UC Socially Disconnected?

UC San Diego has roughly 36,000 students enrolled this quarter, attracting students from all backgrounds and cultures from around the world. This includes students with perfect SAT scores, computer coding gurus, and creative individuals pursuing their dream careers.

It can become overwhelming with the amount of people you come across in a single day. Maneuvering across campus during the lunch hour and attending lecture halls with over 300 people, we run into hundreds of people each day. One would think, with such a large student body, students would form new friendships on a daily basis, but in reality, most only conversate when they need to borrow things like a pencil or Scantron.

With that being said, while UCSD manages to round up some of the most creative minds into one environment, it lacks one of the single most important parts of the college experience — social interaction.

As a transfer student, I came to this campus for this very reason, to connect and establish

life-long relationships with individuals from different backgrounds. But finishing my first quarter here, I noticed a salient problem. Everyone here is intelligent, but once students establish a circle of friends, they stop branching out to create new ones.

I too have fallen victim of the social disconnect condition, whether it’s by wearing sunglasses and headphones while scurrying through Library Walk in an attempt to avoid being approached by organization recruiters or repeatedly scrolling through social media feeds as I wait for my classes to start.

During a conversation I had with a professor, we discussed how it is now the norm for students to sit in class for an entire quarter next to students without introducing themselves to each other. Sharing our views, we mutually agreed that the school social aspect needs improvement.

While pondering this topic for weeks, I took things upon myself to undergo an experiment where I would ditch my “unapproachable headphones and glasses” starter kit and put my communication availability on full display — whether it was walking to class or waiting for the next lecture to start. This observation placed me in situations that required me to get out of a comfort zone and initiate conversations when others were in my proximity.

The results from this Philip Zimbardo-like experiment showed a significant increase of social interactions across the board. Not only did I find myself having more conversations with peers, I also met potential study partners and established a relationship with a faculty member who offered me advice for my particular career field.

By no means am I saying that replicating this experiment will guarantee successful networking conversations or promising news, but I can ensure that both you and the campus as a whole could benefit from transforming UCSD’s socially awkward environment.

I propose a challenge: The next time you’re in a situation where you have the opportunity to introduce yourself or initiate small talk, capitalize on the opportunity and see what a difference it could make on your social life here at UCSD.