When I started my adventure at Concordia, I was nervous about the social layout. Finding new friends and a place where you fit in is always a bumpy process. Yet, the thoughts that muddled my mind were of a different variety. Is everyone on campus going to have the outgoing extravagance of camp counselors or Orientation Leaders?
After only going here a short time, one can understand how social of creatures Cobbers can be. The more I take classes and continue in extra-curriculars, the more I see this on all levels. People often offhandedly brand others into the categories of outspoken entertainers and everyone else. Due to this collective social understanding, I have seen countless situations where quiet people have handed off the commentary baton to those who speak their mind without thinking otherwise. In this way, Concordia loses many of its diverse voices. Small classes exacerbate extreme socialization with sometimes forcible participation guidelines.
Despite this social trend at Concordia, there is more complexity than just being written off as the idealized role as the entertainer or the ghost in the corner. As cheesy as the liberal arts attitude of “all voices being expressed” is, there is a literal application to it. This social hierarchy of glorifying extroverted students is a twin sister to the expectation that all Cobbers be involved in numerous extracurriculars, while also balancing a job and dynamic social life. Where lies the gray matter, Concordia? The middle ground? The spectrum? Assuming that the kid in the back of your writing class is shy and doesn’t have a distinguishable opinion is almost as absurd as saying that Bruce Vieweg has a grouchy attitude.
Although many people act otherwise, there is a spectrum to social involvement. People who enjoy eating their meals alone in DS aren’t loners or anti-social. People who like to study or watch TV on Friday nights are not hermits. These social interpretations leave a majority of the student body that enjoys more time alone feeling as though they are outsiders, fearing losing friends if they don’t keep up. This fear of missing out is a looming force that many Cobbers feed into. The need to be known and have a flamboyant social life overtakes the priority of schoolwork, self-care, and sleep, among countless other necessities, no matter what side of campus you live on.
On top of this detrimental behavior, this understanding prevents us from enjoying our fellow Cobbers to the full extent. The people who introduce themselves to you in class are great, but what about those who don’t feel comfortable being so forward? The more reserved guy in the corner quietly asks you if he can borrow a pencil and slowly, over weeks, you develop a friendship. Existing at a different place in the social spectrum than the upfront extroverts does not mean this student is any less of a friend opportunity or has any less social value. People who are quiet most often are the most thoughtful, it just doesn’t come out in the way of the glorified, camp-counselor Cobber.
This mindset of admiring over-involved, extroverted class entertainers or strong personalities is only one part of the social dialogue. What about the ambiverts; the people that fall between introverts and extroverts? Or the straightforward introverts who want to be social but are busy and are thus misunderstood? What about the Cobbers that light up when they walk into their extracurricular but during the day are holed up in a coffee shop off campus or sit in the back and doodle in class? This rat race of social involvement and perception is unhealthy and unrealistic and causes a rift in our student community. Not only that, but it sets up students who feed into this perception only to suffer whiplash from the popping of their Concordia bubble. After college, while these characteristics might shape you into a marketable employee, it creates distinct pitfalls and potholes in your concept of reality outside the campus grounds.
Face the facts, real life is very solitary and most often you might be eating meals alone, going on Target runs alone, or being the quiet person taking notes in the back of board meetings. These are normal adult activities and daily situations, and shining a negative light on them will only hurt you when being thrown into the real world. Concordia is a great community, don’t get me wrong. Having the opportunity to meet genuinely nice and loving people each day is something you won’t find at a lot of other colleges. But I think it’s time we accept all social walks of life and stop glorifying any approach to Concordia more than the other. It is only by possessing open mindedness and establishing roots in our own community that we can truly go out and make the difference outside our intimate Cobber community.