Last term, I founded the SASI (Social Anxiety, Shyness and Introversion) Society. Yes, it is supposed to sound ‘sassy’. It’s a society for students who feel that they identify with any, or all, of the above. SASI is not primarily a support or self-help group, although I’m certainly planning to collaborate with Mind Your Head or peer supporters in future welfare events, but rather a club to provide alternative ways to socialise.
For readers unaware of the differences between social anxiety and shyness, these are not synonyms. While there can be overlap, someone can be shy but not have social anxiety or someone can have social anxiety but not be shy. While I’m not sure where the distinction between these two lies in myself, it varies a lot from person to person. Because of this I run a variety of different events so people can pick and choose what’s right for them, as well as what appeals to their personality.
The idea for SASI sparked out of my own needs. University is a hyper-social culture. A lot of students enjoy having the freedom to host parties late into the night, go out clubbing and visit societies bursting with people who share a hobby. This, for me, is pretty terrifying.
I spent a lot of my first term at Oxford hiding in my room. I would feel anxious about leaving my room to use the bathroom in case someone said ‘Hi’ to me. What would happen? Well, I would say ‘Hi’ and that would be it. Phobias aren’t rational.
This term things are a lot easier. I’ve gotten to know my fellow English students well and everyone I’ve met is incredibly supportive and tolerant. But a lot of social situations always have and always will overwhelm me.
With SASI, however, the idea is that it’s socialising with less pressure: everyone at the events can relate at least a little to how you feel and, although we have quite a few members in our Facebook group, events so far have been small with only a handful of students, so it’s nice and cosy. Every weekend I run a general session with board games and snacks and in the weekdays I organize an additional event such as museum trips and movie nights.
If the society continues to be a success, I’ll soon be looking into funding and having a stall at the Freshers’ Fair. As Freshers’ week is especially overwhelming, I think it’s extremely important to have a presence there for new students.
While I initially made the society for myself, I’ve been touched by the positive impact it has had on others and this has made me determined to continue. So to finish, I’d like to share another member’s, Alan Hua Shen’s, thoughts on SASI:
‘As a concept for a society, I think something like SASI is ingenious, but furthermore, really vital at university. It caters to a group of people, like myself, who might ordinarily have trouble finding some commitment at university, or staying proactive in day-to-day activities. When introducing it to a friend, they dubbed it the antithesis of what the word “club” brings to mind, but it’s because of this that I feel it is all the more necessary, and I was very surprised and impressed to hear that it had only been established in Michaelmas term!
‘For me personally, I have been living for a while now within a mental grey area – I’ve had no formal therapy or diagnoses, yet I am painfully aware of how disruptive my social anxiety and shyness has become in so many aspects of my daily life: going out to dinner, to societies, to lectures, clubbing (or rather, not going to these).
‘It’s clear to me that ignoring the issue does no good, and to me, SASI is a relaxed and enjoyable way of easing myself comfortably into social interaction. Everybody may draw different benefits from SASI, but for me the simple sessions of board games and casual discussion are almost like a kind of informal therapy. It has started off my second term at Oxford on a far brighter note than the first.
‘I hope the society continues to grow in size and recognition in the future; the feeling of being in a subculture surrounded by people who understand and acknowledge your social anxiety, shyness, or introversion is, in my opinion, quite priceless.’
SASI Society (Oxford) can be found on Facebook. Alternatively, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.