OP-ED: College friendships might be at risk

Photo courtesy of The Huffington Post | Staff Writer Alex Hale warns of isolation on college campuses and gives advices to help maintain strong friendships.

There are many things that are seemingly terrifying about adult life. However, of the many things that young adults are afraid of, one particular problem is not talked about often enough. It’s the fact that once you leave college, you will lose a vast majority of the friendships that you had.

A 2016 study from Aalto University and Oxford University analyzed data from 3 million mobile phones and found that on average, at the age of 25, people maintain the most highest number of friendships, with an average of 18 people whom they reach out to on a monthly basis. By the age of 45, they have lost about 28 percent of their friendships.

There are plenty of implications that come along with this, but the most striking is that friendships are good for your mental and physical health.

In fact, a 2015 study showed that being alone and feeling lonely increase your chance of an early death by 30 percent.

It’s easy to say that this is an unfortunate inevitability of life, but this simply is not the case. For most of history, humans lived in nomadic tribes, and the family was not the foundational building block of society. We gained friendships, and we kept them for extended periods of time.

Only recently did we make the huge mistake of creating suburbs, which have had a disastrous effect on not just our environment but on our children’s social development and our long-term friendships. So, how do we fix this? The best response is to build better urban communities that actively attempt to encourage spontaneous social interactions, to stop using cars as much as we do and to collectively refuse to accept that this is just how life is.

Getting away from suburbs is a critical part of this plan. In suburbs, it is not uncommon for individuals to wake up, drive to work, come home and never once talk to a neighbor. Commuting long distances via car is bad for your health in many other ways besides feelings of loneliness. If individuals choose to live in urban places, they can cut down on sitting alone in these metal boxes for hours. By doing so, they increase their own health and happiness.

Spontaneous interaction may be the most crucial part to developing and maintaining friendships. This is why those in the college age group (18-25) have more friends than any other age group. There are numerous public spaces at college, which allow people to meet randomly. Part of the problem outside of college is partially the result of how devoted we have become to the idea of personal privacy. If universities are not careful, college students can fall victim to this loneliness as well.

As a local example, in 2015, Husman Hall had simple metal key doors that could be left open as opposed to the updated closing door with the ALLcard key. Since the change, it appears that there are significantly fewer interactions in the hall than there were previously, which leads to less potential for friendships to form. This is part of the reason that many still say that the people you meet in the first two weeks at Xavier will remain as your core friend group all the way through college. Xavier doesn’t do a good enough job of encouraging these interactions.

In fact, many students notice that, once they hit sophomore year and move into other buildings, they lose a large number of friendships. This is because individuals make the choice to not leave the building, which again decreases potential for spontaneous interaction.

Above all, it is most important to not allow oneself to step back and say that they are too busy for their friendships. Relationships of all sorts need to be worked on. Time needs to be spent in order to make them work and flourish. These are the things that will allow all of us to live happier and healthier lives. If we only commit to working on them, we may just keep our friendships post college.

Alex Hale is a senior Philosophy, Politics and the Public major. He is a staff writer for the Newswire from Detroit.