I’m in five different GroupMe’s and countless Facebook groups dedicated to Yale, and I haven’t set foot in my residential college. Are the microcosms of Yale more dependent on tapping buttons than the touted residential college system? Yes and no. Before you cry blasphemy, from what I’ve experienced (i.e., the minimal exposure to Yale life through Bulldog Days) both systems arise and thrive on the fact that students at Yale want to create a sense of community.
There seems to be a Facebook group, GroupMe and Instagram page for every club, class or interest. And if there isn’t a social media platform for your specific interest in vintage Curious George hardcovers, you can create one in seconds. Unfortunately, you may be the only one in it. This sounds very similar to college tour guide pitches that flaunt the 200-plus clubs and the ease of creating your own club of interest. Well, people create clubs to discuss and share a common interest; the same reasoning goes for social media groups. So why go through the labor of making an interest club when the same can be achieved relatively easily through a press of a button — especially when Yale administrators may be hesitant to approve a Curious George collectors’ club? Clubs also create a sense of community and social media can only serve a symbolic purpose for a club, making communication easier but not replacing good old-fashioned face-to-face. GroupMe’s tend to be based in already established physical groups: the class of 2022, your residential college and pre-law 2022 (which I recently joined after binge-watching “Suits”).
But that’s not to say social media doesn’t offer novel opportunities for collaboration and camaraderie. It gives us the ability to communicate instantly over any distance with friends on opposite sides of the country. The same way that the Yale admissions committee brings together a diverse class from around the globe, social media can sustain that effect. Thus, these GroupMe’s may not serve as a virtual replacement, but rather a logical extension of the diverse residential college common rooms that we all definitely wrote about in our “Why Yale” essays.
Furthermore, social media provides a unique resource specifically for prefrosh who have no idea what a week at Yale looks like. For example, our class of 2022 GroupMe not only puts all of our accounts in the same chat, but it also helps unite us because we all have no idea what to expect, but at least we can have no idea together. I’ve always been taught that great books can instill emotions that transcend cultures and time. Well, we can do approximately the same thing by spouting our anxiety and making polls about whether or not water is wet in a GroupMe. Apart from that, it also introduces us to our fellow classmates, allowing us to put not only faces, but also personalities to names. Gone are the days of awkward introductions; we can now dap each other up like we’re reuniting rather than meeting for the first time.
How can I talk about social media without talking about the memes — specifically, “Yale Memes for Special Snowflake Teens.” Personally, when I got accepted, this page was one of the first things I looked at after I first asked myself the question, “How did I get in?” Although I did not know a lot about Yale before going onto the page, I’ve now gathered a wealth of information from the meme page alone. Unlike the official Yale website and tour guide stories, this page is a collective of humorous, yet brutally honest, sentiments of student life at Yale (not to say that the website isn’t honest and the tour guides unhumourous).
So many people bemoan the dangers of social media, complaining that it has the potential to make us less social. With the ability to communicate simply by opening Facebook Messenger from the safety of our own home, we may fall into a trap. However, I think that social media will work in tandem with other more traditional forms of community-building by providing more opportunities for connection. I don’t think that Yale will see the day when everyone’s head is ducked down at their iPhone screen because of that. But maybe Harvard will, who knows.
Jeffrey Ma is a first year in Davenport College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .