Tag Archive: Facebook

  1. A Desire to Be Heard

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    If you ever want your mind bent, try going through your Facebook history. If you don’t have a Facebook account, good job on getting into heaven.

    Blame the throes of winter, or the mountains of schoolwork, or the behemoth known in some circles as A Job Search, but a few weeks ago I found myself in desperate need of positive reinforcement. Not feeling bold enough to post the Facebook status, “Hey everyone I’m in desperate need of positive reinforcement because life right now feels like a trash compactor,” I searched for a piece of my Facebook past. And I ended up finding a lot more.

    Six years ago, when I was a sophomore in high school, two senior girls posted a video to my Facebook wall. The premise was cheeky — they pretended to have accidentally hit the record button and then talked to each other about me — but they said some wonderful things. When I first saw it, my heart lifted, and that night, I went to sleep smiling. Cut to present day: I knew they posted the video sometime in the spring of 2009, so I used Facebook’s timeline feature to bring up everything: high school friends’ posts, tagged photos and, most horrifyingly, old status updates. I trawled through months of myself at sixteen, unearthing every post (example gem: “didn’t get an extension for his English project??? WTF?!?!?!”). I cringed at every awkward interaction with my friends, every complaint about my French assignments. I couldn’t believe I talked the way I did – without context, my sarcasm revealed an extremely jaded and unlikable kid.

    But was my embarrassment a function of my immaturity then or my present-day self-policing? My Facebook presence today is carefully curated, composed of advertisements for my improv shows (come to them!) and my pun-filled Tweets (follow me on Twitter!). I never get very personal. It’s gauche, it’s overbearing, no one wants to hear that.

    This shift from my high school to my college self was gradual. As our generation grew up on social media, we evolved from one set of concerns to another. In the beginning, you had to watch out for creeps with fake accounts. Later, you had to watch out for yourself; the Internet had permanence, we discovered, and we had to avoid posting any unflattering or compromising content. (My mom’s rule: “Never post something you wouldn’t want on the front page of the New York Times.”) Today, the Internet isn’t so scary (everyone’s on it!), but it serves as a talking point in all those hand-wringing thinkpieces about the problem with millennials. There’s this idea that Kids These Days are narcissistic, and social media sites like Facebook and Instagram just indulge their gross desire to post pics of themselves double-fisting daiquiris in Cabo. This prompted someone like me to write, on Oct. 22, 2009, “I keep promising myself that each Thursday night will be better than the last … and they always get worse.” Oh, the hubris! Oh, the look-at-me! Oh, the … deeply human desire to be heard?

    As I grimaced at my Facebook past, I considered blocking off three hours of my day to go through and hide each and every post. I was terrified that anyone could jump back in time and see my warts. But I stopped. First, because of laziness. Second, because I began to question my motives. What was so narcissistic about wanting to let my friends know how I was feeling? Even if my complaints were cheap calls for sympathy, what if I really needed it? I can’t remember how I felt when I posted every status, but given how generally trash-compacted I felt in high school, I wouldn’t put it past myself to be desperately honest to the world. Back then, the few likes I’d get on my statuses would ease my nerves. Looking at those likes today did too.

    I never found the video — the girl who had posted it deactivated her account some time ago — and I eventually got out of my funk. I wondered what would have happened if I had posted something brutally honest about my feelings, something that didn’t hide behind wordplay or YouTube links. I wondered if my Facebook friends would sneer or empathize. Would they reach out to me in my time of need? I believe that they would, and I would do the same for them.

  2. Death in the Age of Facebook

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    Years ago, I went to camp with a girl named Olivia. She was everyone’s friend, or at least seemed that way, and everyone envied her charm. She was the type that could sneak out one weekend to a concert in Boston, get caught in a storm and come back soaking wet and escape the whole episode without getting in trouble.

    A few weeks ago, I came across Olivia’s Facebook profile for the first time in over a year. Olivia and I hadn’t been particularly close and hadn’t felt any obligation to keep in touch after camp ended. But, when I came across her profile, the words “Remembering Olivia” occupied the space where just her name should have been, and I had the chilling feeling of encountering a ghost. After all, Olivia had passed away a year earlier from leukemia.

    I hesitated to explore any further, as it felt like disturbing a grave. But I read on. The page had become a memorial, a testament to Olivia’s life. Friends still regularly posted photos and messages to her, often saying how much they missed her and reminding her of the empty space she’d left behind. Others wrote messages that didn’t mention her death — her best friend had posted a link to Taylor Swift’s newest music video, and another left regular updates about college life.

    *  *  *

    After coming across Olivia’s Facebook, I began thinking: What will happen to my Facebook after I die? Or my email accounts, or all the texts and photos on my phone? It’s strange to think of those things as a type of property, something that becomes owner-less at one’s death. We live in the digital age; what happens in the digital afterlife?

    With that question in mind, I began doing some research online and discovered a whole range of services offering to help plan your digital afterlife. Google allows you to determine what will happen to your emails when your account becomes inactive, while Yahoo even has a service that allows users to pre-write emails to be sent once the company is notified of their death.

    I was more than a little disturbed by this morbid side of the digital age, using technology to extend a person’s existence beyond the limits of mortal life.

    But there are other ways to manage one’s post-mortem online presence. In February, Facebook announced a new policy allowing users to designate a “legacy contact.” This person would be able to write one last post on your timeline, respond to friend requests and change your profile picture and cover photo.

    To me, this seemed much more natural than sending emails from beyond the grave. Rather than mimicking the person’s presence, this policy allows his or her death to be acknowledged, with the word “Remembering” added before his or her name. Facebook’s inherently social nature provides the perfect forum for people to communally mourn a friend or loved one while celebrating that person’s life, immortalized in a Facebook profile.

    *  *  *

    When I found out about Olivia’s death, I cried.

    The tears startled me, because I’m not an emotional person. I don’t know if I even cried when members of my extended family passed away. I tried to figure out why I was so affected. Maybe it was her youth, the tragedy of a life taken too early. Maybe it was the shock of knowing that even my peers were not excused from mortality.

    But I think I took her death hard because I had, in some ways, watched it approach. Facebook had provided a window for me and 800 other Facebook friends to watch Olivia battle her illness.

    Although she rarely posted about it herself, Olivia’s sickness was reflected in her profile. In the early days of her diagnosis, during her senior year of high school, her page was flooded with encouragement and support. And for the rest of that year, her life was documented on Facebook with the same nostalgia of any other high school senior. But her illness marked every moment: She received her college acceptance letter while in a hospital bed, and her graduation cap sat upon a head that had lost its hair to chemotherapy.

    Through Facebook, we watched Olivia’s life from afar, never personally involved in events so distant that they seemed unreal. But it’s hard to distance yourself from death, so unequivocally absolute that it feels real no matter how far away it is.

    On the day Olivia passed away, hundreds of people left messages on her timeline. Friends and relatives posted, as expected, but most people left messages that began, “I didn’t know Olivia well…”

    I didn’t leave a message. Maybe that was out of self-consciousness, but I just didn’t feel that I had earned the right to publicly mourn her. Instead, I dug out an old memory card that held our photos from camp, and privately mourned a life lost.

  3. Where the Time Goes: Why Do We Spend So Much Time on Facebook?

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    It’s late Thursday night and I‘m probing Jackson Beck ’17, a classmate, about his Facebook habits over questionably cheap steak sandwiches.

