The Daily Illini

Technology makes finding college friends difficult

By Ellen Barczak, Columnist

Young adults everywhere have left home to attend universities for decades. Whether it’s 2018 or 1818, leaving your family, friends and hometown is daunting.

Most young people, including myself, dislike hearing older generations complain about how things “aren’t how they used to be.” Sometimes these lamentations are the result of stubborn resistance to change; however, in other cases, they are justified.

My parents told me more times than I can count that college isn’t like it used to be. People don’t seem quite as open to making new friends as they were in my parents’ stories.

In their days, people kept their dorm doors open, only occasionally called an old friend from high school and knew the only way to socialize was to leave their rooms.

Today, people keep their doors shut. I’ve lived in two residence halls, visited more than five and have yet to find a floor where residents keep their doors open and, by extension, keep themselves available to new friends and interactions.

I think there is an explanation for this shift in behavior, and it has everything to do with cellphones and social media. It is so easy to cling to familiar high school hometown relationships instead of putting yourself out there to make new connections.

There’s nothing wrong with staying friends with people from past chapters of your life. The problem arises, however, when the ability to digitally cling to only those relationships stunts your social growth.

Nobody likes being uncomfortable, and getting to know potential friends can sometimes be nothing but that. The cons of being closed off to new social interactions, however, vastly outweigh the pros.  If, as a freshman, I FaceTimed my best friend from high school every night, I would have sacrificed time with new friends who have contributed to my growth as a person.

I’m sure you’ve heard the cliche, “get comfortable with being uncomfortable” a million times, especially after entering college. The thing about cliches, though, is they’re overused because they’re true. They represent wisdom that has endured generations.

Our college experiences will never be that of our parents and grandparents. However, you are in control of how open you are, not only to new experiences, but also to new relationships. Clinging to the familiar and easy has never gotten anybody anywhere.

So keep your door open. Say “hi” to your neighbor. Sit next to someone you don’t know in lecture and introduce yourself. There is no such thing as too many friends, and everybody appreciates a friendly person. Why shouldn’t you be the one to start things off?

Ellen is a sophomore in LAS.

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