Old-Fashioned Social Networking

Sophomore Connor Barclay's goal: to have at least one meal with every member of the sophomore class before the end of this school year. With a blog detailing some of his more interesting meals and a "Master List" of everyone he has eaten with, it is evident that Connor is serious about The Meal Project.  His theory is that "everyone eats - so why not eat together?"

The master behind The Meal Project.

There are 282 members of the Class of 2013--Connor has set himself a pretty hefty goal. Following through with The Meal Project will be a lot of work, so why is he doing it? After a conversation with Connor, it is apparent that his motives are unrelated to popularity. "I firmly believe that everyone has something to bring to the table – no pun intended – as no two persons’ perspectives, personalities, or life experiences are exactly the same," says Connor. "I want to take full advantage of the opportunity to get to know each of [my peers]."

It seems that we are in certain friend groups because we 'naturally gravitate' towards the people we choose to hang out with. But for freshmen and sophomores, it's important to take a step back and ask yourself whether the people that you go to every meal with are really the people you connect with the most, or if they are just the people that were on your W.O.A.! trip, or the people that you live next to. We have heard it a million times that if we just branch out a bit, we'd be surprised to find how much similarity we have with other people. The reason that we hear that so often is because it's true, and Connor has figured it out first hand. "I love to hear peoples' stories: who they are, why they're here, what they want to get out of this college experience, etc. It is always interesting to me to find out what things you'll have in common with random strangers."

After going on the Sophomore Leadership Experience sponsored by the Kravis Leadership Insitute, Connor realized how often we as people create artificial barriers between ourselves. Once he returned to campus, he recognized how those human divisions apply to CMC's social culture. Through the Meal Project, Connor wants to personally rid his social life of some of those distinctions, feeling that "we are such a small school already, we don't need any more divisions."

Wade Vaughn '13 is one of the few that will stand on tables at TNC and dinner.

Not only does Connor's Meal Project cross the barriers created by individual friend groups, but it is also enlightening to experience the difference between sober and non-sober social interactions. As Connor says, "With the exception of Wade Vaughn, pretty much everyone is quieter and more conservative at dinner than they are at TNC." Connor is quick to say that he loves our typical weekend social life just as much as any other CMCer, but questions whether or not the "friendships" created at TNC are the kind that we would benefit from most. "It continues to surprise me how outgoing CMCers can be at TNC – never hesitating to make an introduction or dance on a table – but just can't push themselves outside of their comfort zones in everyday life," says Connor. As "silly and paternalistic" as it sounds, Connor just wants everyone to get out there and meet new people while sober.

Before leaving for Fall Break, Connor was five weeks into the Meal Project and a fifth of the way through all of his classmates. He has started with all of the contacts in his phone, which he notes is an interesting test to see how many of his contacts he actually would feel comfortable asking to have a meal with. When his phonebook is exhausted, he will turn to Facebook and e-mail to reach out to the remainder of his peers.

The Meal Project is Connor's personal means of accomplishing his goal, but he hopes that others will join in this pursuit. Branching out does not have to be as extreme as starting your own Meal Project. Rather, Connor just proposes that we make a little more effort to be aware of, and challenge, our own social tendencies. If Connor can have a meal with everyone in our entire grade, then each of our own individual attempts to branch out are comparatively easy. In Connor's words, "I challenge everyone who reads this to introduce yourself to one new person today. Use this article as an excuse to strike up a conversation with that cute guy or girl you always pass on the way to Statistics. If you need a talking point, try The Meal Project."

Photo Credits: Connor Barclay