Welcome to the first of the Myths of Residence Life Series! This post was actually written BEFORE the idea for the series came about…but I realized it fit so well! Incoming students have the ability to see YEARS of their future classmates’ lives on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and whatever else social media platform that’s out there.
So I might be dating myself here, but I was in college when Facebook became open to everybody. I didn’t think too much of it. The only change for me was now I could be Facebook friends with my friends that were still in high school (I mean, I wasn’t that old).
And then housing assignments were released…I was working at my good ol’ Undergrad U student employment job. I was told that typically we get slightly more phone calls after assignments go out. People are unhappy with what building they are in or what floor they are on. Somebody’s precious darling has allergies and needs air conditioning. Typical calls. The calls started coming that very day and did not stop until the school year started. My supervisor said that she had NEVER heard the phones ring that much.
Why the incredible increase in calls? Students could now look up their roommates on Facebook. That was something I honestly never thought of. Yes, Facebook existed before I left for college, but my roommate didn’t (and still doesn’t) have Facebook. For the friends I did make on Facebook, all of our profiles were NEW. While this was only the first year, that’s still a whole year’s worth of photos. We’re currently several years past this point so now my incoming students are seeing photos of their future roommate’s high school career. Ugh…I couldn’t imagine having those awkward years documented on the internet.
The point is, so many students were making assumptions about their future roommates based on what they saw on Facebook. People use their Facebooks (and before that MySpaces) to display who they want the world to view them as. Back when all these phone calls were flooding in, people didn’t think about privacy settings on their pictures or censor themselves just in case a future employer might stumble across their profiles one day. Some students were calling to complain that they didn’t want to live with their future roommates because all they saw on Facebook were party pics or offensive jokes. Others were calling because their roommate seemed “lame” or “different”. It is impossible to describe what a person is like based off of what you see on Facebook.
While my roommate and I didn’t have the anxiety-laden opportunity of stalking each other on Facebook prior to moving in together, I wonder what a stranger would think of me based off of my Facebook profile. I have my profile set to super secret, so the stranger would have to request me first but that’s beside the point.
First off, we have my cover photo and profile picture. These tend to be absolutely ridiculous. In fact, when I first arrived at college, my Facebook picture was one of my comics. Oops. Right now my current cover photo is a close up of my favorite food and my profile picture is actually a poorly photoshopped photo of one of my friends. So at the moment random stranger would probably think I’m a fat man (not that my friend is fat…just the food and all).
Next, my “about” info. My main network is Hogwarts and my relationship status lists me as being in a relationship with one of my lady friends. My quotes and “info paragraph” haven’t been changed since 2008 and are just a listing of inside jokes. The only musicians I like are my friends bands or singing groups. I don’t have any books, movies, or TV shows listed, but at the moment Facebook is recommending kids books and movies…
And last but not least, photos of me. Since that’s where 99% of my students complaints come from. There are a LOT of pictures of me with my friends’ pets. Not too many party pics…but several photo bomb pictures. And lots of sorority pictures. Of course. Sorority squat!
I don’t think any of that accurately describes me. I don’t use Facebook to list every like and dislike and chronicle every moment of my day. Sorority pictures are in there a lot because those are a lot of the big events I go to…and that’s where the cameras are. At the same time, when I think about students “cleaning up” their Facebooks before they begin their job searches (or before applying for college housing), I don’t think the “after” version of their profiles represent them either.
It’s been a few years since I heard from those angry parents at Undergrad U. I’m still hearing from angry parents. They’re checking out their kid’s roommate’s Facebook and Instagram and Twitter. “He tweeted rap lyrics, my son doesn’t like rap, MY SON CAN’T LIVE WITH HIM!” I wish I was making this up. Now that I’m no longer a student, I’ve started telling parents that we will not change a room assignment just based on something they saw on Facebook. The whole idea of college is to figure out how to live on your own. If there are major issues or lifestyle differences that cannot be worked out once the students have arrived at school and given it the ol’ college try (pun intended), then we will look into finding your precious anti-rap darling a new place to live.
Student affairs professionals of the world…what are some of your most bizarre “well I saw it on the internet” moments you’ve experienced?