St. Olaf Extra is a little too extra, needs new format

Have you ever been sitting in bed, relishing a minute of silence and peace you’ve allowed yourself, and all of a sudden a buzz comes from your phone? It could be a text from a loved one, or maybe you won that auction on eBay. But alas, you look, and it’s someone else “ISO one biology textbook.” And they’re asking you, someone who can’t even tell the difference between a prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell! One of the best choices I’ve made for my personal sanity and organization was unsubscribing to St. Olaf Extra. The email alias gives us the opportunity to share resources with students and faculty, advertise, earn money and ask for all kinds of important favors, but it is incessant. You receive every email, no matter whether or not you are the proper recipient, and notifications of any kind can add stress and clutter to a student’s mind. The service is necessary, yes, but the medium is inconvenient.

Communities need places to share; this cannot be denied. But an email alias is almost certainly the wrong way to go. In this format, the field of requests becomes too general and the responses too muddled. At other schools, there are similar services for students, and many are more specific. This is beneficial, as it allows people to get faster responses and keep their needs more organized.

For example, at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, there’s a Facebook page for finding textbooks. This space, being dedicated to one strain of requests, is more streamlined than St. Olaf Extra. If we were to have a space like this that was more straightforward and easier to use, we might all be better at sharing our resources. But with Extra, it’s too hard to keep track of everything that’s going on.

Similarly to Concordia, students at the University of Washington are able to access services similar to Extra on Facebook. On this page, they can posts ads for roommates, search for housing, buy furniture, sell textbooks and do everything that Extra offers us. But it’s a Facebook page, not an email alias. Even though Facebook isn’t the best of platforms, it offers people involved in this kind of online community to choose when they want to engage with it. With something like St. Olaf Extra, you’re either all in, or all out. The way they do it at the University of Washington makes it so the whole system is a little less stressful and more helpful.

The one good thing about Extra being a part of our emails is that email is platform everyone at St. Olaf has access to by way of being enrolled in or employed by the school. Extra is accessible to everyone. You don’t need to have an additional platform, like Facebook, to be able to participate in this kind of community sharing and advertising. It’s important to note, however, that we could be using some other kind of online platform we all have access to that would provide us with fewer notifications and the same great services Extra does. What about a St. Olaf Craigslist? It wouldn’t have to be a pretty webpage, but at least it would be more modern than using an email alias as an online forum space.

Extra is not an efficient or well-organized service, and the way that it’s set up makes people not want to be involved with it, meaning they could miss out on good opportunities they might otherwise benefit from. Though it gives us something we need, many people just don’t think it’s worth the hassle. Our brains have only so much bandwidth, and I know that as I get older it gets harder and harder for me to agree to partake in things that will bring me more irritation and muddlement than benefit. We should invest time into finding some other kind of platform we could all access that would provide the capability to search for specific things, a more organized format and the option to check in when necessary, but not always be engaged.

Here’s to the future, and here’s to a more practical, organized, lovely and usable online student and faculty forum.

Thea Lund ’19 (lund3@stolaf.edu) is from Kenmore, Wash. She majors in Norwegian and studio art. 

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