Conventional wisdom claims that anyone who eats alone at any point in his or her life is absolutely lonely and has no capacity for relationships. While this principle has proved to be true in high school cafeterias nationwide, a new study seems to suggest this traditional thinking may not apply in college.
Researchers recently chose Texas A&M University as the subject of a new study, which hypothesized that college students eating alone might not be lonely at all. The study chose three popular dining facilities on campus: Sbisa, MSC Cafeteria, and Ag Cafe. Sociologists surveyed students sitting in groups and students sitting alone to measure the level of life satisfaction from these individuals, using students in groups as a control.
“The surveys proved hard to conduct, especially when students sat alone”, said Dr. Donald Douglas, lead researcher. “When we approached students sitting alone, they would have different excuses for not wanting to talk, such as, ‘I have a test in 20 minutes,’ or ‘I already have a personal relationship with Jesus,’ or even ‘I’m trying to read.’”
At first, the researchers thought these excuses were fictional, because no one really has a test in 20 minutes, and no one reads books for enjoyment anymore. However, upon further investigation, all the excused proved true. When the researchers were able to talk to someone sitting alone, the participants showed a statistically significant high level of happiness.
The most shocking finding from the study was that some of the students sitting in groups only did so to make sure they did not seem lonely.
“Yeah, I’m only sitting with my Fish Camp right now because we do this every week.” said a freshman in the MSC Cafeteria. “I don’t even like any of these people.”
While the new research was not able to prove causality, it did show that there is little to no correlation between sitting alone and being lonely.
“It turns out, these student are likely sitting alone for strategic purposes and not because they lack interpersonal skills” said Douglas. “Apparently, you can have friends outside the lunchroom.”
—12th Man Bowels