August 25, 2011

Making New (Facebook) Friends

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In today’s world of speedy text messages, Skype, Facetime, Oovoo and MSN messenger, communication is as fast as the Germans can say a second: Augenblick (literally: in the blink of an eye). Naturally, the Class of 2015 exemplifies this phenomenon, for we all quickly updated our Facebooks to say “Education: Cornell University” to snub our less fortunate classmates. Group after group sprung up, where eager teens bonded over Harry Potter, planned mix-CD swaps and began to make close friends.

Cut Scene to Move-in Day: Parents desperately cling onto their kin, as said offspring stress over their pink zebra comforter being too big, Grandma interrogating the roommate and finding those few companions with whom they’ve shared aspirations over for the past three months. After the formalities are done, after bittersweet goodbyes and rooms left half unpacked, the search begins.

“Sally? Is that you? Appel, where’s that? I can’t find you” Is a recurring message. When the moment comes, seeing an online acquaintance for the very first time — in 3D nonetheless — expectations rise and fall like Libe Slope. Friends are shorter, taller; have faces like Greek gods, or not. From painfully pitchy voices to low murmurs, it’s a sensory overload comparable to Avatar on Adderall. What’s worse is that we act on the differences between the you online and the you in real life.  Close online friends suddenly seem cold, distracted, uninterested; or the opposite: they’re too attached, that strong newbie feel making everyone cling like lint.

But fear not! There are many equally eager, equally snubbed or just equally social freshmen to make friends with. Though the effort invested in friendships over social networks counts for something, it’s necessary to understand, and to remember, that the Internet is not real life. People change.; they are different, distracted. Electronic communication, no matter how innovative, simply does not compare to the phenomena of language, body and speech. The ancient philosophers of Greece shunned the written language, stating that meaning was lost as words were written down, and though a radical thought in the 21st century, it’s evident that text messages and even webcam chats pale in comparison to real life. It’s much more enjoyable to hear someone laugh and be there than to read an “LOL.”

Many of us, to the amusement of the communications department, were ready to spill out personal details of our lives to more than 2,000 of our fellow classmates. While we trusted the fraternal bond between new classmates, did we know that Cornell would see our posts when we whined about our housing, complained about the reading assignment or mocked Alcohol Wise? These new 21st century social networking norms that the University explores, we must remember, tend to apply only to our computers. Just because someone likes your status doesn’t mean they’ll like you in real life.

Like Rome, relationships are not built in a day. They take time. The freshman you found who likes Pretty Little Liars may not want to go to Nasties with you. The girl you bonded with in your Pre-Orientation Service Trip may simply want to make new friends. The guy you Skyped with may simply want to take in the grandeur of Cornell before stressful classes and prelims change him into a hermit.  O-Week is chaos; it’s a bacchanalian festival where the risky seek adventure, and the reserved seek companionship. It’s both a kick-off to four years of working hard and partying hard, as well as the last chance you’ll get to make friends in, well, Augenblick.

To those who find themselves a little shy, observant or simply “chill,” the best plan is to find events where like-minded people may be; there you’ll make friends in a more conversational manner. Those social butterflies thrived during O-week, meeting people at lines to RPCC, but it’s recommended to seek quality in friendship rather than quantity.  In the end, everyone finds their niche: a community, or several, where they belong. Whether it’s joining one of the 43 fraternities on campus or singing the latest Cee-Lo Green tunes under arches, Cornell has much to offer.

In the next four years, things will change, acquaintances will come and go, but those relationships we put effort into, whether with a fellow freshie, an R.A. or a professor, are what keep us sane in a world of discussions and lectures.

Kevin Milian is a freshman in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He may be reached at kjm259@cornell.edu. Northern Exposure, a column from the perspective of various members of the Class of 2015, appears alternate fridays this semester.

Original Author: Kevin Milian