College is undeniably one of the easiest places to meet new people. An environment where one is constantly surrounded by others seems like the perfect place to make friends. However, navigating a landscape of inauthentic friendships can be exhausting for some freshmen.
Superficial friendships — or friendships made out of a fear of being alone — define much of the college experience in the first couple months of freshman year. High school’s security of having close friends is lost and replaced with an innate desire to fill this social void. We all want to have a go-to clique to grab food at the diner or go to the gym with, but throwing yourself at so many people can leave you feeling more detached than ever.
Lucie Ugarte, a freshman enrolled in letters and sciences, said she realizes she is making more acquaintances than friends, but understands that things will change over time.
“In high school I had a tight circle of friends and that just kind of happened because I knew the same people since middle school,” Ugarte said. “But here I meet a ton of people and I don’t really feel like I’m on that level yet.”
Making friends while growing up allows you to naturally surround yourself with people who possess the same passions as you because you grow together. But entering a school with an undergraduate enrollment of almost 30,000 can place pressure on students to morph into the archetype of an approachable person.
Sophomore computer science major Adam Nolan said he remembers the disingenuous friendships he made the first few weeks of freshman year.
“We didn’t really have anything in common other than going to same school and living on the same floor,” Nolan said. “I would say these friends were made out of convenience instead of actual interest.”
Finding friends out of convenience results in friendships filled with vapid conversations instead of common interests and excitement. For introverted students, this adjustment period is even more uncomfortable, as their inclination toward making superficial friendship does not exist, yet they are immersed in a fast-paced, highly-interactive scene.
This desire for close friendships extends beyond the freshmen class, as humans instinctively crave social acceptance. If a zombie apocalypse were to take place on McKeldin Mall tomorrow, students would immediately depend on their social circle to help guide them toward safety. It’s a fear of being left behind that drives freshmen toward superficial friendships, but college isn’t an episode of The Walking Dead, and tight social circles are not crucial for your survival.
While much of college is about making connections, it’s unrealistic to expect a close friend group at this point. As long as you stay open, genuine and true to who you are, soon enough you will find the people you click with. These are people who you are comfortable enough to sit in silence with and keep contact with despite the demands of a busy workload and social scene.
“Superficial friends usually you talk to once in awhile. They just want to talk to you for connections or if there’s a party going on,” said freshman chemical engineering major Ram Sreenivasan. “However, real friends ask to get dinner after class or play football or workout.”
Older students: think back to your freshman year. Do you still talk to half the people you met within the first month? Chances are, you do not, as the adjustment period leads many students toward hastily-made social circles. As a freshman myself, I’ve noticed how after just one month students are beginning to close themselves off, not realizing that the friends they are most compatible with may still exist somewhere out there.
You may not find the most well-suited people on your floor or even in your classes, but going out of your way to get involved in clubs where you are virtually guaranteed to find others with the same interests can do wonders for easing the feeling of being alone. Spending time to find yourself and discover new hobbies is probably better than surrounding yourself with temporary friends.
So if you’re still feeling isolated or bored, remember that you are not alone. The waiting period for real friends is a rite of passage for freshmen across the country. It’s okay if the transition period outlasts the first few weeks, and it’s okay if you haven’t been having the most meaningful conversations of the year yet. Your time is precious, and it isn’t bad to be selective with those you let enter your life.