    “So how much time do you really spend on Facebook every day?” I ask.

    “About an hour,” he answers, without pausing to consider.

    “And when you log off Facebook, what percent of the time do you leave feeling satisfied?”

    “About five percent of the time,” Jackson pauses, biting into his sandwich and looking up at the ceiling as he chews. “Yeah, I’d probably say I leave Facebook feeling unsatisfied 95 percent of the time.”

    “So you’re telling me you spend an hour a day doing something that 95 percent of the time leaves you unsatisfied?” I ask.

    “Well … Yeah.”

    I’m writing this article because I’m curious. I’m curious as to why, when I walk around a lecture hall or a dining hall or a party or a seminar table, at least a few people are always scrolling through their newsfeeds. I want to investigate why I, like many of my friends and classmates at Yale, feel ultimately unsatisfied by the hours, days, weeks and collective years that we’ve spent staring at that familiar blue screen. Why do we spend so much time on Facebook?


    Yale was one of the first three universities to receive theFacebook.com in March 2004, along with Columbia and Stanford. Mark Zuckerberg birthed his brainchild just a month before in his Harvard dorm room at the beginning of February. It was a basic blue and white affair, with a male’s pixelated blue face staring down at users from the top left corner of every page.

    Just a few months later, the News was already lauding and lamenting the far reach of theFacebook.com’s popularity: “Ahh, the joys of being able to mass-proclaim your popularity via the Internet. Although theFacebook.com is not the originator of social standing sites, it is undeniable that for the college student eager to find new and enlightening ways to procrastinate (those which don’t involve another being or a spare hand) theFacebook.com can easily become a means to fruitful Friday online frolics,” wrote Dana Schuster ’07.

    Schuster’s guide to Facebook etiquette included (now scarily dated) warnings to the class of 2008 to resist the temptation to message new suitemates in lieu of calling them. TheFacebook.com’s capabilities, she half-joked, half-pleaded, were by no means a proxy for meeting real people.

    As Yale students a decade later, we belong to the first generation of “digital natives” — a term which Sherry Turkle, director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, used in her aptly titled book “Alone Together.” When I entered Yale, my expectations for the place were almost entirely dictated by the Class of 2017 Facebook page.

    By Bulldog Days there were already campus celebrities, certain names on everybody’s lips. Before I had even stepped foot on campus, I had seen pictures of my suitemates when they were toddlers, learned what kind of activities they had been involved with in high school and felt myself a partial witness to their awkward middle school phases. Calling them on the phone probably would have been the most prominent display of social ineptitude I could ever conceive of.


    It’s a blustery Saturday afternoon when I sit down for coffee with Helder Toste ’16. If you don’t know who he is, you probably don’t have a Facebook.

    I’ve always assumed that Facebook celebrities are introverts glued to their screens, but Helder is both more gregarious and socially adept than I expected. He keeps his phone in his pocket throughout the duration of the interview, removing it only once to glance at a few messages that accumulated during our chat.

    “I like to consider myself a very fun and sarcastic person,” he tells me. “I think coming into Yale, a lot of people from the Class of 2016 were like, ‘this guy is so intense!’”

    Toste says that he uses Facebook for around an hour a day, but intermittently, like when he’s waiting for class to start or walking home from the library. He gets around 10 to 20 Facebook messages a day, and when he logs on, there are usually around five to 10 notifications waiting for him. He likes to post on the Class of 2018, 2017 and 2016 pages — mainly because he wants to help answer people’s questions — and on “Overheard at Yale” because it’s amusing.

    Although students frequently disagree about how to pronounce his surname (It’s Tost-ee), the name is ubiquitous around campus.

    “A lot of the time I meet people and it’s like, ‘you’re Helder, the guy on Facebook,’ and I’m like ‘that’s not totally who I am!’” He explains. While Helder stresses that his Facebook profile in no way represents who he is, he has made a fair number of friends through such interactions.

    Bianca Li ’17 also feels like her two-dimensional Facebook profile doesn’t fully capture the complexities of her three-dimensional self.

    “I feel like in person I’m very much more of a listener than a talker. There’s a lot I won’t tell people unless they ask me,” she says.

    Li spends five hours on Facebook every day. She is a frequent poster on the Class of 2017 and 2018 pages. Unlike Helder, she isn’t so positive about the recognition she gets for her Facebook activity but concedes that it’s part of the trade. She understands her online presence can be polarizing, because of the amount of comments that she posts.

    Li says she’s amazed that people often recognize her from her Facebook profile. “Freshman year, people would visit my dorm room. Some people who didn’t even have swipe access to my entryway. It was kind of creepy, but at the same time, I kind of understand the fascination with people who are so visible online,” she says.

    She describes her Facebook personality as “jokey” but also sometimes serious, when she advocates for things she thinks are important, like feminism and healthful living.

    “It’s very much a representation of what I would like to be seen as,” she says.


    Ben Chen*, a junior who deactivated his profile for the entirety of last year, agrees that Facebook does give us a platform to present what we’d like to be seen as by other people, but often in a way that he finds “pathetic.” Ben chose to deactivate his Facebook because of what he calls an “old person’s obsession with privacy,” and for the same reason requested to use a pseudonym to retain Google anonymity.

    “I think at Yale, the perfect profile picture is one where you look really good, but where it doesn’t look like you’re trying to look good,” he says. “At my high school the perfect profile picture was just a picture that looked really good.”

    Ben says that perhaps this active nonchalance on Facebook is unique to the elite and highly educated — that we, as Yale students, think we need to be aware of the medium as a medium. We need to simultaneously wink at the idea of Facebook and try to look good on Facebook. Ben’s idea of a good profile is one that’s either over the top, campy and ironic, or one that’s tasteful, effortless and fun.

    “How tasteful are their photographs? If they’re trying too hard to come off a certain way, then that seems kind of desperate and pathetic.”

    And thus we enter a zone where we’re judging and being judged on every detail of what we’ve chosen to present. We’re carefully packaging mass amounts of information about ourselves because being seen as pathetic sounds really scary.

    Before Facebook, if I met an interesting guy at a party, I’d have to ask my friends if anyone knew his telephone number, and then muster up the guts to call his landline, all the while fearing he wouldn’t pick up — or even worse: that the conversation would be awkward. Now I can go on Facebook and see what his “deal” is and also pictures of his cats and his parents and what he looked like when he was a baby and what type of people he hung out with in high school and what bands and movies and books he likes and doesn’t like and he likes country music? Hah, no way. Like he ever stood a chance.

    “I think the biggest problem with Facebook is making assumptions about someone before they actually meet them,” laments Maggie Morse ’17. “It’s hard — for example if your friend says they’re dating someone new, it’s hard not to make an assumption in your head. You get some sort of impression of them. I’ve definitely done that. But I wish I didn’t.”

    “That sounds awful, oh gosh,” she adds.

    “I’m pretty sure we’ve all done that. It’s inevitable. Human nature,” I quickly reply.

    Who am I making justifications for?


    I call Nicholas Christakis ’84 on a Friday evening just before he drives out of cell phone range into rural Vermont. Christakis, director of the Human Nature Lab, does not discount the day-to-day utility of Facebook, but he does maintain that Facebook has the ability to perpetuate feelings of negative self-worth. Christakis attended a Yale where every room had landlines (with no answering machines!) and people scribbled messages to friends on the chalkboards outside each suite.

