The following might score you serious indie points at a less quirked-up institution, but not here!

Being a member of the Barnumbia community can sometimes feel like a competition. The highly cutthroat nature of an Ivy League institution runs through all aspects of Columbia life, from scrambling to maintain precious decimals of your GPA, trying to one-up your (imaginary) academic rival who sits across from you in your Core discussion class, to fudging the details of your resume in order to secure a more prestigious internship than the person dating your crush. But there is another battlefield, one more brutal and unforgiving than any other—the aesthetic. It’s almost like keeping up with the Joneses, but rather than battling your suburban neighbor for the most tastelessly decorated McMansion, you’re fighting to be perceived as the resident on your floor who logs the most minutes-listened to Sufjan Stevens on their yearly Spotify Wrapped.

Everyone here is constantly competing to be cool, to be stylish, to be indie—an often used (but rarely defined) descriptor, a catch-all for anything a little quirky, a little goofy, a little not-like-other-girls. Indie is a fall-back, a trusty way to be perceived at this school as putting off “good vibes.” The problem is, being such a broad and ambiguous term, many things are mistaken for indie-isms that are purely normie core. Even more troubling is that, given Columbia’s large and effortlessly quirky undergraduate population, things that might earn you the heavily desired title of “Indie” anywhere else make you just another person here (what’s referred to as “Ivy League indie deflation”). There’s no reason to panic; the following list will help you navigate these turbulent seas, to know what is NOT INDIE. This is not to say that to be “not indie” is bad, or that the truly indie Barnumbians never engage in the following behaviors. Rather, let this be a guide to certain things that aren’t as quirked-up as you might think so you can pursue that which will truly win you the indie rat race.

  1. $4.99 kombucha
  2. Using a tote bag in place of a backpack (bonus not-indie points if it’s a New Yorker tote)
  3. Having your phone set to your language-req language
  4. “Accidentally” slipping into your language-req language
  5. Dr. Martens 
  6. “To the Lighthouse is the best book on the Lit Hum syllabus.”
  7. Harry Styles
  8. Clear glasses frames
  9. Overenthusiastic A24 worship
  10. Barnard chop
  11. Attending the 100 Gecs concert at Terminal 5 in December
  12. Curtain bangs (any gender)
  13. Jane Austen
  14. Frequenting Washington Square Park
  15. “No, I actually thrifted this at L Train.”
  16. Platform boots in lieu of a personality
  17. The Strand
  18. Having a Spec Podcast
  19. “Formal on film!” Instagram photo dump
  20. Being an obscure Columbia-centric meme page admin
  21. Programming for the radio station (at 3 am no less)
  22. Columbia Psychological Services
  23. Taylor Swift Folklore cardigan
  24. Loving Taylor Swift
  25. Hating Taylor Swift
  26. Being the child of a politician
  27. Pretending that you’re not the child of a politician
  28. Being the child of a robber baron
  29. Being an industry plant
  30. Having a twin who also goes to Columbia
  31. “The gays love me!”
  32. “Can we read on the Lawn?”
  33. Science of Psych
  34. The Social World
  35. Performatively mourning SOPHIE (but not listening to her music)
  36. Projecting onto Patroclus a little too hard during Lit Hum
  37. Nose rings
  38. Mom jeans
  39. French and Francophone Studies
  40. “I actually prefer the taste of diet soda.”
  41. Gays (y2k)
  42. Gays (tweed)
  43. Steps culture
  44. Pink Whitney
  45. Fake designer
  46. “Let’s study at Hungarian!”
  47. Claw Clips
  48. Gay man wears lesbian earrings
  49. Dorm room stick-and-poke tattoos (if you know someone who does them let me know though)
  50. Ordering pancakes from JJ’s
  51. Ordering an egg white omelet from John Jay
  52. Ferris Booth Commons
  53. Sappho quote Instagram caption
  54. Freshman Met-posting
  55. Posting an RBG “In Memoriam” on Instagram
  56. “Come check out my improv show this Friday!”
  57. Pret coffee subscription
  58. Performative smoking
  59. Gay envy
  60. Zines
  61. Riot grrrl
  62. Being a GS student
  63. “My ex goes to Princeton.”
  64. White boy does jazz (but in a “non-problematic,” “non-appropriative” way)
  65. Champagne socialism
  66. Hartley
  67. Wallach
  68. Philosophy major
  69. “My Google internship is paying for my summer housing!”
  70. Met internship
  71. Handmade clothing
  72. Weed
  73. Marx-Engels Reader
  75. Borderline alcoholism
  76. “My CC professor is so hot…”
  77. Alison Bechdel worship
  78. The Met Cloisters
  79. Meeting Marianne Williamson
  80. Dine with Deantini
  81. Formals (generally)
  82. ADP
  83. Flexing your GU seminar that you don’t do the readings for
  84. “I go to the College”
  85. Woman in STEM
  86. White girl does curly girl method
  87. Being British
  88. Being French
  89. Lying about your hometown
  90. Wolf cut
  91. Being anxious about mask fishing
  92. Reading tarot
  93. Nihilism
  94. Calling it Barnumbia
  95. “No, my sleep schedule is SO fucked up!”
  96. “I do ALL of the Core readings!”
  97. “I do NONE of the Core readings!”
  98. Senior Night
  99. “I actually never downloaded TikTok.”
  100. Using call instead of Duo push
  101. Bwog

“Indie” Alma via Bwog Archives