The setting is Mac at 6:00 p.m. Each round table is occupied by a different friend-group, each in their own little world. As a Newtonite with a minimal number of Upper connections to make dinner plans with, I’ve had a fair amount of opportunities to look up from my meal and pay close attention to the unique first-year dynamic that makes up this dining hall.
Before I give my take on this friend-group phenomenon, I first must state that this in no way is a call-out. I am just as guilty as the next freshman when it comes to these habits. In fact, I think that falling into routines with the same people is a perfectly normal, even functional part of the college experience. The actions I will describe, I believe, are influenced by thought processes and emotions that I’ve also experienced. With that being said, let’s get to the problem.
It seems as if many of us are a bit insecure about our friendships, to the point that we must keep things pretty constant. In general, it’s always more comfortable to travel in herds and to keep the herd members the same. Once again, easy for me to say, because I can directly relate. I won’t go much further with the herd metaphor—I’m not trying to dehumanize anybody, I promise—but I’m just saying: a herd has a routine feeding time, scheduled group activities, and fixed dynamics that can in many ways be extended to the freshman friend-group. It makes socializing comfortable, easy, and efficient when your life has a “Dinner at 6?” rhythm to it.
It appears, based on conversations, witness, as well as personal experience, that freshman friend groups tend to slip and slide during the second semester leading into sophomore year. And while this may diversify our dinner plans to an extent, it still appears as if many of us still have that safety net--the group from the beginning, typically from our own dorms. It could be anywhere along the spectrum, from the obligation to the convenience to the simple enjoyment of the group.
I believe that our routine interactions put forth a suggestion of vulnerability. For some reason, we are being pulled into some area of security. I suggest we try to break this habit. It can’t hurt to pardon your absence one evening with a group you quite often eat with to reach out to a classmate or to somebody from a club, for example. After all, there are more than 2,300 other freshmen to get to know, and almost 10,000 others on campus! Now is the time to have the conversations that could potentially strike up a new wonderful relationship, reveal a “friend of the good,” or perhaps turn into an authentic romance!