    “On any given day, a few of your friends might be having a truly exceptional experience,” he explains. With Facebook, he goes on, you can see everyone’s exceptional experiences and suddenly start to feel that you’re the only one stuck behind a screen. This can lead to feeling very envious very quickly, even though Christakis points out, “most days are just a normal day.”

    Hall Rockefeller ’16, who deleted her Facebook after her freshman year, has a similar take. “I found that Facebook represented an alternate reality that I didn’t really want to partake in,” she says. “I think that the self that exists on Facebook is definitely not the one that exists in, well, I’d like to say reality, but Facebook becomes some sort of weird, twisted reality.”

    Rockefeller found that Facebook created a standard against which she didn’t want to measure herself. “I just wasn’t interested in seeing people live in the ways that people wanted to present them, because it made me assess my life in a way that I didn’t want to or need to assess.”

    In fact, in an oft-cited study published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, researchers ran an analysis of Facebook usage among college students and found a correlation between low self-esteem and high levels of Facebook activity. And while scientific studies only describe reality up to a point — especially when we’re talking about something as subjective as self-esteem — when I told the students I interviewed about the study, they all seemed to nod their heads in agreement. To them, the correlation made sense.

    To Chris Paolini ’17, you can look at someone’s Facebook profile and understand how exactly they want to be seen by their peers — especially when being critiqued by other Yale students.

    “Yale’s not particularly [academically] competitive, but what a lot of people are worried about is the way they seem to other people,”  he says. “Especially when it comes down to intelligence and impressiveness.”

    The image that Yalies strive for, Paolini thinks, is not necessarily one of perfection, but an image that we think is the best encapsulation of ourselves. That’s the image we want on Facebook. “You have a certain degree of control over your virtual identity. And in that sense, it’s not a true perception that people are having of you,” he says.

    Facebook gives us time to perfect a virtual version of ourselves. On the internet, you have both time and Google on your side when you’re engaged in a comment war. In the “real world,” however, you only have a few seconds to prove your intellectual prowess.

    “Facebook is the one place where people don’t really make mistakes easily. It’s a lot more conscientious, how an identity is created,” Paolini observes.

    Creating that external self takes time. I no longer have a Facebook account, but when I did, I probably spent as much time stalking myself as I did other people. Deleting pictures in which I looked uncool, hiding things on my timeline that my grandma had posted (the horror!) and strategically refraining from “liking” things people had posted on my profile so it looked like I didn’t spend that much time on Facebook. I did.

    But the desire for cool internet-impassivity doesn’t seem to be anything new among Yale students. In Schuster’s article — now more than 10 years old — she advised her peers:

    “I recommend updating your Facebook photo every three to four months … Or you may opt to leave your original Facebook photo up indefinitely — instantly emanating an ‘I haven’t been on theFacebook.com in ages’ aura despite the fact that you surreptitiously lavished in your summer internship’s ability to provide you with countless hours of anonymous Facebook-browsing.”

    As Yale students, we often face a familiar dilemma: work/sleep/friends. Pick two. Yet with The Facebook, that has changed. We can suddenly multitask: socialize and work, or socialize and sleep simultaneously. Because even when we’re in bed at night, people can browse through our photos or “poke” us. And how many lecture rooms are filled with screens opened to a page of notes, with a Facebook tab right behind it? Or sometimes, just the Facebook tab?


    Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night from 10 to 12, a group of students congregate in the Branford Trumbull room over home-baked cookies and tea. They talk about life, dreams, hopes, other Important Matters that have always plagued college students. At the front door of the tea room is a basket filled with iPhones and Androids. “Technology free zone —Please place your phone in the basket,” the sign reads. It’s held in Branford, but anyone is welcome to join — as long as they drop their phone in the basket before entering.

    Branford College Master Elizabeth Bradley helped create the space last spring when a group of students came to her with the idea.

    “They were talking … about how hard it is to have an authentic conversation,” she remembers. “In the dining hall, people will pass by each other and say, ‘hey, how are your midterms? What’s going on? What are your plans for the summer?’ Just these sort of facts, rather than — ‘how do you feel about these courses you’re taking? Who do you feel like you’re becoming as a person?’”

    “They just felt like there was no space to do that. It was almost socially weird to do it.”

    I’ve been thinking about Master Bradley’s words a lot lately. When I deactivated my Facebook a month ago, the first terror that popped into my head was that no one would remember my birthday. After a five-minute process of finally finding the “deactivate your Facebook” portion of the website, I was confronted with the profile pictures of my closest friends with pleas to stay written under them. (How did they know who my closest friends were?) “Theo will miss you.”  “Fiona will miss you.” As if I were moving to Beijing. I clicked the necessary bubbles and boxes, closed my eyes, and in a moment of inexplicable panic re-entered my password and pressed the deactivate button. “To reactivate your account, log in using your old login email address and password. You will then be able to use the site as before. We hope you come back soon.” The reply was smooth.

    My birthday came and went and I had a party that I invited people to by text and word of mouth. My grandma emailed me, and my parents and my two closest friends from high school called. Life carried on.

    I’m not trying to sound alarmist, nor am I caught in some luddite vision of a past Yale in which we only spoke face-to-face and All Was Good, but I feel the fact that we needed to create a special room to put down our phones just to have a conversation says something. It says a lot.

    Branford Residential Fellow Steve Blum ’74 seems to agree with my assessment. Steve is at the tea room almost every night chatting with students. His was a Yale where friends would meet nightly for pizza and games of bridge, and where the closest thing to campus celebrities were the football players you read about in the News.

    “The very fact that we (a) had to invent the tea room, (b) had to have rules attached to it and (c) that people actually end up talking about it in a meaningful way, is in fact testament to something we’ve lost,” says Blum.

    Of course it’s easy to feel nostalgic about a time you’ve never lived in. You can imagine the good parts without the bad parts. Yet, as Master Bradley described the times spent out on the quad and Christakis talked about the little notes slipped under doors and Blum waxed lyrical about the daily games of frisbee in the courtyard, I can’t help feeling that, in gaining Facebook, we’re losing something else.

    On Monday night, I walked through Bass library looking at how many computers were open to Facebook. (I suppose you could call it stalking in the real world sense.) Fingers clicked at lightning speeds as photos whizzed by screens in nanosecond intervals. In my surreptitious (and maybe a bit invasive) study, I counted six out of 40 laptops on the top floor of Bass open to Facebook, besides the guy watching Spiderman. Around 13 percent. Numbers are only helpful to a point, but I rode home on my bike through the rain that night wondering why Yale students spend so much collective time on a blue-and-white webpage that more often than not, seems to leave us unsatisfied.

    Out of all the Yale students I spoke to, the average time spent on Facebook was about 45 minutes (I suspect it’s higher, but maybe people just want to present the best versions of themselves. Especially to reporters.) Human error aside, it’s still a lot of time. 45 minutes a day. That’s five and a quarter hours a week. 21 hours a month. 252 hours a year. And if the average Yale student is a sophomore (like me) who has had a Facebook profile since ninth grade, that’s 52 and a half full days spent on Facebook. Fifty-two and a half days we could have spent reading books or learning how to play an instrument or getting up the courage to speak to our crush in person. Maybe I’m just optimistic about how we would have been spending our time. I don’t know.

