the list, but moved on nonetheless. Still, take a moment to return, if you will, to that memorable chunk of time on Sunday evening.
To what extent is college cliquey? In the best of worlds, I think we’d all like to believe that it isn’t. We’d rather ignore the strange pull that the group mentality can have over our social lives, influencing us to linger in surface-level conversation and to puzzle over the dynamics that exist between our different sets of friends. I know that, from a personal standpoint, I first arrived on campus sighing in relief to be free of the social hordes that had characterized my high-school days. I anticipated college as the kind of place that would enable me to mingle with more different types of people, but on my own terms.