Warm sunlight permeates the air while a cool breeze weaves in and out of it, creating a sublime combination. As you sit in a relaxed and focused state, classical music quietly dances into your ears through headphones. Breathing deeply, you mutter an inward prayer of gratitude for this respite from distractions and fluorescent lighting.
Surrounded by a beautiful blend of atmosphere and concentration, you gradually fall into a productive rhythm while completing your homework. Your seat on the Mall is just stiff enough to keep you from drifting off to sleep, and sipping on espresso over ice keeps you alert.
Then, it happens — your shoulders tense up as you realize the reality of your situation.
Before you know it, you’ve spent 30 minutes in an uninvited conversation. Regardless of whether you were interested in the content or not, you feared seeming impolite by cutting short such an exchange. Instead, you lost a potentially productive chunk of time through a poorly timed chat.
Spontaneous discussions on the Mall, in the residence hall common rooms or in Braniff are valuable in fostering meaningful friendships. However, we ought to carefully discern how and when we approach our peers in public.
Those who are standing, walking around or looking at their phones, or who wave at you would probably be delighted to chat. Those visibly invested in their notes, textbooks and binders with earbuds in probably need to be left alone.
It is no secret that private study spaces are a scarce resource around campus, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Students and teachers who enjoy the outdoor study environment should be respected by remaining uninterrupted, unless they visibly express a willingness to converse.
Perhaps you deeply relate to this frustration. Or perhaps you enjoy the intermittent workflow that comes along with talking to passersby. Either way, by reflecting upon this perpetual occurrence, perhaps the various personality types present on this campus can improve their respect for, and understanding of, one another’s boundaries.
The mere act of working outdoors or in a public space should not automatically imply one’s willingness to socialize. While I value the relationships that I have forged during my time at this university, I sometimes have to prioritize my solitude and studies.
Living at the place in which you work, learn, eat and recreate can become taxing on people who value their privacy. Giving them the space they need will not just work in their favor, but in yours as well.
Generally, if you leave introverts to themselves, they will be happier, healthier and, paradoxically, more sociable as a result.
Aristotle wrote extensively about the importance of striving for the mean—of achieving a balance between extremes. Cultivating friendships and conversations is a good thing. In this case, however, I believe that there can be too much of a good thing.
As students and as humans, recognizing the social preferences and habits of others, while sometimes challenging, will ultimately lead to an environment conducive to flourishing academic, social and spiritual lives for everyone.
So, the next time you see a busy studier on the Mall, consider saving your thoughts and sharing them at the dining hall, the Cap Bar or a social event.