    But I fear that as we spend our hours in the library half-studying and half-looking through the prom photos of that girl who sits across from us in section, as we decide not to contact the boy whose profile indicates a taste for country music, as we lie in bed mindlessly scrolling in the minutes before drifting off to sleep, that we’re losing something more than time in the process.

  4. Facebook Horror Stories

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    If there’s one thing I’ve learned as an adolescent/person who has attended a lot of Bar Mitzvahs, it’s that no one should ever ask a 13-year-old what they think about anything. When I joined Facebook in the fall of 2008, I was just approaching the zenith of middle school awkwardness. I had a lot of emotions but hadn’t yet found the right way to share them. Then I joined Facebook. “I care about how you’re feeling,” Mark Zuckerberg said, to me and to every other teenager circa 2k8. “And so do all of your friends and acquaintances.”

    Thus began a yearlong stretch during which I publicly posted my innermost thoughts and feelings, often two or more times a day. At turns mysterious (“is feeling conflicted…”) and specific (“my frosted mini wheats smell like fish food…o.0”), my statuses were universally un-liked and un-commented. I used exclamation points with shameful frequency, perhaps to give my thoughts a sense of urgency (“is watching titanic and is going to have nightmares tonight!!!”). On three separate occasions I posted what must have been the world’s most clever Jason Mraz reference (“is the geek in the pink”). But none of these soul-baring revelations received any feedback. Sometimes I ventured into incisive political commentary (“thinks McCain is a weenie-head.”) or cultural musings (“they’re not doing project runway on lifetime??? what will happen???”). At my emotional nadir, I posted a desperate plea for everyone to vote for Anoop Desai on American Idol.

    I was the worst. But that blank status box loved me anyway. It wanted to know my feelings — about school, about friends, about art (“is listening to Demi Lovato’s new album and is surprised!”). Facebook made me feel like I mattered.

    Contact Madeline Kaplan at madeline.kaplan@yale.edu .

    It’s 2010. Enter 15-year-old Chloe, a high school freshman who spends all her time on Facebook and YouTube. One day, Chloe stumbles upon Sam Tsui’s medley of Michael Jackson songs. She’s hooked (and smitten). Eight months later, she visits Yale, sees Sam’s cameo in the welcome video and nearly faints in the admissions office. Panic ensues: She knows she absolutely must get in to Yale. When she hears that a senior at her high school knows Sam, she creepily Facebook stalks said senior, looking through his friend list until she finds someone listed as Sam Tsui.

    Everything looks legit: His profile photos are casual, his relatives are linked to his “About Me” page, and most of his friends are Yale students. Chloe proceeds to send him a Facebook message with the subject line “Huge Fan.” In the message, she mentions her newfound aspirations to come to Yale, gushes about her Sam Tsui fandomness and tells him to “keep up the amazing work.”

    Sam (or someone pretending to be him) actually responded to the message and, at the time, 15-year-old Chloe felt like nothing would ever be the same. When 19-year-old Chloe stumbled across this blast from the past a few days ago, however, she only felt embarrassed by her overeagerness and creepy Facebook stalking skills. But hey, at least it made for a great story, right? #Yalewasfatefromdayone #creepy #sorrynotsorry

    Contact Chloe Tsang at chloe.tsang@yale.edu .

    It all started when I clicked the “Ask” button on his Facebook relationship status section. I love making jokes and being thought of as funny, so I HAD to do it. I pressed the button, thinking we’d laugh about it in the dining hall later that day. But, no, that’s NOT at ALL what happened. Instead, I didn’t hear back for a day, which in Facebook time is LITERALLY YEARS. After a nervous 24 hours, he finally responded. His response created a Facebook nightmare, to say the least. He requested TO BE IN A RELATIONSHIP with me. Oh geez. I had NOT anticipated that answer. I thought, “How will this play out? What is my next, hilarious move?” There was only one thing to do. I decided to raise the stakes on HIM and accepted the request. “Ha ha!” I thought, “I outsmarted him! I’ll have the last laugh” But I was wrong. No one had the last laugh. It was a big mistake and a Facebook faux pas. As a result, it has now been FOREVER, and we are STILL in a relationship on Facebook. The joke was funny, sure, but now we’re left with this residual relationship. Who will end it? And how? Help! I’m stuck in a virtual relationship.

    Contact Rachel Paul at rachel.paul@yale.edu .

    Do we really want to know what other people think of us? Before the series of tubes that is the internet came into being, our answer to that question didn’t matter — you were as likely to get a straight answer from someone in person as you were to, well, um, have something really unlikely happen to you. Suffice to say that people bit their tongues more in the pre-internet age, before Facebook’s veil of ignorance descended on our communications.

    It’s now all too tempting to ask for and receive a frank appraisal of your character. But the flip side of this is that people sometimes ask you to appraise them. WKND found ourselves in just such a situation a few years back, when we undertook the questionable mission of offering our friends our honest opinions of them. All they had to do was send us a three-digit number, and we would post a status with that number and our Real Feelings about that person, in a sort of weird, public FormSpring (remember when that was a thing?). Now, if you know anything about WKND, you know that our Real Feelings are extra real. The realest feelings, if you will. So pity the poor soul who asked for our opinion, only to learn that we disapproved of their music taste and posture and general aura. WKND broke a few hearts. But none so badly as Anastasia’s.*

    We wanted to like her, we really did. But it was difficult when her Eastern European accent was so thick that we couldn’t really understand anything she said. She certainly seemed like a nice girl … but that was as much of a read as we could get. So when she sent us a three-digit number and asked for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, we gave it to her:

    “389: You seem really nice. We just can’t ever understand anything you say.”

    We were young, we were cruel, we were apparently bad at aural comprehension. But Anastasia never forgave us. At least we don’t think so. We still aren’t entirely sure what she said.

    *Name changed for the sake of all involved.


  5. My iPhone, My Precious

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    I fantasize about chucking my iPhone off a cliff. Sharp rocks split its screen as it tumbles into oblivion. I’m certain that I would feel better without it. But when my fantasy came true and my phone fell in a toilet I’d just pooped in, I frantically fished it out, cleaned it off and rushed it to the Apple Store for a replacement.

    I am disturbed by the attachment I have to my phone. If I am in its proximity, I feel like Frodo carrying the One Ring around his neck, consumed in its power. My phone is not mine; rather, I belong to it. It is the first thing I look at in the morning and the last thing I look at before I fall asleep. I can’t make it through an hour-long class without checking my alerts at least once. As the day wears on, I develop an anxiety about my battery percentage. I go home just to charge it, or at the very least, I bum a charger off a friend like a cigarette.

    Smart phones are supposed to be tools that make our lives easier. I do use my phone to look up facts, check train times and find biking directions. But that’s not where my battery goes. It goes to the moments where I post an Instagram photo and refresh six times in the next three minutes to check for likes. It goes to the eight times I toggle mindlessly between the hourly and daily forecast on my weather app. It goes to the articles I skim and the time I spend rearranging the icons on my home screen.

    My battery goes to Facebook. How does Facebook get to me to spend so much time reading updates from people whose daily activities I don’t give a shit about? Why do I know so much about the job search of that guy I met at Borders in 2008, or about my high school friend’s ex-boyfriend’s cat? The most shameful part is how much time I spend staring at my own profile. I become obsessed with the timeline of my own life, and what it looks like to my 1,000 friends. But to what end?

