I was accepted to Penn at 5:00 PM. After a few minutes of jumping and screaming—which my brother videotaped, shame on him—I sat down again to browse the admissions decision portal.
In a conspicuous, bright red box was a link to join Penn’s accepted students Facebook group. By 5:03 PM, I was already connected with several hundred other early decision admits, receiving friend requests from overzealous classmates that I had never interacted with in my life.
This wasn’t the case when our parents went to college, or even our older siblings. The confusion was a rite of passage—you moved to a new place, met your roommate the day of move-in and joined the overwhelming conglomerate of nervous freshmen. You didn’t know a single person.
These days, even the more introverted students like me are inevitably lost in a Facebook frenzy of “prefrosh” trying to befriend everyone they possibly can. Somehow, I became a member of the official Penn group, the unofficial Penn group, the official Arts & Sciences group, the unofficial Arts & Sciences group, the music lovers group, the creative writing group, the official group for my dorm, the unofficial group for my dorm—and I’m sure dozens of other groups exist that I have yet to be added to.
I don’t post in these groups. I suffer from the fear of becoming “That Kid From Facebook.” I’ve commented almost exclusively on posts in which people mention my favorite bands, because let’s face it—I am determined to solidify my stance as “Biggest Arctic Monkeys Fan in Philly.”
If you have resisted the temptation to share your 2390 SAT score (so close!) or ask how many condoms to bring (probably zero, if you make that post), congratulations! You are not “That Kid From Facebook.” Celebrate. Rejoice. Breathe. But after you smirk and sigh at that poor soul who posted a picture of himself in a Penn t-shirt as an infant with his double-legacy parents, take a moment to think about how strange the period from acceptance to orientation has become.
College Facebook groups are a lot like online dating—no one is there without an agenda. You try to find the roommate of your dreams, only to remember that Emma Watson goes to Brown. You make sure to act way cooler than you actually are (“Hey, so, anyone know any bars downtown?”). You play up your music taste (“You know, Sonic Youth, The Velvet Underground, Neutral Milk Hotel…”), when in reality you know all the words to “Wrecking Ball.”
In short, everyone is afraid of showing up at orientation without knowing anyone. After years of high school, we finally have the chance to find “like-minded people,” and we don’t want to miss out. But this fear is absurd, because college is centered on the opportunity to have new experiences.
Class of 2018: Relax. Don’t end up on acceptedco2018.tumblr.com. Try not to over-exert yourself searching for your new best friend on Facebook. Let’s not live up to the stereotypes that our grandparents project on us, in which we only socialize on our iPhones. Meet your friends brushing your teeth in the communal bathroom, in the line at Starbucks, or in that Gen. Ed. class that your AP credits couldn’t waive.
That’s not to say that Facebook friendships can’t happen at all—I’ve met some cool people through my occasional commentary on “What music do you like?” threads. In fact, at a regional Penn event, someone saw my nametag and said, “Hey! You’re the girl who likes Radiohead!” and it was an instant friendship. But friendship borne from Facebook shouldn’t be the norm. I think that we need to find a balance between using new technology to our advantage, and looking to our iPhones as oracles of friendship.
I am happy that I will have the luxury of knowing a few friendly faces at orientation, thanks to Facebook. Just make sure you don’t limit yourself when there are thousands of new, interesting people to meet. Most importantly, make sure that people don’t recognize you because they have seen your baby pictures wearing a Penn onesie.