Unpopular Opinion: Community is Overrated

Karen Zhang, Maroon-News Staff

I am a quiet introvert who treasures my time alone so much that college sometimes feels like a disaster. I have to tolerate the existence of another individual who lives with me in the same room. I need to start conversations with other people to show my politeness, even though I would very much prefer to be absorbed in my own thoughts. I am constantly reminded by everyone around me that I should fit into the American way of life and become part of the big Colgate community. All of these feel so overwhelming that sometimes, I just want to find a place to hide myself from the existence of other human beings.

While I am aware that my introverted personality may be a little too extreme, I believe that I am not the only person who is baffled by the emphasis on the values of communities on campus. Just go to a few workshops (especially those leadership workshops) and each one of them talks about the importance of community-building and offers you tips for becoming part of a community on campus, as if not being part of any community would make you a failure. The idea of “fitting into a community” bewilders me. Why is it necessary for me to care about fitting into a community and participate in the community-building activities when I actually feel more comfortable on my own?

A simple Google search offers you thousands of benefits that communities can bring us. However, I feel that the current emphasis on community-building is too much. Being part of a community does not have the magical power that we think—it does not automatically make you happy or transform you into a more wholesome person. In fact, in most cases, what we are doing in community-building activities is simply a waste of time and energy. People seek to bond through meaningless activities in a large group, while there are in fact so many better things that they can do on their own or with a few friends. If this is the case, why bother?

Moreover, the creation of community automatically leads to the creation of the other—the group outside the community. The people outside the community might be labelled as “different” and not having attributes that the community members have. The overemphasis on your identity as a member of the community is thus sometimes not conducive for inculcating understanding among people, since the label of being in-group and out-group has already created preconceived assumptions that may be difficult to change.

I believe community is overrated in today’s society. By saying that, I am not denying the warmth, comfort and assurance that a community can bring you, especially in your time of need, but I do feel that sometimes people become so fixated on becoming part of a community and participating in community-building activities that they start to forget that they can in fact spend quality time alone. Sometimes we become so eager to fit into a community that we do things that we have no interest in. Because of the overemphasis on communities, navigating one’s place in different communities has sometimes become a marker of success. The communities that we are part of becomes a label for others to understand us in an efficient way, and now people seldom bother to understand us as individuals but rather just look at our labels. All of these are problems that we often neglect today.

Thus, my suggestion is: don’t try to become part of a community requires a great effort to simply fit in. Find the community that fits you. Even if you can’t find it now, there is nothing to feel bad about. There are so many things that we can do outside a community. After all, no one needs so many friends anyway.