In a world captured by social media and superficiality, we’re making fewer meaningful connections with others. Our sense of community may be growing online, but is shrinking offline. In the coming semesters after the coronavirus pandemic passes, building community will be very important.
In his book “Bowling Alone” published in 2000, Harvard professor Robert Putnam notes, “We sign fewer petitions, belong to fewer organizations that meet, know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often.”
Additionally, fewer Americans attend religious services than ever before, and we have a lower voter turnout than most developed nations, according to Pew Research. Americans seem to be less connected to American life and it may lower our quality of life for years to come because community and good civics are inseparable ideas. This is most relevant in times of crisis; one could only imagine the impacts if a large majority of Americans disregarded social distancing requirements in place today.
It should be of no surprise that one in four college students has felt lonely in the past 12 months according to a study conducted by the American College Health Association given this long trend of disconnection. Given their already high level of stress, loneliness can harm the mental health of college students in the long run.
In order for society to function properly, social networks need to be built and maintained. Involvement is important because it’s directly correlated to a sense of belonging and community. Everyone needs people they can spend time with regularly and depend on when necessary.
Student organizations provide benefits well beyond a line on your resume. They can allow you to network, meet new people and engage in activities. Loyola alone has 161 registered student organizations, however, approximately only 30 percent of Loyola undergraduates are involved in one according to the Coordinator of Student Organizations and Engagement.
Since the 1950s, sociologists have identified three conditions that foster genuine friendship, according to an interview from The New York Times. These conditions are proximity, frequent gathering, and the ability for genuine interaction.
Some Loyola students, including Junior Joe Walsh, said they tend to agree with these findings.
“I’ve met people I never thought I would have,” said Walsh, a student government senator and the philanthropy chair of Pi Kappa Phi. “Extracurriculars really made my time at Loyola. … [They] refine who you are and provide excellent networking opportunities.”
Jessica Anger — head captain of the Loyola Quidditch Team — said, “I think it is a great idea for any student to be involved in at least one club they truly love. …Going to meetings, practices or events pulls you away from the rigor of classes and reminds you to be a human being every once and awhile.” Anger added, “Quidditch helped develop my sense of community at Loyola…”
Hieu Nguyen—a member of the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) and the a cappella ensemble, the Jazzuits — said VSA allows him to connect to his heritage and network with other students, while the Jazzuits fulfills his passion for music.
The college experience is filled with many opportunities. To alleviate loneliness and create a sense of community, students should take full advantage of clubs to develop lifelong friendships, social networks and personal skills.