In Spring, after college decisions rolled in, my classmates began to chatter about “finding a roommate.” With first confusion then horror, I realized that technology has allowed college freshmen to transcend the random roomie lottery.
I scoured my college’s Class of 2020 page to survey the introductions: dozens of self-advertisements boasting planned academic paths, fun-loving attitudes, and good personalities. “I love Modern Family and How I Met Your Mother!” — “I definitely want to take advantage of the party scene” — “You gotta be okay with my boyfriend coming over” — “Hit me up if you think we’d get along as roommates! 🙂 ” After a short while, I started to read the posts in the same peppy, but colorless, voice.
Thanks technology, I thought dryly as I agonized over my introductory post. Facebook had downgraded the “random roommate” option to an un-glamorous, second-rate, and even intimidating choice. Now many sought compatibility with someone on the internet based on one introductory post and maybe a few hours of private messaging.
I felt uneasy because, for many of the match-ups I witnessed, it was less about compatibility and more about similarity. Now, those categories definitely have overlap. But when it’s impossible to summarize oneself in just a few sentences, and the process degrades to teens bonding over favorite TV shows and music — I have a feeling that won’t equate to euphoric roommate harmony.
And I wouldn’t exactly sell well as a good roommate. Saying “Hi, I’m Michele, and I’m so introverted that I probably won’t talk to you sometimes” doesn’t exactly have the same bright perk of the other posts. And yet I only considered requesting a single for a second; I remembered sleep-away summer camp.
The first year, I had a completely random roommate, Lauren. Despite rooming with me, she lived on a different plane of existence; she was a veteran of the camp and therefore was much more popular and sociable than me. I was timid and mute; she was bouncy and anticipating her first kiss. But she was nice. She made an effort to connect our two planes and, occasionally, they clicked. Even though we never got close, even though we weren’t compatible, (and even though she forgot about me), I knew rooming with her was better for me. At that stage in my social development, I probably would’ve holed myself in my dorm all day if the camp assigned me to a single.
So I ended up never writing one of those introductory posts. I filled out a survey about my living preferences and kicked back.
I think this relatively-new “roommate search” reflects a universal fear of senseless randomization; humans like to take their fates in their own hands. And for raw college freshmen, maybe having control over at least one fixed point and one friendly face in a startling new environment is a comfort. All understandable tendencies. But as I learned over the past few years, sometimes it’s better to dive in with no expectations.
Continuation of “Dear Future Roommate”