Spontaneous conversations spark greater personal relationships

Mental masturbation is a term that sounds incredibly suggestive and offensive. Trust me; it’s not as bad as it sounds. I’m willing to bet that it is something that every college student has done or will do before his or her time is finished at this University. It’s not particularly stimulating or engaging, but you feel good about yourself afterward.

This is not a term that I came up with. To be honest, I first heard of it through the Internet. A simple Google search will bring up a definition from Urban Dictionary that defines mental masturbation as, “the act of engaging in intelligent and interesting conversation purely for the enjoyment of your own greatness and individuality.”

I have no idea how the term came to be, but what’s important is how you do it. This part comes easily because it just involves you and a friend or two. Let me give you an example: During my sophomore year of college, I stayed at Illini Tower on the 2nd floor, and I met some of the best people that I know. Part of the reason I feel so close to them is because of these in-depth and engaging conversations about anything.

One night, we stayed up until 3 a.m. discussing a strategy if a zombie apocalypse were to occur. We had everything planned down to the smallest details. We talked about transportation, communication, food, weapons and medicine. If the zombie apocalypse happened the next day, we were ready with a plan. And for the record, everyone should have a zombie plan because you never know when World War Z will occur.

Obviously, not everyone is going to discuss zombies with friends. These topics are not productive and are usually out of our control. Genetic engineering, revamping the education system and fixing the economy are just a few other examples of topics that we discuss but aren’t qualified to do so.

The point is, though, that we grew closer as friends because of that discussion. Did talking about zombies get anything accomplished for our school work? Nope. I didn’t do any homework that evening. But I was so engaged in a conversation that was so interesting. It felt good to talk about zombies with people and most importantly, I felt like I was forming a close bond with them. That night, we all did mental masturbation.

Through these conversations and discussions, I feel like I have been able to get to know my friends on a deeper level. When I met them, the surface conversations happened first. Surface conversations include your major, hometown, favorite color, etc. These conversations are going to happen and you can probably learn some interesting facts about your friends in that way. But discussions about zombies can really bring out who a person is. Instead of directly asking them questions about themselves, I learned who they are by discussing a third party topic.

I’m willing to bet that almost every college student has done this in his or her life, or at least with his or her friends. But if you are one of the few that has not done this, do it. There is a saying that goes “99 percent of what you learn in college is not learned in the classroom.” There is much truth to this statement.

I have learned so much from just talking to my friends about the most random topics. And it normally happens at the worst times. During finals week, we are stressing out and trying to study for exams or finish up term papers. I’ll be in a room with all my friends and then someone will bring up a topic unrelated to whatever each of us is studying, and we’ll talk about it for hours. All the conversations about life, sports, demons, politics, love, religion, superheroes, Jedi and zombies are going to be some of my most cherished memories of college.

We have spent countless nights staying up being scared, happy, angry and hopeful. You all go through this strange transition from teen years to adulthood. It’s a terrifying experience but you’re not alone. Every time I get nervous about the future, we talk it out and it makes the journey even better.

Thaddeus is a senior in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected]