I’ve spent a lot of time the past week reading about freshmen, which has really put me in a mental state of remembering that year and the things that happened in my life that year. It’s likely that I’ll be writing a lot more about my freshman year experience over the next few months.
Technology has an ever-expanding presence in the life of college students. I remember writing this horrid piece on the new iPhone being hacked. I’m pretty sure this was the time the first MacBook air came out. Technology was building and expanding.
Something that was not so new to many of us was the blogosphere. This, combined with the power of a new tool called Facebook that connected us to our classmates and friends with .edu e-mail addresses (and allowed us to share our writing with them) led to some inevitable challenges in my friend group.
It started innocently. It started as a carefree form of happiness and freedom and expression. A handful of us had blogs. We loved reading each others writing. We spent almost every minute of everyday (outside of class and a few other activities) together, mindlessly sharing our thoughts and opinions on everything and everything.
Yet there is this insatiable human desire to know what our friends are thinking, what they aren’t sharing. There’s a need to write things that have gone unspoken, especially amongst, well, writers.
On all of our blogs we had these incredible sidebars where we linked to each others blogs. One click led to the next led to the next, a chain of thoughts and secrets. We even got a few of our friends who didn’t usually write to step in and write a bit.
People connect with others who share the same passion as us. Writing was something that brought many of us joy. Yet often without context (and even with context), lines can be read between. People interpret things, people think posts are about them, and awkwardness builds unnecessarily between people.
I remember staring at a friends blog post for hours one night with a mutual friend, discussing and analyzing every word and its placement on a level comparable to early medieval scholars and Beowulf. This led to one of the biggest arguments I had during my freshman year – and probably one of the loudest I had in all of my undergrad experience.
Eventually we took the links off the sidebars of our blogs. We started writing about other things, things that didn’t cross into our spheres as directly. We learned to confront each other directly about issues and tell each other what was on our minds. After a year or two, all of us started writing new blogs, quit blogging or moved on in another way.
With the expansion of technology, I see how people – especially first year students – connect on the internet as more important than ever, yet also more misunderstood than ever. As student affairs practitioners, we need to ensure that our students know and understand tried and true methods of conflict resolution. Talking to someone has always worked, and will continue to work. It may be hard, it may be scary, but it is a more effective way to solve your conflict than Facebook Chat or blogging about it.