In the pages of the Daily Texan, opinion columnists Julia Zaksek and Natalie Taylor have written forcefully about the UT administration’s failure to promote friendship equity among the student body. When countries like Britain have taken the bold step of appointing a Minister of Loneliness to combat the “the sad reality of modern life,” UT’s failure to ensure that all students can enjoy the fundamental right of friendship is a moral travesty. And though the critiques and suggestions offered by Zaksek and Taylor are steps in the right direction, it’s not clear that they go far enough.
Plan II promises a tight-knit “school within a school” but delivers a hollow facade of community, argues Julie Zaksek in her April 2019 piece. In the face of this failure, “Plan II program directors need to take an active role in creating and facilitating events that foster the community students were promised,” state Zaksek. Unfortunately, the suggestions she offers for such events are the same milquetoast affairs that have been tried for years: social mixers, class retreats, and on-campus events.
Natalie Taylor offers an equally bleak view of the student experience in UT dining halls: isolating spaces where most of the students are just “feeling so lonesome and depressed” and where ear thimbles, ahem, excuse me, AirPods and iPhones provide an escape from the awkwardness of human interaction.
Taylor’s suggested remedy to this post-modern alienation hellscape full of (i)phonies: conversation starters on each table in UT’s dining halls.
Conversation starters? Seriously!? To quote Kourtney Kardashian “[Natalie], there’s people that are dying.” And you want to stop at conversation starters!?
A recent meta-analysis of 70 scientific publications on loneliness has found that being lonely increases your likelihood of mortality by 26%. Other publications have linked loneliness to a weakened immune system and insomnia. In other words, loneliness lurks the dorms and dining halls of UT, slowly killing our students.
It is time to face the brutal truth. As history demonstrates, extreme threats call for even more extreme reactions: UT must institute a policy of friendship Fortnite on campus.
The concept is simple and borrows much from the popular video game. One day each month, students on campus will hear a horn sound, after which UT’s administrators will join hands encircling the campus (we have more than enough administrators to make this work). Over the course of the day, the administrators will slowly tighten the circle, forcing the students into ever-greater physical proximity and increasing their opportunities for authentic social interactions.
As discussed above, the threat of loneliness is dire, so it makes sense that the stakes of friendship Fortnite should be equally high. To escape the circle, students will need to prove that they have made a new friend (administrators will, of course, have to conduct a thorough review of both students’ social media accounts to ensure that they were not already friends). Those friendless few who remain in the circle at the end of the day will be given the choice of immediate expulsion or being transformed into an albino squirrel as a sacrifice to the greater good.
It is time to stop with the niceties, the politics of normalcy that surround the debate about loneliness on campus. We must learn from our own experience when dealing with this problem. As all of us can surely agree from our experience at UT orientation, if students cannot be authentic on their own, we must create contrived events that foster authenticity and force them to attend.
Ridiculous, contrarian piece. Sneering at lonely people and those who are trying in good faith to help them is not a good look. Suggest something constructive instead of being reactionary.
Some libertarians I meet seem like nice people who think their ideology would help the world. Others just want to laugh at the plight of the suffering and hide their cruelty behind a political philosophy. This article gives a obvious impression as to where you lie.
Looks like you’ve had quite the busy day on the Orator website. I’ll respond to your points in turn:
-The piece is only contrarian if you accept the premise that the UT administration belongs in the “friendship-making” business, which is precisely the premise I reject and a premise that I think most students reject in practice, if not in principle. While some students certainly can trace the close campus relationships in their lives to the kitschy events sponsored by the University, I will simply have to rely on anecdata and the good sense of readers to reject that this is the typical course of events for most students. Most such attempts by the University, particularly when they are required, simply subject the majority of students to contrived tedium for a few hours with a small chance of alleviating the problem of loneliness on campus.
-In terms of my sneering at lonely people and those trying to help them, I will simply have to disagree with your claim there. The piece is sneering, it is derisive, and in parts, it is even perhaps jeering — but all such ire is directed at the ideas I am responding to, not the people propounding them or those experiencing loneliness. I firmly subscribe to the Popperian notion that our ideas should die in our stead, but the flip side of that notion is that because we are attacking ideas and not people, we needn’t always use the wooden swords of mock civility.
-As for suggesting something constructive, I think you are responding to a piece that I didn’t write and didn’t intend to write. Satire is a fundamentally deconstructive endeavor, a reductio ad absurdum that swaps syllogisms for snark. There’s a reason it’s a satire piece and not a whitepaper: I don’t have the answer to loneliness. In the piece, I try to demonstrate through satire that neither does the UT administration. I am prepared to defend the bold claim that neither do you. If I am wrong, I would love to read your guest column.
-Lastly, regarding your remarks about my laughing at the suffering of others, I will admit only to chuckling that you had to suffer through my ridiculous, contrarian piece. For your toils, I’ll happily by you a beer and discuss this further. You can text me at 361-649-1484 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rick please remove the large piece of timber which seems to have become lodged in your posterior