It is our habit to respect out heritage/amorous affair by posting each issue of The Blue and White. The latest issue, available this week, has a lot of cool stuff in it. In one blast-from-the-past article, staff writer Lily Icangelo forays into our pre-college Facebook haze.
It is sometimes hard to think of Columbia students as a united tribe. We are not a college whose sense of community is wrought by a collective despair at being stranded in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by trees and bears and unpaved roads. But deep in the annals of Facebook there lies proof that we all do have something in common—the inelegant, gauche, social anxiety of those post-acceptance, pre-college months—when we had yet to arrive but could think of nothing else. We may not have agreed on politics or the perfect prospie profile picture, but we all shared the need for reassurance that we were not alone in our excitement and anxiety.
Facebook’s “Class of…” groups satisfied that need, providing a cool blue salve for the raw wounds of newly admitted students, wrenched from their cozy high school cliques by selective (or perhaps arbitrary) admissions letters. The administration creates these official “welcome” groups for recently admitted students every year, to help them get to know their fellow almost-freshmen and connect them with current students. Students must be invited or confirm their admission to Columbia in order to join their official class group; other students start unofficial and open groups that fill with spam after students arrive in Morningside and eventually lose interest. Though the groups of both types quickly recede into the haze of their members’ memories along with the likes of NSOP and AlcoholEDU, the conversations on the group message boards that once ruthlessly tossed you from valiant crests to deep troughs of the waves of pre-collegiate popularity remain preserved there like mosquitoes frozen in amber.
Examining this petrified “pre-frosh” confabulation (“Ulysses is your favorite book too?!?!”), one can trace the trajectory of minor issues into sheer panic attacks—comments ridden with the overuse and abuse of exclamation marks and caps lock. Take “a minor bedding crisis,” an example of the passions of women from the Barnard Class of 2011. The thread’s first comment: “So in the e-mail that the elusive Steve Tolman sent out, in the attached newsletter it was mentioned that we DON’T need extra long sheets. WTF?” A deeply perturbed student responded, “Wait!?!? What?!? That catalogue they sent out only sold extra long sheets?!?! That makes no sense!!!” You may scoff now, but the anguish of pre-college limbo combined with Facebook’s merciless transparency encouraged penetrating bed-sheet anxiety, which may have done more damage to your id than you realize.
Barnard groups are not the sole keepers of bizarre, misplaced anxieties. Equally fanatical and overly passionate messages still litter every page of the official so-called “Columbia” groups, which seem to include Barnard students in some years but not in others. Columbia 2012 had a lovely thread entitled “XXX Sex XXX”. One post pityingly emphasizes the eighteen-year-old virgin’s fantasy of a dorm packed with 500 other fervent youths. Unfortunately, the lusty kid’s dream was crushed as his invitation to orgy was quickly turned into a lengthy debate about the Gardasil vaccine. Even the many Twilight threads inspired sophisticated vampiric debates and a succinct history of the relationship between British and American accents.
In addition to copulation, many people took to the groups to avoid the horror of random roommate pairing. Hopeful students created cohabitation criteria threads, in the hopes that the Internet would facilitate the finding of a soul mate. Unfortunately, Facebook did not always prove to be the best matchmaker. Many students who vowed to be best friends forever recount violent screaming matches two days into NSOP.
There were, of course, the pretentious threads, nearly unbearable to read in hindsight. In the “I turned down _____ for Columbia” thread, commenters left long lists of schools they were accepted to along with the merit-based scholarships that each of those schools were offering them. Another common breed might be dubbed the “sooo ivy league” comments, appearing in response to questions like “Who Wants To Start A Cigar Club (On Campus)” and “I only picked this Ivy because the colors are better than the others.”
We cringe to click through their discourses today, but what our class groups lacked in maturity, they more than made up for with encouraging commiseration, easing the transition from high school to college with the proof that everyone else was nervous, horny, and little bit conceited too. Reflection on these unbelievably public diaries of Columbia University’s collective conscious serves to remind us that our lofty aspirations are not all that bring us together, and that our baser, more humble instincts—to get drunk, to get laid, and simply to be well-liked—are common to us all.