Community spaces are all around campus. Open and full of light, these inviting locations are meant to be used for quality time and student enjoyment. Yet, the culture of Concordia students ends up diluting the space. Starting with Orientation week, we get into the habit of sitting together and grouping up. Almost no time during freshman year is spent alone. Reflecting upon this, a specific Cobber is looked down upon: the individual Cobber. From sitting alone in Anderson Commons to dating connotations to free time, there is a stigma associated with time spent alone. Most freshmen don’t dare go to dinner alone until maybe April or May. This culture of judging people who do things solo results in the passive-aggressive shaming of those who prefer having personal space to get things done.
The extent of this issue is unique to Concordia. At other schools like the University of Minnesota, the concept of sitting next to a friend is considered a oddity. With travel to and from classes consisting of crossing a whole city and more than one cafeteria across their many subschools, most people find themselves going about their days in an individual fashion. Other universities have variations of the same story. At Concordia this lifestyle is flipped and extends past Anderson Commons. The push to be an overinvolved and fill up free time with music or sports, night classes or interest groups, is beneficial; however, the backlash of only glorifying busy, involved, and outgoing students leads to students feeling like nights spent alone or extended periods spent in their personal space is wrong.
The misconception that individual Cobbers are lonely Cobbers leaves students eating and studying in packs and doing everything else in between with at least two people. This tendency to shine a negative light on individualism also translates into the dating scene at Concordia. The idealization of marrying or dating a fellow Cobber leads many students feeling sad and unworthy when they do not find a significant other. It is important to realize that as a campus we should not cultivate the idea that people who are alone are lonely, and that being an individual isn’t as great as dating a fellow Cobber. We need to support students in our community. No matter how extroverted a person may be, it is important to take personal time to regroup and regain mental stability and perspective. This is made impossible when students feel the pressure to constantly be socializing or attending campus events in order to fit in. As educated students going into the world, we will not benefit from always being consumed by social pressures and status quos. Going into the workforce and traveling home each day, there will be many moments spent alone. Adjusting this perception starts with giving people the benefit of the doubt in regards to the complexity of their character as well as the depth of their social and romantic lives. What you see one day in Anderson Commons is not a complete picture of someone’s life and their personality. By amending these assumptions, we can improve the mental health and self-worth of students and eradicate some of the toxic social structures that echo those of our high school days.