Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The fake and forced nature of social interaction in college

Redundant social script makes it hard to find friends
Shilpa Sweth

At the University of Massachusetts, the student population of 30,000 can be seen as a way to broaden your horizons, meet new people and hold enlightening conversations. Although this may be someone’s first thought as they enter UMass, it is usually not the case for a majority of initial interactions.

In my experience, introductory conversations with students around campus often follow a very similar social script. They usually start by introducing themselves with their name and — in almost all cases — follow with the question of “what’s your major?” or “where are you living?”

While this script is often necessary to understand the relative nature of a person’s place at UMass, it does not help give the right insight into who you are. It also certainly does not give them enough information to predict if this is someone they could see themselves becoming friends with.

These interactions occur so often it becomes redundant, which may ultimately discourage someone from continuing to socialize with people around campus. It especially affects freshmen who are still searching for people they can call friends.

Move-in weekend is usually a great time to meet new people who are living in the same building or floor. I’m living in a dorm this year and decided to knock on doors to get to know the people on my floor and see if any of them wanted to hang out.

While many people were friendly and willing to tell me their name, most of the conversations did not go beyond those facts. I noticed the majority of the people asked “are you going out tonight?” which speaks to the party culture at UMass, often stereotyped as being centered around the Southwest Residential Area.

I can attest to the fact that some UMass students are looking for “party” friends. Often, these surface-level relationships are only active Thursday through Saturday nights, offering no interaction or even any interest in the other person except for when drinking and partying.

I believe this type of friendship works for some people or for short periods of time, but it certainly does not grant the person a meaningful long-term friendship.

This dynamic invades a great majority of freshman classes, which ultimately causes students to struggle even more in the following years when searching for a genuine friend group. And when students live off-campus, it is much harder to keep these casual relationships because they must make an extra effort to see them.

A way to remedy the nature of social interactions at UMass is by joining an activity group that you have interest in. This is one way to move past the awkward and fake social script because there is already one factor in common. I did this by joining the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, which helped me converse with others in a more intellectual way as well as strengthening my previous friendships through joining the club together.

Taking classes with people who are in your major is also a great way to break through the redundancy of typical conversation. Common interests aren’t everything in a good friendship, but they allow people to break the ice.

Finding the right people at UMass might take some time, and you will likely have to sift through a hundred bad people just to find one good one.

In my experience, you often meet your friends at the most unexpected of times. I made a new friend this semester because we were riding in the same elevator together and we just started talking.

The forced social interactions on campus can be pretty discouraging, but it doesn’t mean you’ll never make friends. It just means that staying true to yourself and surrounding yourself with people who you actually like is even more important.

Julia Bragg can be reached at [email protected].

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