    When I’m in my phone, I’m not in the world anymore. Yes, I learn things from my constant connection to the Internet. But I don’t experience anything. Sometimes when I become depressed, all I need to do to feel better is leave my phone in the house and go a day without it.

    So I do try to resist. If I can’t leave my phone at home, I uninstall my Facebook app, or change the password to something impossible to remember, and log out. I let my battery die. I bury it in the bottom of my backpack. I hide it in the living room while I sleep.

    It sucks that I need it so much. Certain services like Uber are only available on smartphone apps. Without a cell phone, I’d never be the first to claim tickets to see a famous person speak on campus, and I’ll never have the Fastest//Fingers//First when the YDN sends out pitches. I can’t even fathom how people made plans before cell phones. If I didn’t have a cell phone, how would I find someone to go with me to Woad’s?

    I’m worried for myself, and I’m worried for us. It’s untenable to think that our attachment to smartphones will ever loosen. I do have faith that people are bigger than these mere inventions, but when we stare at a sunset through a Mayfair filter, or zone out from a party to send a Snapchat, we’re only getting smaller.

    Sometimes when I look up from my phone it feels like I’m seeing the world for the first time. Seeing it the way it’s supposed to be seen. But I always look back down. I even constantly search for custom phone cases online that will match my outfits.

  6. The Art of Unfriending

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    We all have those friends on Facebook — he’s the boy you met that one summer when you did that one activity together; she’s the girl you met during Bulldog Days, but she chose another school and you two haven’t spoken since. Do you remember these people? Neither do I.

    For many of us, spring break was a time to return home and reunite with old friends. As a freshman, I always believed that this year’s breaks in particular were the most crucial. As much as we love our new friends and our new home, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of returning to a familiar place with familiar faces. Like any other group of wide-eyed, optimistic freshman students, my high school friends and I promised to keep in touch while we were away at our respective colleges. But between the distance, the academics and the exciting (but overwhelming) number of new people in our lives, it’s been immensely difficult to keep this promise. I always justified my inability to keep in touch with them by telling myself that, as we all converged in New York for winter and spring breaks, it would be as if the distance did nothing but make us closer and more eager to see one another.

    Unfortunately for me, I was out of town during spring break and spent no time with old friends. I often felt like the closest I got to them was by Facebook stalking them, monitoring my newsfeed for any updates on what they were all doing back at home. Yet as I watched my newsfeed unfold before me, I was frustrated to find that the friends I actually wanted to hear from were buried under a plethora of people whose names and faces I barely recognized.

    I started thinking about the nature of my relationships with these so-called Facebook “friends” — while some remain dear to me, most others have become distant memories. I decided it was time for a massive overhaul of my Facebook profile. For the first week of break, I furiously went through my list of Facebook friends and “unfriended” nearly half of the people on that list. Gone were the kids I haven’t seen since seventh grade, the kids who were the “cool seniors” while I was a freshman in high school, or the friends of friends who felt obligated to request me on Facebook after one cursory encounter at a party. Once I had gone through my list a few more times, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

    Whereas I found my systematic unfriending process to be therapeutic, liberating and refreshing, others might find it trivial, unnecessary and maybe even a little petty. After all, what was the harm in having a few more acquaintances online? For me, there’s more harm than you might think. According to its mission page, Facebook is meant to be a tool used “to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.” Somewhere along the way, I lost sight of this mission. Instead, Facebook became a social barometer that measured my popularity and self-worth based on the number of friends I was connected to or the number of pictures I was tagged in. And as the Yale Class of 2018 starts to receive their acceptances, they’re undoubtedly feeling this too — I remember vividly the exciting feeling when old acquaintances, those I hadn’t seen in years, began posting a slew of “Congratulations!” on my wall.

    But is this really a good thing? There’s nothing wrong with celebrating achievements on Facebook, but these congratulatory words almost seemed meaningless unless they came from someone I cared about, or from someone who cared about me. While I appreciated people’s encouraging remarks, I also questioned why someone I’d never spoken to in person would take the time to write on my wall with no follow-up or expectation of a response that went further than a “Thank You!” from me. In the end, these interactions, while well intentioned, led nowhere. And that’s the opposite of what I want my Facebook experience to be.

    The very notion of labeling connections on Facebook as “friends” suggests a certain level of intimacy that I often forget about. It’s quite easy to add people to your Facebook friend list and stockpile a slew of followers at the click of a button; it is much harder to realize the many implications that come along with it. Once upon a time, there was nothing quite like receiving social validation through the number of likes I received on my posts or through my pretty artificial friend count. More recently, I’ve started to remind myself that Facebook is an outlet I should be using to feel more connected to my friends back home. When I look at my newsfeed now, I can confidently say the term “friend” is no longer a misnomer.

  7. Dog Poop, Facebook and Optimism with Nicholas Christakis ’84

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    Sol Goldman Family professor of social and natural science Nicholas Christakis ’84  joined Yale’s teaching faculty just last year and now heads the ambitiously and eye-catchingly titled Human Nature Lab, where he and his students study phenomena at the intersection of the social and the natural sciences. Last fall he co-taught the wildly popular residential college seminar “Great Big Ideas” with Adam Glick, and now offers an iteration of a course he used to teach at Harvard, Sociology 126, “Health of the Public.”

    Besides his high-powered teaching career, Christakis has a natural flair for storytelling and is an eminently accessible conversationalist. He carved out some time to kick his feet up, drink a Diet Coke and tell stories about his adventures inside and outside of the ivory Tower.


    Q. What’s your connection to Yale?

    A. I’m one of those guys that has a picture of me as a one-year-old baby with a T-shirt that says “Yale, Class of ???” because my parents were graduate students at Yale — my dad in physics and my mother in chemistry. Apparently I was on Science Hill even in utero. My mother was very happy when she went into labor with me, because it meant she got out of a very, very difficult chemistry final exam. My parents left New Haven when they got degrees and I came back here as an undergraduate many years later and was in Ezra Stiles College and studied biology. While I was a student here I took a year off, which I think is a very good thing to do.

    Q. Why do you say that?

    A. At the time, I couldn’t decide whether to major in biology or French. And I was a good French speaker. So I wanted to go and work in a laboratory in France if I could. It was not easy to find such a position, but through sheer serendipity my mother ran into a neighbor of ours in Washington, D.C. who had a laboratory at the National Institutes of Health. He was hosting a French scientist and suggested that I write to him. This was between my sophomore and junior years in college. So I wrote to the French scientist and he said, “We’d love to have you, because you could help us translate from French to English to publish in English journals.” That was about the only skill I had that could be useful at that stage in my life — I could speak English.

    So the summer after my sophomore year, when I was working in a biology lab at Woods Hole, Mass., and when I was still waiting to see if everything was going to work out, I get a letter confirming that I was going to work in a laboratory with a French virologist. I was ecstatic. The postdoc with whom I was working that summer said that we should go and look him up and see what kind of work he did. And of course I hadn’t cared until that point. So we went to the library and we pulled dusty thick volumes and pulled out hard copies of his papers and saw he was very interested in viruses that stay in pets and cause diarrhea. And it said in the “materials and methods sections” of the manuscripts that research assistants “were dispatched to the streets of Paris to retrieve dog feces” to bring back to the laboratory.

