October 4, 2011

Screaming to Be Noticed

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A more compelling version of the if-a-tree-falls-in-a-forest-and-no-one-is-around-to-hear-it mystery: A student walks through a crowded campus and there’s always someone listening. How can she not make a sound?

How you look, your gait, posture, pace and expression; your clubs, classes, crew and crush; the last link on your laptop, first giggle in your sense of humor, last shot of SoCo on Friday and first shot of Espresso on Monday; your yeses and maybes and nos, are all written between the margins of your mind. Who is reading them and why?

In honor of Jesse Eisenberg’s 28th birthday this Oct. 5, let’s examine David Fincher’s The Social Network, last year’s Oscar-nominated film about the site we all use to get noticed. When Zuckberg gets dumped by his girlfriend, Erica Albright, he calls her a bitch on his blog, bashes her last name and bra-size, then launches a site allowing users to rate Harvard girls’ hotness. Since she would no longer notice him, Zuckerberg lambasted Albright, rendered her utterly unseemly, and created a forum that every guy basically had to notice. Albright reprimanded Zuckberg, “The Internet’s not written in pencil, Mark, it’s written in ink … Good luck with your video-game.”

It seems Albright’s half right — Googlers everywhere hold top search results sacrosanct — and half wrong — grooming your Facebook sometimes takes precedence over grooming your face. Video game my ass.  But what if we were to revisit our childhood conceptions — back when keyboards were ivory and black, mice ate cheese, computers were tools for M.S. Word, solitaire and minesweeper, and we were forced to interact with each other in the flesh more often for company?

In the wake of our Interfraternity Council’s decision to replace nighttime events with  daytime events for a safer, drier rush week schedule, Cornellians will be forced to discern our new brothers, sisters, bigs and littles in a different, more abstemious light. Perhaps now is the time to re-evaluate who we notice and why.

Performances at the Schwartz Center and Risley, A Cappella, Big Red athletics, or Janelle Monae’s jaw-jouncing concert this past Sunday featuring a mind-melting 15 piece band, choreography and costume, paint solos and vocals that rivaled Beyonce, Stevie Wonder, and Lady Gaga’s hypothetical lovechild are awesome venues for awesome times. But I’m really talking about complimenting a random person on their style, chilling on a quad, playing hacky sack or Frisbee between classes, asking to sit with with a crowd in a dining hall after the first week of freshman year, or going sledding on the slope on faith that someone awesome will be there. In other words, the equation: live entertainment = life as entertainment. And if you if you want to do something radically cool, people will probably notice.

In a trek of Forrest Gumpian proportions on Oct. 5, 1974, American David Kunst completed the first round-the-world journey on foot in four years and 21 pairs of shoes. At the close of his 14,500-mile journey across four continents, the Waseca, Minnesota native said, “I was tired of Waseca, tired of my job, tired of a lot of little people who don’t want to think, and tired of my wife.” Following Kunst’s existential sleepiness but awake logic, I’m surprised more people don’t walk around the world, or at least to the plantations.

Our campus of complex social and technological dynamics seems to demand something noticeably different. In this semester’s student government elections, Engineering at Large representative Avi Meller ’13 and freshman representative Peter Scelfo ’15 approached their campaigns from opposite sides of the spectrum. Where Meller won the Engineering at Large election by simply introducing himself to students, addressing academic and extracurricular concerns particular to the engineering school, and handing out quartercards with only his name in large caps and no pithy slogan, Scelfo gained support not only by chalking and filming a campaign video, but by caroling and wearing an elf costume for two weeks. It’s no surprise that campaigns ostentatious and individual alike worked in this year’s elections — people want something to notice, big or small, comical or serious, personal and pervasive, but always genuine.

How to get noticed, you ask?

A student walks through a crowded campus and there’s always someone listening. How can she not make a sound? Only if you’re not listening.

Jacob Kose is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached at jkose@cornellsun.com. Scrambled Eggs appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.

Original Author: Jacob Kose