The invisible consequences of social isolation
By ANNMARIE LI
In a world filled with people, many find lasting connections with those around them, yet few are seemingly isolated from everyone else.
In many of today’s social settings, friend groups are typically large and diverse, but a few “social outcasts” are often left out of these close-knit groups, even long after entering the community. In schools, some students float around campus without any companions, accompanied only by the drag of loneliness. Ultimately, these deserted students are forced to fend for themselves with no one to look out for them in a socially and academically stressful environment. Although the issue is invisible to an onlooker, persistent isolation may cause students to feel insecure about themselves, thus worsening any existing social anxieties.
However, when it comes to adding a new person into a pre-existing friend group, it may seem difficult, as the person may lack a common interest with the others. Social anxieties may also be an issue because anxiety can limit a person’s capability to speaking to others in high-pressure situations. Students may also be subject to bullying due to being different from their peers, making it nearly impossible to be able to blend in a new group.
Moreover, people in social settings tend to separate themselves into fixed group of friends and only associate themselves with friends in their exclusive class. Students rarely step outside their comfort zone to speak to others outside their own group, establishing a clear-cut division between the ingroup and outgroup. The adverse effects of cliques are further perpetuated as students turn away from excluded students. This issue is practically unfixable, as outcasts are rarely welcomed or accepted into a close group of friends. In particular, close friends could possibly close another person off, just for the sake of them sticking together. For instance, a child might try to talk to someone who has a common interest or are approachable, yet when they try to strike up a conversation, they are faced with sudden backlash. This type of negative response may discourage students from socializing with their peers, further diminishing their self-esteem or sense of belonging.
Yet, some may claim that students are beginning to fix this issue by interacting more with those outside of their group. With the increasing popularity of group work and partnered projects, students are encouraged to communicate with isolated peers and bond with them through collaboration and teamwork, introducing outcasts to potential friends and minimizing future alienation. As an addition, some peers may spark friendly conversations with social outcasts in attempt to know them better. However, these students’ kindness might worsen the alienation problem because it may simply be an act to encourage the alienated student to put in trust in the supposed “friendship.” Though good intentions are present, sole kindness is not enough to maintain a long-lasting connection. When a peer is merely displaying kindness out of pity for the alienated student, it creates an ingenuine friendship that can eventually lead to a toxic relationship. In order to integrate social outcasts, students can talk to their deserted peers with no judgement in mind, so the isolated students can be more comfortable speaking to those around them.
In this day and age, with everyone so close with their individual friend groups, it is difficult to find someone new to speak to every day. But do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and talk to someone new; you might meet a new face who will eventually become a friend, after all.