    The postdoc with whom I was working started laughing and he said, “This is going to be your job when you go to Paris — not to translate papers from French into English.” And he was right. (Laughs.) So when I got to Paris one of my jobs was to take a stainless steel Pooper Scooper and go out into the streets of Paris — and if you’ve ever been to Paris, in those days especially there was dog poop everywhere — collect specimens and bring them back to the laboratory, where we would extract the corona virus. That was my job during my year in Paris, collecting dog poop and translating things into English. It was a good time.

    Q. You’re a professor of sociology, evolutionary biology, and medicine, and while at the University of Chicago you did work in hospice. What got you interested in that side of things?

    A. When I was growing up, my mother was seriously ill and she died when I was 25, so all through college and medical school she was quite sick. I think partly as a result of that, I always wanted to be a doctor ever since I was a little boy; and also partly as a result of my clinical training, when I became aware of the low quality of care that we give to the dying in our society, I became interested in how to do a better job of caring for the dying. If you think about it, it’s very fashionable to speak about vulnerable populations in our society, but it’s hard to imagine a more vulnerable population than those among us who are terminally ill, and we neglect them. And that’s how I became interested in networks, because part of my interest in care for the dying led to my interest in the “widowhood effect,” which is the fact that you’re more likely to die when your partner dies.

    Q. Tell us about your work now.

    A. I direct the Human Nature Lab, which is a group of people who are focused on an interrelated set of topics at the intersection of the natural and the social sciences. We’re interested in how the social becomes biological and how the biological becomes social. I’m interested in the part of human nature that relates to our sociality — how we interact with others, why we interact with others. What does it mean for our lives that we create networks and live in networks?

    Q. How does that research play out?

    A. We look at the evolutionary biology and the genetics and the sociology of social interaction, and we do experiments to see how we can intervene in the world to make it better. How can you form groups or target people with information to change people’s behavior? For example we’re doing a big project in Honduras, where we’re trying to identify who the influential people are in villages, and to get them to adopt clean water interventions or maternal health interventions. We’re trying to change the whole village’s mindset by taking advantage of our understanding of how people interact and how they influence each other.

    Q. You sound like an optimist.

    A. I’m an inveterate optimist. I just think that it’s possible to do things. I mean, who would want to be pessimistic and nihilistic? To me it’s not a very appealing way to go through one’s life.

    Q. Do you still do field work?

    A. My graduate students tease me that I don’t do field work anymore. In fact, they laugh at the thought. They say that I wouldn’t survive without hot showers. I don’t think that’s true but I let them mock me. [He pauses.] I’m going to revise that statement. I know that’s not true, but they can tease me anyway.

    Q. What do you like about working with students?

    A. I love the energy of young people. I like the enthusiasm and optimism of young people. I have hundreds of students who are Facebook friends of mine because I was a House Master at Harvard before I came here. I was in intimate contact with the slang, with the music, with events that were happening. I know weeks before my peers what’s going to be cool because I hear it first from 20-year-olds. Six weeks from now a friend of mine will say, “Did you see this?” and I’ll say, “Yes, I saw it six weeks ago,” because of my connection with students. (Pauses.) I have a rule though, which is I never friend anybody because it would be creepy if I did; but I accept all friendings.

    Q. You were at Harvard when Facebook started. How was that?

    A. Well, I wish I had bought stock. (Laughs.) Jokes aside, at the time we were very interested in network structure. One day this student came to me, and she said, “You know there’s this new thing online called Facebook, where you can map the whole graph of the network of Harvard. You should look at it.” And to look at it I had to get an account. So I got one and I looked at the graph of Harvard students. I thought it was incredible – I mean, scientifically incredible. I wish I had realized how commercially incredible it was too, but scientifically it was obvious.

    Q. What is your goal as an educator?

    A. I think the best thing I can do for my students is take them by the shoulders, move them to the scientific frontier and tell them, “Stand here and look out: that’s where the new stuff is.”

  8. MAHBOD MOGHADAM: Yale’s Rap Genius

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    Whether he is claiming to invent “the Guttenberg 2.0” or telling Mark Zuckerberg to “suck his dick,” Rap Genius co-founder and Yale grad Mahbod Moghadam ’04 has a personality that is hard to miss.  Rap Genius started as a hip-hop music site to explain rap lyrics, but after receiving 15 millions dollars in venture capital, it has grown to be much more. Moghadam, along with Tom Lehman ‘06, and Ilan Zechory ‘06 came up with the website thinking it would not amount to much more than a coffee-table book, but now, have set their sights on becoming “the fabric of the internet.” This December, Rap Genius catapulted into mainstream limelight after a very public falling out with Google, which led to Google deliberately burying Rap Genius search results. WEEKEND sat down with Moghadam to speak to him about the burgeoning Genius “empire,” his experience hotboxing in the Vanderbilt attic and his thoughts on aliens using apps.

    Q: How did you come up with the idea for Rap Genius?

    A: I had recently lost my job [in 2009], and my friend Tom would build websites all the time. We were listening to Cam’ron and I was teaching him what the lines meant, and then he built the first version of the site. At first when it started it was us and six or seven of our friends, and it was just our favorite rap songs we were talking about. It was basically an art project. When we first asked what we could do with this idea, we said this could get a Master’s Tea with Nas or Jay-Z.

    Q: At what point did you think this was going to become big?

    A: The main thing we didn’t know when we started was that “lyrics” is the most searched word in Google — there is literally no word that people are searching more on Google. (You’d think it would be sex or something, but there you go.) And so we started to get traffic off of random stuff, like we put a remix of a new song that came out, and this song started to get more traffic than the whole rest of the site. And now we are coming to dominate all of lyric search. The only lyric search we don’t consistently win yet is for pop lyrics, and that’s fucking chill because we have a pop genius community that is burgeoning and they do dope explanations. If we can win all of the lyric searches of every genre, then we will be the biggest website of the world. And that’s only one fourth of what we want to accomplish.

    Q: You are known to use some strong rhetoric when discussing Rap Genius, whether calling the site “the Talmud” or the “definitive pocket guide” for the Internet. Do you think these are accurate or are they just delusions of grandeur?

    A: I haven’t seen this great of a format before. Any format for sharing human knowledge is going to be very successful. Wikipedia is the 7th biggest website in the world. This is the reason Rap Genius is way better than Wikipedia. One thing is that you get fuller recognition; you get a profile that becomes part of your resume one day. If you are applying for a job, for a fashion job, they will ask what your fashion IQ is on Fashion Genius. If some day you want to become a priest, the church you are trying to join is going to ask what your Bible IQ is. With Wikipedia, you get no credit. We’ve got every young, hot rapper having an account. Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, a lot of authors too. Sheryl Sandberg wrote down one chapter of her book, Junot Diaz has one and Farhad Manjoo from the New York Times has an account.

    Every writer will someday think that they need to be composing it on this genius platform; this is the new publication, the new way to turn a text into something visual. The rapper Kendrick Lamar, he actually told me, “every line I was writing for this album, I asked myself, ‘What will Rap Genius have to say about this?’”

    Q: When did you move onto other formats beyond rap songs?

    A: We started putting rock lyrics and poems very early. Emily Dickinson’s “I’m Nobody, Who are You,” was the first poem on the site. And we started to put up a lot of Bible passages because they are alluded to in a lot of rap songs. But we always knew this was going to be the platform for everything. The difficult challenge now is how to frame it and create separate communities.

    Q: How has each of the different communities, whether music, publishing or fashion responded to your site?

