Can YOU walk to mess on your own? – Max A

In my limitless time as a Year 13 student, I sat twiddling my thumbs in Nelson and asked myself, why do people have to travel to mess in groups?

Whenever I tell people that I will very often walk to mess or any other meal on my own, they become visibly stunned. When I tell them that I will sometimes go into the dining hall also on my own they nearly have a heart attack. I have never told anyone that I sometimes just sit on my own because I fear I will be charged with some form of manslaughter after they collapse from shock. Why is it so alien in school to walk and enter the mess hall alone?

Cellofest Venue and Travel Info - Cellofest course for Suzuki Cello
Look familiar? Its what our Mess Hall used to look like!

Now if you are in the younger years, I could understand. The school is big, and the walks are long. The chance of even making it to the next lesson in the bustling corridors can be a slim one, and with numbers comes safety. But what about year 13? Where is their excuse?

I have decided to conduct a few interviews with anonymous pupils from Nelson, the most confident and assured year in the school (apparently) who have no fear of being laughed at by older years, for obvious reasons. The interview consisted of a simple question “Could you walk to mess on your own, or do you have to be with friends?” If the answer was yes, nothing more was asked. If not, then I would follow up with why until I got a suitable answer. 25 boys and 25 girls were asked this question, a mix of day and boarders alike, so make no mistake I have all bases covered.

Home - Royal Hospital School

I categorised my answers into male and female, and although I will go into more depth, here is the qualitative graph:

As you can see, there are very clear difference in both graphs. Although there is not a large difference (5) between total amount of people who can or cannot go into mess alone, there is a sizable gap between male and female. But that isn’t truly what I want to find out, what I want to know is why???

Well from a psychological approach, everyone is boosted by their friends through social support. We will remain more independent and raise our voices when among those that make us feel safe. In a study on conformity by Asch (1951), there was a 550% increase in independence when the participants had social support from those around them.

Asch Conformity Experiment | Simply Psychology
Asch is a very famous psychologist who was key in the development of Social Influence, the study of how we interact with each other.

So is that the reason why? We feel safe with our friends, more confident. Sounds about right. But I looked a little bit deeper by asking people why they couldn’t go on their own, and here are the results.

Wow, what a graph. There are some good answers here. Boredom is fair, so is loneliness. And no wanting to make others uncomfortable, well yes thats understandable. But 50% of people wouldn’t go into mess alone because they were scared of being judged. Wait, really? Judgement?! Why on earth would one feel judged in such a kind and friendly school!!?? Oh, right.

File:Dining Hall of the Royal Hospital School (5566952747).jpg
What our Mess Hall looked like even further back in 1928, back when we were in Greenwich!

Well, it seems that we have built up a vicious system of conviction and condemnation for anyone who dares to walk on their own. Whatever happened to independence? Is it possible to exist in school without friends surrounding us 100% of the time?

In my opinion, I would recommend that we all try and regain our independence. Throw off the weighted shackles of co-dependency and take back the power to live our own lives. Take baby steps. Walk to your next lesson by yourself, and walk across the parade square alone. One day, you may even be able to enter that dreaded mess hall all by yourself!  

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