Today I arrived early at my University, my exam was hours away but due to an arrangement I ended up here. I proceeded to find a quiet spot in the cafeteria to read the school news paper and get some studying in before the computer labs opened. I soon put the paper down and decided to do some observing given that a lot of students had come in since my arrival.
The first thing which I noticed is that my peers all were sitting in singular fashion. One person per table. When the options for seating became limited some students moved to tables which were touching other tables but still made sure they weren't sitting directly next to someone else who happened to be sitting at the neighboring table.
There was an understood law of no speaking, not even a simple hello. Each person tended to glance at the other upon arrival but left it at that. It was as if each individual had their own personal island and these islands dotted the cafeteria. I originally thought it may be due to the pressures of exams and my peers were sucking in the last few hours they had to cram, but upon closer observation most students weren't really studying. Some were online via their netbooks and phones and some were just staring into space.
Upon noticing that even I was on an island free of social entanglements I decided to go on a pilgrimage to another island, one with inhabitants. I left and soon seen a classmate of mine who I don't recall even learning their name. He gave me a nod as I walked by and I took a seat at his table. He was quite taken back that I even spoke, as were some of the surrounding islanders who all peered at me like I had just sacked the capital of my classmates island. With this in mind I made sure I was not distracting him from his last minute cramming.
I was well received and soon we had quite a nice conversation about everything from school to summer plans. We were soon joined by a mutual classmate who quickly joined the conversation. Eventually due to exams we split up. Upon my departure I noticed that all the islands had been taken, and most of them only had one individual. The few which didn't had inhabitants which looked really uncomfortable, trying not to even acknowledge that their fellow island citizen was there.
Humans are awkward creatures, especially given the framework of my immediate culture where there seems to be some unspoken fear of socializing. My university is like this to a large degree the majority of people stick to their own known "islands". For instance when school is regularly in session and the cafeteria is filled people who went to the same high schools typically sit together. It is very rare to see a group made up of people who aren't all familiar with each other from pre-university life.
Typically we're weary and discouraged from a young age to socialize with unknown or unlike people. You can see this in the upbringing of children, "Don't talk to strangers" is the big one. Even though we are adults a lot of times this concept is unconsciously influencing our social behavior. Some people naturally free from this sort of culture bondage, and others need to struggle to break free of the indoctrinated concept.
Kind of interesting.