Remember those awful middle-school days when you didn't have anyone to sit with? Standing there awkwardly, wondering who to approach...hoping they won't laugh at you...
Those days are definitely not filled with my favorite memories. But now, thanks to technology, teenagers may never have to experience that dread and awkwardness again. A new app, 'Sit With Us', helps kids find a welcoming group to eat with during their lunch hour.
The app allows students to sign up as “ambassadors”--inviting others to join them. Similar to how couchsurfing works, ambassadors can post “open lunch” that alerts students their table is available for anyone to join.
The app was designed by Natalie Hampton, a 16-year-old from Sherman Oaks, California. She was motivated after an isolating year of eating alone in middle-school. We all know kids are brutal, especially at that tender time of early adolescence, and as Hampton discussed with NPR— her solo situation left vulnerable to bullying.
Hampton says “At my old school, I was completely ostracized by all of my classmates, and so I had to eat lunch alone every day. When you walk into the lunchroom and you see all the tables of everyone sitting there and you know that going up to them would only end in rejection, you feel extremely alone and extremely isolated, and your stomach drops. And you are searching for a place to eat, but you know that if you sit by yourself, there'll be so much embarrassment that comes with it because people will know and they'll see you as the girl who has nowhere to sit. So there's so many awful feelings that come along with it.”(sic)
The young teenager eventually moved to another school and even though she now enjoys an active social life--she still feels a lot of empathy for others who don't have anyone to sit with. She was inspired to make this app to prevent kids from having to approach strangers to eat with, leaving them open for rejection.
The app can stop a lot of bullying, which has been shown to cause lifetime damage. It can also help form a lot of friendships and group bonding--something that is vital to help kids form their identity during adolescence. And as so many kids are forced to eat in the guidance office or even in the bathroom, this app has the potential to improve a lot of social anxiety surrounding middle and high school.
My only concern is that the app could backfire in the hands of bullies. Kids can be cruel. I can imagine a group of the 'cool kids' signing up for the app to see who is listed and then mock them for not having any friends.
Yet hopefully, the app will pick up enough popularity—and all the kids will use it as a way to promote inclusiveness and positive friendships.
Top photo from Mean Girls
Photo from Sit With Us
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Patricia is a writer, activist, and aspiring journalist. She likes writing about politics, sexuality, and feminism. She is a bit of a wanderer and has lived in Morocco, Australia, and India. Recently moved to Brooklyn, she is currently learning to navigate NYC subways.