OPINION: The importance of socializing meaningfully

Two characters have a friendly conversation, with pink and blue speech bubbles overlapping.
(Gerrit Punt • The Student Life)

Navigating college social life is no easy feat. When I first arrived in Claremont, I was overwhelmed by the many changes happening in my life. My family and high school friends — my support systems — weren’t there for me to lean on. I was facing intense academic pressure trying to adjust from the lighter workload at my public high school to the demanding Claremont McKenna College curriculum. There was pressure to go out to a ton of parties, make friends and get involved in the social scene, which led me and some of my peers to form large cliques and friend groups very early on.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a friend group. It can be a lovely thing that gives people a sense of belonging and acts as a chosen family. But it also has its dangers. For example, with every friend group comes the possibility of exclusion — or the lack of close interpersonal relationships within the group. Friend groups can also make someone overly reliant on their clique, so they don’t try to talk to new people.

I want to be clear that I am not attacking the concept of friend groups. I myself enjoy being a part of different social circles and love spending time in group settings. These experiences are always fun, and I love the different perspectives each group member brings to the table. I treasure dinners where we talk about our hometowns and how some of my friends went ice skating while others were at the beach. Some friends listened to California indie music while others loved Chicago house music. We get into long conversations about slang words — such as “soda” or “pop” and “wicked” instead of “cool.” 

I’m not telling you to abandon your friend group; I’m instead arguing for you to be conscious of your behavior both within and outside your clique. Do you feel personally close to individuals within your group? Have you made an effort to get to know them on a more personal level outside of group settings? If the answer to these questions is no, then consider reaching out to them and spending quality personal time with them. 

In addition, do you feel close to individuals outside your friend group? Try to go outside your comfort zone and befriend someone who isn’t in your typical social circle. It can be rewarding and help you gain social confidence — and set you on a path towards even more meaningful socialization.

For example, a lot of people form friendships through sports teams, living in the same area as certain people or going on orientation trips together. These are all great ways to bond over shared experiences. However, many of these circles form simply as a security blanket and  don’t involve branching out to interact with new people. 

As sophomore and junior years come, these friend groups break into smaller ones or, sometimes, dissolve all together. People start to form friendships that aren’t just situational. The initial large pack gets replaced by a variety of individual friendships.

I know from experience that I’m still really close with my friends from when I first got to college. We still will grab meals together, hang out in one of our dorms or go to parties. But, now we don’t do every little thing together. It is different from when we all constantly hung out in large numbers. While this change first felt jarring, it’s been a good thing overall. It’s allowed us to develop our own social skills and introduce each other to new people. 

I also think that forming new one-on-one friendships is a great way to combat exclusion. When we focus on individual relationships, there’s less room for exclusion from parties and hangouts and more room for personal growth and feeling connected to someone else. While spending time with someone you don’t know well can feel awkward and scary, it’s important to push through those barriers.

This process of meaningful socialization has led to amazing conversations and friendships that feel genuine. Since I started to prioritize connecting deeply to my existing friends and pushed myself to go out of my main group, I’ve felt more socially fulfilled and connected to the 5C community. 

I urge younger students to treat college socializing as a chance to seek meaningful relationships. Don’t be passive and not connect to the people around you. It isn’t high school anymore. We are all just trying to figure out who we are, what interests us and, hopefully, what we want to do with our lives. Push yourself out of sticking to your friend group, and take the initiative to make new friends as well and connect deeper with the ones you have. Ask people out to meals, text first and don’t be afraid to talk to someone you don’t already know. 

Anna Tolkien CM ’24 is a literature and film dual major. She loves her pugs, creative writing and iced coffee.

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