SWARTZ: Facebooking our way out of real social opportunities



Matilda Swartz

“Facebook helps you [dis]connect and share with the people [you have never met].”

You’re in line at Holy Grounds, patiently awaiting something tall, dark and bitter (possibly a handful of chocolate covered pretzels, too), when from the back of your head you sense a familiar face from a class or semester gone by. The situational dilemma is almost too much to handle. You could

a) Gracefully execute a pivot turn and gregariously engage that person in casual summer-related banter. This is followed by a good 13 steps of feeling tremendously outgoing and downright foolish for having spent more than two minutes worrying about what could have gone south, but did not.

OR b) Keep your eye on the task at hand, place your order, without bending a neck muscle until you are 57 feet away, with a safe enough distance-cushion to inconspicuously tell yourself how neurotic you are. A good three and a half hours later you will make up for the inaction with a nonchalant Facebook wallpost.

The majority of students on this campus will find themselves in such a scene, whether it be at Holy Grounds, the Italian Kitchen or the bookstore. An overwhelming number of this majority will, tragically, choose the blue pill. Route B.

Perhaps it is not news that the sector of the population who checks the 18-25 age box (give or take a few years) on most official forms is redefining what it is to be social. To most, it is more convenient and face-saving to exercise one’s thumbs and say “Hello” in a text message, or spend 22 minutes drafting and redrafting the perfect greeting to post on an old friend’s wall for their entire “social network” to see.

No, this is not news. This is the new normal.

Now, it is considered retro for someone to bump into a familiar face and go for coffee. Bordering on extinction is the era when it was no big thing to pick up a phone and have a conversation with someone’s voice instead of his or her profile. Dwindling are the occasions where you make a friend via in-person discussions over a shared taste in obscure music and the ability to quote Will Ferrell movies. Today, friends are not acquired but requested-and your request hinges on the acceptance or denial of the potential pal’s own left click.

The argument that there is no place for old-fashioned relationship formation in the 21st century is one I refuse to accept. Consider the much hyped summer non-love story, “(500) Days of Summer.” Without spoiling all of the details, it can be said that over those 500 days, not one text was sent. Not one trip to an internet-based social network was taken. Two Los Angeles twentysomethings started, maintained and ended a year-and-a-half tryst in elevators, diners and copy rooms, but never on Mozilla Firefox. If Summer and Tom can do it, what is stopping the rest of us?

The embodiment of said characters leaves us with some big and incredibly fashionable shoes to inhabit. Once in that dining hall queue one realizes how easily those kindergarten-age warnings of the harm in talking to strangers can resurface. How simple is it to assume that the guy in front of you probably doesn’t even realize you were in the same philosophy class? So why bother? Bother because it breaks up the monotony of each day’s grammatically incorrect texts and abbreviated internet memos.

Bother because your fearless deed may inspire someone else to strike up a spontaneous conversation with a classmate during an exasperating paper-jammed printer line. I am not guaranteeing that the next time you find yourself paying a compliment to a boy who is blasting The Smiths or (insert favored musician here), he will take you out on an Ikea date. I am guaranteeing that if you don’t pay that compliment, you will always dream about the Swedish furniture and brooding eyes which could have been yours.


Matilda Swartz is a sophomore communication

major from Longport, N.J. She can be reached at

[email protected]