When Worlds Collide

In many ways, college campuses are insular, idyllic bubbles of political correctness and higher learning. But what happens if this bubble is popped? Certainly, they are busted wide open on the regular when conservative speakers come to campus or when some incident of misconduct comes to light. But they are also popped, albeit on a much smaller scale, when any outsider arrives on campus.

We are used to seeing the same people every day in the same places doing the same things. Although we might not realize it, we’ve all settled into some kind of routine. We typically have dinner with the same people, we hang out with the same people in the evenings, and we see the same people while walking to class. We will notice immediately if anything about this routine changes. Fortunately, most of us aren’t bothered at all by these changes. We adapt to them quickly, happily, and easily, and then we move on with our lives. But even though we all possess this extraordinary ability, some people still find it a little bit intimidating to introduce a new human variable into any pre-set situation.

Those of us who find it difficult to usher a new person, such as a friend visiting from home, into an established group of people are probably less outgoing in general, and less confident in our social skills. We are less sure of our ability to present this new person to another group of people in a way that makes everyone feel comfortable talking and relating to each other. Doing so truly is a skill, although those who possess that skill might not recognize it as such.

For example, I have a friend from Tufts who has invited his friend from home to come visit him twice, once in freshman year and once in sophomore year. Both times, this friend from home has spent time with the Tufts “crew,” and it hasn’t been awkward at all. This lack of awkwardness was due to my Tufts friend’s incredible social skills, which he probably didn’t even think about but definitely has. He made sure to use our Facebook group chat to alert everyone of his friend’s arrival, but most importantly, he did so in a way that assumed that we were all already excited to meet his friend. This proved to be a self-fulfilling prophecy; everyone did seem genuinely enthusiastic at the prospect of hanging out with him.

Unfortunately, the way in which my introverted peers and I would approach this situation is quite different, and definitely inferior. We might not even tell anyone that one of our friends was visiting. As a result, we would probably feel uncomfortable bringing our friend to group situations “unannounced.” And so we probably wouldn’t. We would probably stay holed up in our rooms, watching Netflix and eating takeout. And admittedly, that does sound like a great way to spend a night.

But no matter how introverted you are, spending time with other people, and introducing new people, are valuable and necessary activities. What us socially awkward people have to realize is that the vast majority of people are excited to meet new people and willing to have a conversation with almost anyone with whom they cross paths. Or even if they’re not, they will almost definitely be polite and extend common courtesy to anyone they come across. From a logical standpoint, there is no risk and much benefit in introducing a new person to another group of people. Unfortunately, most anxiety is not logical, and doesn’t respond to logical arguments. Some of us will never feel totally at ease in these kinds of social situations, so all we can do is try to convince ourselves that newbies will, in most cases, not be hazed, harassed or ignored, but welcomed with open arms.

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