Maybe you’re boring, maybe you’re an introvert – social pressure at university

You’re in your first year of uni, and the people in your flat are hosting their second party this week, and they went out to Fab’s yesterday, and they had bottomless brunch on Tuesday, too. They invited you to all four of these things, and you said yes to three of them, but you bailed on two of them and only made an appearance at Fab’s because your friend said she needed someone to walk home early with. You’re asking yourself every other night whether you’re wasting your uni life. When the extent of your social interaction is chatting to the guy next to you in your lecture, or greeting your hungover flatmates in the kitchen, it’s hard not to scroll through posts on social media depicting the seemingly endless social endeavors of your peers and compare your experience to theirs.

I’m in my third year now and have gone through a lot of social changes in the last two years. I started uni during the pandemic and lived in a household of 20 people, without meeting anyone else until the start of second year. I thrived off socialising when I first attended uni, and would be seen at pretty much every flat party, drinking and dancing, and generally causing chaos. Throughout the year, I started to have a better relationship with my social life (AKA I de-intensified my severe FOMO). In second year however, I ran into a conundrum – I’d maintained a fairly stereotypical extroverted uni lifestyle in first year, but now I was faced with an entire post-pandemic city, and a group of wonderful friends who were dying to meet people and do things in it. And I wasn’t sure why, but my brain just couldn’t do it anymore.

What I now see, as a content third year who lives in a small house on the outskirts of Durham with her boyfriend and spends most of her evenings curled up on a sofa playing Xbox and going to bed by 11pm, is that I fell for the idea that you’re only living your life to the fullest and making the most of what you have and where you are, if you’re doing as much as possible, living by an extroverted person’s goals. You’re going out, you’re joining things, you’re meeting people every week, and you’re generally just living a busy, social life. It’s like a weird variant of hustle culture, except instead of just being encouraged to hustle you’re also encouraged to go out, to join societies, to be on exec committees, to socialise with housemates constantly, to drink and take part in parties and club nights, the list goes on. It sounds cliché, but it’s difficult to detach yourself from the idea that uni should be the best and busiest years of your life.

I think what changed for me, and what I hope can change for others like me, is that I took some time to really think about my fondest memories of the two years I’d already been at university. I realised that in first year my memories weren’t of the parties, they were of late-night chats with my best friend, or listening to music with the remaining few of us after the party was over. And in second year, despite my reclusive habits, I still look back happily on the house Christmas dinner we had, and all the stupid midday procrastinatory conversations we’d have in the living room – not the clubbing and pubbing I forced myself to do.

The point is, admitting that you’re really just not that extroverted a person at uni is hard. Not because people will point and laugh, but just because it can feel like you’re letting yourself down, not relishing the experiences that, according to society, you’ll never have once you pass the age of 24. You might find yourself doing stuff you hate, just so you can prove to yourself and your friends at home that you’re ‘normal’. You might end up not making any friends, for fear of judgment. Or like me, you might make a great bunch of friends who are more socially energised than you and develop a cycle of beating yourself up for not being able to keep up.

I promise you, though, there is hope if you’re feeling hopeless. You’re not letting yourself down if you bail on things, or you’ve only been to Jimmy’s twice, or you don’t feel any inclination to be on the exec for any societies or college events. You’re not wasting the best three years of your life, either – try thinking about what you want to do after graduating, but not career-wise! Do you want to take up photography, or move to Germany, or join an amateur dance group? Think about it, and then think about it some more. Imagine the people you might meet, doing this thing you can finally make your own when you’re out of uni, because you do have time. You haven’t met all the people you will bond with – you’ve barely met any. The world is full of exceptionally interesting and kind people who will gel perfectly with you. You don’t have to find all of them here, nor do you need to do any more than what you’re comfortable with in order to find that sense of fulfilment.

Reflect on what you really enjoy, what you’ll really remember after graduating, and do more of that now. Even if ‘that’ is sitting with your one mate from across the road playing Xbox and listening to music, it doesn’t matter. Your memories will only ever be experienced by you, so don’t curate them for an audience that can’t feel them.

Featured image by Artem Podrez on Pexels. 

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