By Ella Melcher, Editor-in-chief
“Random roommate” was a phrase that was commonly heard among incoming college freshmen in my parents’ generation. The norm was for incoming college freshmen to randomly be assigned to bunk with a complete stranger for an entire year, with matches determined only by a brief questionnaire essentially asking whether you’re a morning person or night owl. As I enter the realm of college decision-making, the Herculean task of finding a roommate to avoid the crazy spin-of-the-wheel fate of “going random” is my reality.
In today’s college culture, few students go completely random. The most popular option today is joining the Facebook group corresponding to your school. While I had been warned about this process from my older friends, I was not prepared for the time, energy, and willpower I would have to put into choosing the person who would be sleeping within a 6 foot radius of me next year.
Facebook shopping for a roommate resembles using a dating app: aimless scrolling, judging others by their looks, “talking” to people, and hoping to be “chosen.” I feel like I’m on the Bachelorette, constantly vying for time with girls who seem nice and trying to determine if they are deserving of my final rose. Everyone is trying to put forth an image that is desirable to the general public, scared to show their true selves; and honestly, I don’t really blame them. Today, everyone is concerned with fitting the mold of society’s standards that many would sacrifice showing their true selves to be liked. Fear is a very powerful motivator.
When a college-bound senior creates a post, it is accompanied by a short bio and several carefully chosen pictures. Within the group, the posts of pretty, skinny girls garner hundreds of likes and comments while girls who may not fit the traditional beauty standard earn less attention.
The process itself encourages the opposite of what we have been taught and demands quick judgements based on pictures of a persona that may not even resemble the real-life prospective roommate. University staff acknowledge that these Facebook groups are the primary platform on which students find roommates, but do they know how they work? Or maybe they just don’t care. Colleges need to be aware that these groups are full of privilege and judgement, and they fuel insecurities. It seems to me that schools could create their own platform for finding a roommate–something more welcoming and positive.
Despite its issues, so many of us still find ourselves participating in this Facebook shopping-for-friends culture out of fear of the dreaded random roommate we have heard horror stories about: the one who steals your clothes, never goes to class and invites her boyfriend to live with you. I find myself aimlessly scrolling, wondering what people think about me, trying not to be judgmental on a platform drowning in judgement.
So, what are college-bound students supposed to do? If random is not your thing, I suggest this: be yourself. Post pictures of the “real” you… hanging with friends, walking your dog, playing sports. Look for other authentic people. Let’s face it, it is easy to spot the less-than-genuine-posts. If we all changed the way we portray ourselves, this platform could become a more welcoming and positive place that doesn’t cause more stress than the college process already does.