Point/Counterpoint: What's the ideal social comfort zone for college students?

By Leah Pearlman

Despite what we all looked forward to for 18 years, college is not always an endless parade of fun scored by a montage of pop singles.

It is, of course, a chance at living with complete freedom that lots of us only dreamed about during high school. We may stay up as late as we want, go out whenever we choose and be whoever we want to be. With this freedom comes a high price, one that a lot of college freshman are not prepared to have to pay: loneliness.

When I arrived on campus, I felt prepared for everything, from homesickness to bad dining food. But the part about college that really took me by surprise was how lonely it feels once your schedule starts to become more regular.

After the exciting beginning phase of college, when everyone is out all the time, college begins to feel stagnant. So, even after making an effort to go out, meeting people in your dorm, joining clubs or even a Greek organization, some students may start to feel alone. And, unlike the classic college conundrums that we all prepared for, many students feel powerless against isolation.

Sitting in your bed at the end of the day with no one to talk to just plain sucks, and what’s worse, is there are only seven seasons of “Parks and Recreation” on Netflix.

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Sadly, what many students fail to realize is that they are not the only ones feeling this way.

This may be hard to believe because of the highlight reels that people post to their Facebook and Instagram feeds, but these feeds aren’t direct passageways into a person’s real life. While you may be in your room scrolling through your friends’ Facebook pictures, there are days where they are the ones in their rooms alone too. We all feel alone sometimes.

Many college students feel the need to constantly surround ourselves with friends, as a way of seeking approval. We may jump into relationships, seek attention in unhealthy ways or hold onto toxic people just because somehow being alone seems so much worse.

But, feeling lonely is natural and shouldn’t be looked at as a negative thing. Some people may realize they feel alone and see it as a problem that needs to be solved right away; however, feeling alone is actually an important emotion that college students should learn to handle now.

For the post-college future, students should learn to live a life where they do not need constant interaction. Finding happiness while being alone gives people the opportunity to discover themselves. It takes space and time to grow confident and become independent.

It isn’t good to let your happiness rely on the contact of other people. This doesn’t mean we should avoid people who make us happy; however, finding happiness on your own makes relationships with others more positive and meaningful. As “Sex and the City” character Carrie Bradshaw once said, “Don’t forget to fall in love with yourself first.”

Those are wise words to live by and take to heart here at the University. Looking forward to the rest of our lives as people who will not always have the company of others, we should learn to be happy on our own.

Leah is a freshman in [email protected]

Counterpoint: Take advantage of college’s unique social atmosphere

By Jason Schwartz

Everyone has varying degrees of free time in college, but students will likely never have more time to hang out with friends than right now. Not only do you have so much free time, but most of your friends on campus are no more than a mile away.

Taking time to yourself isn’t altogether bad, and you shouldn’t be embarrassed to spend a moment alone. But, students must take advantage of being able to spend so much time with their friends. As a senior, I savor every free moment I have by watching a game with the guys in my house or even playing FIFA if I’m feeling competitive. Whatever the activity, hanging with friends is not something to be taken for granted.

Earlier this semester, I wrote a column about my last year on campus, and the regrets some seniors have looking back on their college careers. If I interviewed every senior on this campus, I would be hard-pressed to find one that would say they regretted not spending more time alone.

It can be stressful to make plans all the time, but it is worth it because that is what you will remember from your college days. Not season three, episode two of “Breaking Bad,” or looking at YouTube videos all night, but going out to eat in downtown Champaign with all of your friends and winning an intramural championship with the guys in your pledge class.

Hanging out in your room by yourself is relaxing, and even necessary at times to unwind, but I can’t recall the last time something memorable happened while I was doing so. College is a time to make memories that will last a lifetime, and it’s hard to do that when you’re binge watching “Entourage” for eight straight hours. So hang out with your friends as much as possible. That doesn’t have to mean going to the bars all the time either; it is possible to unwind while with friends.

And, just because you want to hang out with friends all the time doesn’t mean you’re incapable of being independent. It’s many students’ first time living on their own, which forces them to be independent. Having friends along for the ride just adds to that experience.

My counterpart here argues that relationships and self-esteem grow when spending time secluded from the world. I would have to disagree and actually believe the opposite to be true. Being introverted allows you to hide from the world and be in your safe space. College is about getting out of your safe zone and learning more about yourself by putting yourself out there.

I’ve never become better friends with someone while not hanging out with them. It is better for our relationships, as well as personal growth, to put ourselves in as many diverse social situations as possible.

When you graduate, your friends from school will scatter throughout the country in pursuit of their career goals, and there is no telling when you will all be together again. So take advantage of the time you have here with your friends, because chances are they will never again be so close.

Jason is a senior in LAS.

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