How often do alcohol and substance abuse-related problems stem from a fear of missing out? I’m writing this as I’m sitting in my room playing video games instead of drinking on a Friday night. No, that’s not a boast about how innocent and sub-free I am. In fact, as I check my friends’ and acquaintances’ Snapchat stories (whose contact information I’ve mostly acquired in the Harris bathroom), I feel a deep pit form in my stomach. That sensation is fear. Fear that I’m missing out on making friends and gaining social capital just because I’ve decided to have a relaxing night, that I know my introverted and mentally ill self really needs. Everyone on Snapchat is having fun, and they’re having fun without me. Those Snapchat stories probably don’t tell the whole story of a likely average night, but they are a cruel taunt to someone with a desperate need to be liked who couldn’t find the energy to leave her room. Seeing my peers live up their college weekend nights makes me feel guilty that instead of making connections with my classmates (whom I will “forget” to talk to on Monday), I am having a restful night in. That’s pretty messed up.
They say there’s no pressure to drink here, but I say there is. It is unspoken. It is subtle. No one is forcing shots down my throat. But if I don’t party, I know my social life will be stunted. This is an exaggeration of course, but I cannot stop fears of missing out from running through my mind every weekend night. I imagine other students forming friendships I am implicitly excluded from because I stayed in tonight. Even if I were to go to parties sober (which I’ve tried), it simply is not the same as partying drunk. Like many of my fellow anxious homebodies, I use alcohol as a social crutch. It stretches out my minuscule comfort zone and lets me say what I want to say (I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing). As a bonus, drunk me thinks she can dance (which is definitely a bad thing). I tend to make an average of four “friends” each time I go to a party and drink (the level of friendship varies depending on if I would even talk to them in the light of day), something I could never do sober. When you’re drunk, you just have to say “heyyyyy” and impulsively hug someone; when sober, it can take weeks to find the courage to approach someone.
For a BAMF (bad at making friends) like myself, I have a terrible choice to make between wrecking my liver or wrecking my social life. Everyone knows that alcohol isn’t the most nutritious substance around, and we all know binge drinking to the point of getting hammered every weekend is not sustainable academically or with regards to overall wellness. Yet on a Friday or Saturday night, we still find ourselves behaving a certain way because of an implicit pressure to drink. Maybe no one else feels this way, and I’m just an anxious, lonely person projecting her insecurities onto meaningless Snapchat stories, but I doubt that I’m the only one who feels that drinking is how one makes friends at Grinnell. Therefore, I’m here to tell both my fellow introverts and myself that not drinking and taking the time to rejuvenate is important.
I’m not here to shame heavy drinkers. In fact, I’m one myself. But if you drink heavily for the same reasons I do, I’m here to say that it’s perfectly valid to have a night in playing Overwatch, drinking tea, reading, watching a movie, whatever you need to recuperate on a Friday night. Self-care is important now more than ever as increasing personal responsibilities and the rise of global fascism take their toll on the Grinnell student body. I’m not trying to make a political statement about the alcohol policy here at Grinnell, nor am I some sort of temperance movement activist, but I think we all are in need of healing from time to time, and alcohol is unlikely to provide that. If you are feeling up to partying, go ahead. If you aren’t, drink some water; don’t look at social media; get some rest. Nothing you’re missing out on could be more important than your health. I have an amazing selection of teas and hot chocolate if anyone else is down for a chill, introverted, weekend night.