    A: Rap, we got a ton of support. One of our first investors and one of our first verified accounts to annotate his own lyrics was Nas. Odd Future was on board very early. In rock, we had Duran Duran and also Capital Cities. And in publishing, we wondered how we were going to do it and then decided to do the sample chapter through Amazon. Surely, we thought, it was better to have the sample chapter annotated on Poetry Genius than it was on Amazon. And Sheryl Sandberg did. She did an amazing job and her annotations are bomb.

    Q: How does the act of annotating add value to the text being annotated?

    A: The annotation makes sure that it is focused on a select number of words in the text. It is inherent in the medium that you are doing a close reading, a close reading is very important because it is a lot easier to encounter someone bullshitting about a text globally. It’s a perfect marriage of close reading with the ADD generation’s craving for multimedia.

    Q: How does Rap Genius curate annotations for quality?

    A: Hundreds of thousands of people have written something on rap genius, but 20 percent of the users write 80 percent of the content. It is a small focused pool, and that is the only place we hire from. Thousands of volunteers put it as their job on Facebook. Editors are hand selected and they are way more powerful than the average user. And a super power editor is a moderator, which also has subsets. And then there are the verified artists themselves.

    Q: So Google and your site seem to have some “beef,” tell us about it.

    A: It was more press than the site ever gotten, it’s insane. I can’t believe people were so into it. But it’s all good and the coolest thing that has happened recently is the launch of the app. If you think about it, this was the launch of Rap Genius. It was always meant to be an app. Sixty percent of tour traffic is mobile and eventually it will be 100 percent — computers will go the way of the dinosaur. Version 2.0 will allow celebrities to do annotations on mobile and allow celebrities only to do vine-style annotations from their phone.

    Q: Has the app been successful?

    A: In the week that it has been out, the numbers have exploded. The app is going to be pretty soon how people know Rap Genius. When aliens come down in a thousand years from now and they are using Rap Genius to analyze the extinct human race, they are going to think of it as that dope app, not a website. This is the real launch of Rap Genius.

    Q: Did Yale help you achieve the success of Rap Genius in any way?

    A: Yale Rap Genius nexus is critical. The main ingredient that Yale and Rap Genius share is close reading. I think of Harvard as a university where you learn to be very, very powerful and Princeton to be where you learn to wear boat shoes. But at Yale they teach you how to do close reading. The person who is worshipped on campus is Harold Bloom, who is the father of close reading, so that’s why we came up with the integral feature. All the comments are close reading to the text and this is what makes this the “most Yaled-out website” out there.

    Q: Do you have any memories from your time at Yale?

    A: Vanderbilt had this attic before they renovated Old Campus, and Vanderbilt had this attic that was just like hotbox central. And it was a rave in there at all times. And when they renovated Old Campus, they built it without an attic, which was depressing but we had a huge party before they tore it down. All the art majors were up there and they had a party with black lights, highlighters and were doing the coolest fucking graffiti, trippy mushrooms all over the walls. I wrote about it in a poem, which is annotated on the site.

    Q: You have had some very public falling outs with notable people such as Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffet. What happened?

    A: I got this thing that I think is the greatest tool in all of human knowledge, like the Guttenberg 2.0. I am just trying to bang on a pot in a kitchen, and I’m impatient that it’s not the biggest website in the world. I used to be of the mindset that I would do anything for attention, like rappers start beef, and everyone would see it as a joke. But a lot of people took it seriously and it turned out that maybe it was correct to do at the time, but it is certainly not correct to do anymore. So I have renounced beef.

    I alienated Mark Zuckerberg, who is one of my favorite people. He had been a huge supporter of the site, and before I messed around, he told us Rap Genius would be the next Facebook. I was obviously acting stupid, but that isn’t an excuse and I should’ve known better. I hope people could forgive.

    Q: You recently had brain surgery, is your health all right now?

    A: Yeah, I still got to be monitored, but it was an amazing learning experience and overall, you think getting brain surgery is the worst thing that could happen. But if I could snap my fingers right now, if I could have any job, I would trade being co-founder of Rap Genius for being a brain surgeon. Surgery is the coolest fucking thing. It made me even hungrier for there to be a Medical Genius.

    I had a benign brain tumor that was removed that I had since child birth. They say these things have a tendency make you more hyper and aggressive, and maybe having the brain tumor when I had it allowed me to be hyper and aggressive in a way that got attention for Rap Genius. But it was the ideal time in the history of Rap Genius to get this removed, it was time for me to button down and grow up.

    Q: What’s next for Rap Genius?

    A: One of our biggest plans is to have the capability for other websites to be Genius-powered. So you will have the capability to go to New York Times, not on our website, but on NYTimes.com and there will be Genius annotations on their site. So the Times and WSJ will be Genius-powered. It is definitely in the works and around 6 months away. The offsite annotation is the biggest thing of all, especially for News genius. In Europe, at least they admit that journalism is intertwined with Op-Ed. In the U.S., we have the myth of scientific journalism. And it has created a big, big problem. We need to have an annotation platform so journalists can call out other journalists on their bullshit. It is going to finally build that system that American journalism has always needed.

    A previous version of this article misspelled the name of the rapper Nas. 

  9. Overheard on Break

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    After three days of Thanksgiving break spent watching TV with my family, cuddling with my dog, and enjoying afternoon naps in my own bed, I realized that I had committed one of the greatest 21st century sins: going three whole days without checking my Facebook. This past Wednesday evening as I sat on my living room couch with a hot mug of tea, I finally decided to rectify the situation and put myself back in touch with civilization.

    As I perused the BuzzFeed links and holiday-themed selfies (#thanksgivukkah) that ornamented/littered my NewsFeed, I was surprised to see a blue boxed “20+” next to the “Overheard at Yale” group on the left panel of my screen. A combination of curiosity and Internet instinct urged me to click on the page.

    I was greeted by a very “meta” (to quote a subsequent comment) screenshot of ‘Overseen on Overheard at Yale,’ written in what can only be described as concentric posts– if only Euclid knew Facebook. The picture had already amassed over 100 likes and 9 comments including a short debate on its relation to fractals and references to the Matrix and Inception.

    I then watched a video denoted by the unassuming caption “My Yale blue dog knows what’s up”. In it, one Yalie’s adorable dog, upon being asked whether or not he would prefer Harvard to death, plays dead, waving his right paw in the air for one last hurrah before he entirely collapses. As a dog-lover I suppose I can’t be entirely objective, but I think this is the kind of Yale-trumps-Harvard production just about every Yalie would enjoy.  The post right above the video contained a link to the Casablanca scene featuring Die Wacht am Rhein, AKA the German version of Bright College Years (and also the original version, according to its Wikipedia page posted in one of the comments).

    Online and on campus, Yalies are witty—one of the aspects of our community I love most. Though in recent months Overheard at Yale has taken a lot of heat, I think we can at least credit it with providing a forum for us to communicate with one another in the way we do best—with humor—even thousands of miles away from each other.  Overheard made me feel reconnected with my Yale family and the playful spirit that collectively describes us, even when we are miles away from New Haven.

  10. Resume Revelations

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    If it’s true that stress is seasonal, I’d have to say mine peaks around this time every year. The temperature is dropping, it gets dark by 5 p.m. and I’m trudging, unmotivated, through these exam-packed weeks between fall break and Thanksgiving. (Shout out to all those professors who insist on sneaking in an extra midterm.) Still, the real reason I’ve been especially anxious since early November is not the weather or the workload, but the onslaught of information sessions about fellowships, summer opportunities and — it scares me to write this — career choices.

