Experiences on the Front Lines of User Interfaces and Web Development

College - the easy years

In junior high and high school, peer pressure and competition abounds. Kids are self-conscious, unsure about themselves, and constantly comparing themselves to others. Then college arrives for many, and much of that is gone. Social status is not as important. The nerdy kids are still nerds, but they are now the smart ones that others go to for help on their homework, rather than the victims of a thoughtless prank. The quiet ones, the short ones, the skinny ones, and the tall ones, all can find friends they connect with.

I always thought this phenomenon that takes us from cut-throat cliques and shallowness to civility and acceptance was a product of age and maturing. As I continue on in life, especially life out of college, I have come to realize that maybe that is not the case. Why do grown adults still play dumb social games and have work cliques, suburban mom cliques, and everything in between? Corporations and political arenas are perfect examples of this. Those that have nice clothes, fancy cars, and a multi-story house are treated better, given more opportunities, and respected. Those that don't, are often looked down on or ignored. Its human nature to compare yourself with others, and its human nature to treat others badly for selfish gain. Wouldn't people be able to get past this childish behavior?

So what happens in college that is different? Why the short respite from some of the backstabbing and outcasting? Some may say there is never a break, and that I am crazy to even suggest college is any different from high school or life in corporate America. From my experience and after hearing from others, I do believe there is a difference. After a recent discussion with friends a few days ago, I am convinced that the base cause is that college puts nearly everyone on an equal playing field. Most students live in the dorms at least their first year, and everyone is subjected to intro courses, increased homework, and living on their own for the first time. The experiences of guessing what today's food substance being served in the cafeteria is suppose to resemble, and how to keep your whites white without staining your colors, helps bond people of all walks of life together.

Sure, some kids come from wealthier families. Others are better looking, or better at sports. But everyone has to go to school, do homework (if they want decent grades), and everyone lives in the same place. That is the key. There are no fancy luxurious dorms for the rich, and shacks for the poor students (at least not at any schools I know of?). The only differences are luck of the draw, and also seniority, as far as getting in better living situations than others. And because of this, the students are less inclined to be dissatisfied or jealous. And without the dissatisfaction and competition, students live more care-free and also have more fun! I don't think its an accident or an age thing that makes college life so entertaining. The lack of stress, pressure to conform, and cut-throat nature of the "real world" all contributes.

It's when we get houses and a career that the stresses come, and the care-free lifestyle is over. And with that comes the desire to be like the Joneses. Many are glad to be done going to school. I admit I enjoy many aspects of post-college life as well. If only we could re-capture some of that care-freeness and camaraderie that we left back in college.
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