In a recent study done at Weber State University, 52 percent of students have reported feeling lonely in the past 12 months.
This is close to the national average, which is 55.9 percent. The Student Wellness Center is taking measures to understand why so many students feel this way and how it can be changed.
In February, the Student Wellness Center focused on what it means to be emotionally healthy. Emotional wellness is described on the center’s website as “a state of self-awareness that is being attentive to thoughts, feelings and behaviors and managing difficult emotions while maintaining a positive and optimistic outlook.”
Traci Jacobson, a Wellness Center intern, came up with the idea to have a ball pit set up to get people to help make friends after watching a video on YouTube. The video is called “Take a Seat- Make a Friend.” It features strangers taking a seat in a ball pit full of plastic balls, some of which have questions written on them to ask each other.
“This is to make Weber seem like a friendlier place,” Jacobson said.
She said one main reason students feel so lonely is that many of them are so plugged in and focused on their devices that they don’t take the time to socialize.
“They’re too engaged in their electronic world to get out of their bubble and talk to those around them,” Jacobson added. Also, because Weber is a commuter school, many students simply go to class and go home. Many don’t hang out on campus to find new friends.
Student Involvement is also using the ball pit for events, but this event was meant to get students to realize that feeling lonely is a campus-wide issue. The ball pit was something Student Wellness wanted to do in conjunction with their other project involving hope.
Behind the ball pit was a board was set up that featured hopeful phrases.
Throughout the day, students piled in the ball pit to talk and hang out. Students were asked if they thought Weber was unfriendly or lonely and many of them agreed. Tyger Hawkins wasn’t surprised that half the students at Weber felt lonely.
“Everyone gets lonely sometimes. A lot of people are away from their families, so I can see that happening,” he said.
Keith Burns from the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship also took time to hang out with students in the ball pit Friday.
“I think people think they’re the only ones who have certain problems,” Burns said about loneliness. “I think we’re afraid to open up and share with other people what’s on our mind and what we’re going through.”
Similarly, Saige Ellingford said Weber is a lonely place because “It’s deserted by 1 p.m.” Ellingford went on to say that because Weber is a commuter campus, no one wants to try to make friends.
“I hung out with my roommates, and that was about it,” she recalled.
The ball pit became a place for students to ask and answer questions without judgment. Everyone was allowed to share parts of their lives and their feelings and have a great time.
“Personally, I met well over a dozen people,” Jacobson said on Friday.
One thing Jacobson liked to hear was opinions from students on why they felt Weber was a lonely campus.
“The two most common things I’ve heard is that people are walking around looking at their phones or listening to headphones,” Jacobson said. She went on to say that students can really benefit from taking headphones out once in a while and looking up from their phones.