    Constant reminders of the looming, expectant future have even been infiltrating my social life. Scrolling down my News Feed last week, Facebook suggested that I attend the “Google Information Session,” an event that promised to discuss “business, cool things, or doing something that matters.” So a few nights later, I found myself in a packed classroom in WLH. I wasn’t surprised by the large number of students who had shown up — some even dressed in full business attire — because, well, it’s Google. But looking around the room at people sitting on desks, standing shoulder-to-shoulder and overflowing out the door, I couldn’t help but feel tremendously intimidated. A representative from Google stood at the front of the room, rattling off attributes that the company expects in its applicants: creativity, a keen business sense, initiative. To keep things light, she asked a few trivia questions. Addresssing one respondent dressed in a suit and tie, she asked whether he’d ever been involved in a startup.

    “Actually, I’ve started three,” he replied, without missing a beat.

    Facebook had claimed that “dress code [was] completely casual,” but Mr. Three Startups wasn’t the only one dressed as if this were the most important business meeting of his career. After being pushed up against a chalkboard by another suit trying to make his way to the front of the room, I realized that while I may have better manners, the suits likely have better resumes — and are probably way more qualified for a summer position at Google. Really, it seemed like everyone in the room, everyone at Yale for that matter, was more qualified than me. There were business owners in the crowd, and I was now the girl with a giant chalk stain on the back of her sweatshirt.

    It’s not just Google that’s intimidating, either. At Yale, every opportunity draws a ton of interested students, and every student probably has a killer resume. When I sat down to update mine, I’ll admit I had a minor panic attack on common room futon. What new, cool thing had I done since the summer? How could I convey the significance of my summer internship spent reporting on patterns of rainfall in New Jersey? Why did my life appear so unexciting and unimpressive on paper?

    With my cursor hovering over my current GPA, I reached for my suitemate’s Hershey’s milk chocolates. My stress-eating only fueled my worried thoughts. Everyone at Yale is a good writer. Everyone manages an on-campus job in addition to their five or six credits and long list of extracurricular activities. Everyone was valedictorian in high school. Everyone has a good relationship with a professor who might be able to get them a paid internship. I paused to throw out the pile of wrappers that had accumulated beside my laptop. Taking a breath, I realized something: maybe everyone sort of misses their glory days in high school, when life was just less competitive. Maybe everyone is a little intimidated by everybody else.

    I wasn’t naïve when I arrived at Yale. I knew I’d be surrounded by incredibly smart, incredibly talented peers — big fish. This makes competition inevitable, especially when people start applying for spring break trips, thinking about summer opportunities and planning for fellowships. A competitive atmosphere isn’t always bad. It’s probably what motivates me to go to a Google information session in the first place. But what competition shouldn’t do is make anyone feel small. We all got into Yale, and there are plenty of people  out there who are impressed by that simple fact in itself.

    Of course we can’t rely on Yale’s prestige alone to get us a job — Mr. Three Startups certainly isn’t banking on that. But we all have potential, because Yale encourages it in each of us. Perhaps my seasonal stress causes a distorted self-perception. I don’t always have chalk on my sweatshirt, so maybe I should stop pilfering my suitemate’s chocolate stash.

  11. Kelly Nell Does Not Exist

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    I don’t know much about Kelly Nell or how she found me. I don’t even know whether the girl in the pictures is the same person as “Kelly Nell.” The name sounds suspicious. The internal rhyme suggests a stage name, and it has that oily and unmistakable smell of falsehood. Girls like her sometimes add you on Facebook: They’re called Amber Rose or Emma Kaye. They’ve put up half a dozen or so pictures, all taken in dim lighting with disposable cameras.

    Kelly Nell is blonde, maybe dirty blonde, though it’s hard to tell from the black-and-white photographs. She has a slim physique and ample breasts. She demurely covers them with her hands in one photo. She doesn’t wear much clothing in general — just lingerie. In one photo, she alluringly thumbs the string of her thong, looking away. There is a mirror behind her. It shows her buttocks and the rest of the room — unfurnished, unadorned, the size of a closet.

    I’ve culled a few more personal details about Kelly. Here, she says a little about herself: “Is this week over yet for me. stupid thursday I didnt get the gig This girl is in desperate need of a cocktail and a job.. maybe any combination of the two lol . If you got anythign to keep my mind busy plz Txt me lol (415) 429—- #selfshot #selfie #notop #drunk[.]” Kelly wants to be in entertainment, though what kind is unclear. She says she likes to drink, but she doesn’t even look tipsy in any of her photos. Her face lacks the relaxed vacuity of drunkenness.

    Kelly’s is a skeletal identity. She lives in black and white, without clothes. She never leaves the house. You could only find her equivalent in Abercrombie and Fitch catalogues — cinematic shots of languorous, soulless bodies. She has only a few facial expressions — flirtatious, abashed, tempting. She’s every woman and no woman, living in the corners of windowless rooms, caught between mirrors and camera lenses.

    Her life lasts as long as the photo shoot someone took of her. She’s been purged of all qualities, save your desire for her. Before and after do not exist for Kelly — instead, she’s suspended in those fleeting moments between camera flashes. She’s “in desperate need” and asks for “anythign [sic] to keep [her] mind busy.” Kelly hovers on the border of personhood, waxed, undressed, made-up, pushed up against a corner, waiting for you. She can hardly move; you’re very close. You could almost touch her, pin her against the wall and thumb the strings of her thong. She slips away every time.

    Kelly Nell’s profile could just as easily be mine. It doesn’t seem so as first, since my online identity is more fully fleshed out, less blatantly pornographic. But the person known online as “Andrew Joseph Koenig” does not exist, as surely as Kelly Nell and Emma Kaye and Amber Rose don’t exist. Andrew Joseph Koenig puts up intriguing, self-deprecating statuses and quotations from Chekhov. Sometimes he posts articles he’s written and makes bad jokes about self-promotion. If you visit his profile, you will gather the following information about him: He’s religious; he loves books (!); he stole his autobiography — “I am a strange and extraordinary person” — from Liza Minnelli in “Cabaret.” The person known online as “Andrew Joseph Koenig” is an ugly amalgam of clichés, a perfectly packaged caricature of myself.

    When I crafted Andrew Joseph Koenig, I did what the unseen director of Kelly Nell’s photo shoot did. I turned “I” into a hunk of photographed flesh — smiling at a party, thanking friends for their birthday wishes, summing myself up, backing into the corner of a black-and-white room. Parts of me had to be pruned away — my enthusiasm for middlebrow movies, the moments I spend making grotesque faces in the bathroom mirror. I watered down my personality and believed I was distilling it, finally making it consumable, tangible, appealing. I thought documenting my every stray thought and musical taste would make me appear ripe for friendship outside of the confines of cyberspace.

    Yet for every picture I put up, there are the thousands of unseen, less flattering negatives. Each smile is earned with an unseen grimace. Between every bit of text, there is a lacuna of myself, a blank space that my every Facebook friend will color in with his own perceptions. Kelly Nell and I both play the ventriloquist — composing narratives for one another that may correspond to reality but almost certainly do not, stories strewn with red herrings, false impressions and second guesses. Ultimately, Kelly Nell is the perfect fraud in her careful façade of intrigue and plasticity. But then again, so am I.