When St. Olaf Flirts went viral on Facebook last year, I couldn’t help but wonder where we could possibly go from there. Flirts capitalized on online anonymity and the near-suffocating closeness of a small college. In that sense, Flirts was inevitable. I doubted we could create a space that was more of an instantly gratifying, virtual free-for-all.
However, schools like Harvard, Rutgers, Carleton and Macalester found the natural next step, and it’s called “Friendsy.” A hybrid of Flirts and Tinder, Friendsy is a social network just for your college community. Each user profile includes a few pictures, first and last name and a few bare-bones details like graduation year, major and clubs. Anyone can submit an anonymous friend, date or hookup request. The “Murmurs” feature allows you to leave a compliment on public display. You can even ask for a hint if you’re intrigued by your mystery suitor.
True to its name, Friendsy incited a frenzy. It makes sense: Haven’t we all craved a way to let the mysterious hottie in class know what’s up without actually risking anything? Still, just because something gives us what we want doesn’t mean it’s edifying for our community.
I hate to be a pearl-clutching naysayer spewing concern about the kids these days and their “hookup culture,” but I don’t think we need even more ways to commodify each other and evaluate our peers based on a few pictures. The kind of closeness bred by Friendsy is the cheap kind that ultimately makes you feel misunderstood. At least Facebook is a conduit for dialogue and engagement; Friendsy’s bare-minimum profiles shift the focus to appearance.
You could argue that the Murmurs feature is a great way to spread happiness and give and receive confidence boosts. Everyone loves an unexpected compliment, right? What strikes me as problematic is the public nature of it. Small liberal arts campuses tend to be deeply competitive as it is, with low-self esteem running so rampant that you can practically assume it in most people. Friendsy is yet another platform that can foster competitiveness and feelings of inadequacy, even if at first glance a lot of the commentary seems positive.
The most appealing feature of Friendsy is what unnerves me most: its faceless discretion and the idea that you can profess your attraction with no more effort than a click. Have we all forgotten that convenience and ease are literally the opposite of romance? Whatever happened to being brave? Whatever happened to bold gestures? Easier said than done, I know. I just worry that our generation has been enabled to be interpersonally lazy.
Friendsy hasn’t hit St. Olaf yet, but it has already spread from the East Coast to our peer colleges, Carleton and Macalester. It’s safe to say that most Oles don’t want Carleton to have nice things that we don’t have, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Friendsy sparks a craze here soon. If it does, I hope we can all take it with a grain of salt and not become too engrossed by its addictive luster.
Abby Grosse ’15 email@example.com is from Shoreview, Minn. She majors in English and concentrates in media studies and women’s and gender studies.