First impressions of future classmates take place on the internet. More often than not, it’s on Facebook. Remember “are you down?” Remember 2013 Facebook group conspiracies? Remember every CollegeConfidential thread ever?
For us, it’s reality. For our parents’ generation (or whoever’s out there on the NYT‘s The Choice blog), it’s still pretty revolutionary. This week, Caren Osten Gerszberg P ’15 compares her own experiences starting college 30 years ago to her daughter’s experiences making connections on the super-active WesAdmits2015 group:
Eventually, and inevitably, Nicole came across a girl with whom she had a mutual Facebook friend. They started a dialogue online and it turned out the girl lives in a nearby town. They met for ice cream one Sunday afternoon, and there it was — a new friend with whom she could text and meet while visiting their future school in April for WesFest, a long weekend of classes, seminars, performances and parties for parents and students, both current and future.
Gerszberg wonders if it’s all for the best:
And who knows what’s better, the comfort obtainable nowadays via e-mail and the Internet, or the feeling of walking onto a campus not knowing a soul?
As another Wesleyan alum and parent points out in the comments, these digital venues for communication may ease the transition, but they seem to have little effect on roommate success rates or longterm friendships in general. (Pertinently, some of the least successful roommate pairings I’ve seen at Wes found each other on Facebook.)
What’s interesting is that anecdotally, it appears that the “success” rate of roommates bonding, becoming friends, or even just peacefully co-existing, appears to be the same for those who chose each other in advance through Facebook or other venues, versus those who relied on the random selection of the University. While I certainly understand that knowing something about your roommate can ease some of the anxiety of the adventure, I wonder if new students miss something wonderful–that heart-stopping moment of walking into a room not knowing who’s there.
Another Wes ’15 parent weighs in about his son’s experiences on the Facebook group, where some future classmates write about their use of “weed,” in scare-quotes:
Even more surprising to me is his reaction to the comments some of his future classmates have been making on Facebook about their use of “weed”. He is trying to find out which dorm will have the least number of drinkers and marijuana smokers without having to live in a totally substance-free environment.
One of the most thoughtful comments, though, comes from an actual Wes prefrosh, who has extensively compared the Wes 2015 group to the UChicago group. Ze eventually decided “not [to] let a representative of my future class that I see on FB become a reflection of what my classmates will be like next year, let alone instant friends.” Ze’s right: these posts are less an indication of what your future classmates are like than an indication of how they appear to be like, or want to seem like, in a controlled online environment of instant first impressions and nervous pleas for companionship. At least it’s a friendly sort of artificial precollege digiscape: everyone wants to be your friend (“You like Starbucks and Fleet Foxes? So do I!”), because everyone else is as freaked out about college as you are.
If you’re a current Wesleyan student, look back on your class’s prefrosh Facebook group and laugh (or recoil in embarrassment). People change a lot in college, and there’s still something fascinating about comparing anxious, 18-year-old online introductions to I.R.L. interactions @ Wes.
Read Gerszberg’s full post here.
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PS: Don’t you love when your mom reproduces your genuine angsty mom-daughter exchanges in the New York Times? This one’s sheer gold:
As Nicole packed her bag preparing to catch the train to Connecticut, I sat on the floor of her room to keep her company.
“You know,” I said, “this is kind of like your first day of college.” She didn’t turn around, but just grumbled, “Uh-huh,” probably hoping I’d stop talking and let her get ready in peace.
“When I went to college, the only person I spoke with in advance was my assigned roommate,” I continued. “But you’ve already communicated with so many kids, and now you’ll be meeting some of them for the first time. So when you move in on Aug. 31, it won’t be as awkward and scary.”
“O.K., whatever,” she said.
Nicole did see familiar faces during the WesFest weekend, and came back as excited as ever.