The Juicy Campus phenomenon is spreading like wildfire among the Cornell community, thanks in no small part to a news article dated Jan. 28 by the Sun’s very own Cara Sprunk ’10. According to Sprunk, “Juicycampus.com, a college campus gossip blog, launched a site for Cornell this semester, giving the Cornell community an anonymous outlet for discussing University social life and more. On Juicy Campus, anyone can anonymously post Cornell ‘news.’ People can then comment back on the information anonymously. The site boasts that it is not possible for anyone to know who posts or where he or she is posting from.” In addition, there is no registration process — anyone may post and anyone may read the posts.
Faithful readers, I encourage you to check out the website if you have not yet done so. The vast majority of the posts are innocuous and actually quite amusing. For example, take the following post under the thread “Best Dressed” by, of course, Anonymous: “Nick in Alpha Delt is probably the only dandy on campus, tsk tsk.” Dandy. Tsk, tsk. Classic. Now, I know Nick well and can personally attest to the fact that he is indeed a snappy dresser. After a cursory view of the website, most posts (at least about the people and organizations I know) seem similar to the one about Nick: pretty accurate.
But then we have the “Sluttiest Girls at Cornell” thread and the “Biggest Cornell Cokeheads” thread, which is so popular that it has, yes, a “Part Deux.” Apparently, one was simply not enough to publicize all of the famous abusers of a certain white substance.
Cornellians, we have reached the pinnacle of depravity. In our effort to emulate the likes of Perez Hilton and Gossip Girl in the search for some kind of false and illusory prima donna status, we have lost the mores that made the Cornell community an actual community.
I should not have to explain why some subject matters are inappropriate for an online blogging site. However, I suppose that the fact that they exist in the first place means that I should support my beliefs on the matter with an explanation: Primarily, the posts are slanderous and defamatory. This is the case even if they are true. While posters are anonymous, their subjects are decidedly not so.
Contrary to the image painted by The Sun in its special “Top 25 Recognizable ‘Scene’iors” feature, Cornell students are not public figures. Rather, the lives they lead are private. No one, not even the most vindictive and disrespectful of us, deserves the kind of notoriety and mistreatment that comes with being labeled a slut or a cokehead. There is a world of difference between having a private conversation between friends saying so and so is a — well, you fill in the blank — and posting that opinion or knowledge on a public forum accessible to all. Should X’s claim to fame on Google really be a link to a blogging site that says X is a cokehead? Should Y have to answer questions by an employer concerning what someone wrote on a blog or, worse, be confronted by a significant other who years later asks, “Were you a slut in college?”
The other night, I was approached by a girl I know well enough to hold a 10 minute conversation with but not much more. Three minutes into our 10, and completely unprovoked, she told me that she had been labeled as one of the Biggest Sluts at Cornell on Juicy. Desperately, she tried to defend her reputation to me, to someone who hardly knows her. Unfortunately, once the information is out there, it’s out there. For nothing but a few cheap laughs by the anonymous authors of the post, this poor girl’s character has been irrevocably damaged to the point where she feels compelled to defend herself to a mere acquaintance. As Americans, as Cornellians, and as people, have our morals and sense of kinship sunk so low that this type of story is not gut wrenching?
Obviously, the enabling factor in all of this is that posts on this website are anonymous. Columnists for The Sun and announcers for Slope Radio put their reputations on the line because their names are attached to what they write and what they say. For instance, I know that I can expect to receive some e-mails and possibly a letter to the editor arguing that both I and my column are stupid. So be it. By contrast, as long as bloggers know they can write with impunity, they will write whatever they want, no matter how slanderous or outlandish their words may be. Thus, Cornell students may levy cowardly claims against others, knowing full well that those claims are nearly impossible to contest.
The answer is neither to have this website shut down nor for Cornell to intervene. Rather, we must regain our sense of community, our respect for each other as people and our pride and dignity as humans.
To this end, the next time you post on JuicyCampus, ask yourself the following: if my name were attached to this post, would I still write it? I know that this sounds preachy, that this column reads like a sermon and that most of the stuff on Juicy is posted in good fun. I know that this sounds lame. Believe me, I get it. However, these are the lives and futures of people — no, peers and fellow students — that we are talking about. When I picked the moniker, “It Matters Not, But…,” I did so because I wanted to write about the light stuff, subjects that, in the grand scheme of things, did not matter. This one matters.
Gregory Wolfe is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. It Matters Not, But… appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.