An Endangered Inanimate Species

There is a certain creature of collegiate life whose existence will soon be obliterated. It’s appearance is rather plain, leaving room for human modification. It attaches itself to the doors of residence halls where it feeds on the thoughts of passing strangers and the inside jokes of unsuspecting room occupants.

Oftentimes this versatile being is accompanied by a small, black utensil which acts as a distraction to prey, luring them to the white plastic void. A few subspecies have been discovered which pair themselves with a spongy surface that attracts loose pieces of paper.

Unbeknownst to the wider public, this secretly social critter is losing its place in the world of modern communication.

That’s right folks. The whiteboard is slowly but surely growing extinct in the halls of college dorms.

At least, it seems that way based on my quest for the elusive creature earlier this evening.
Yes, I really did walk around looking for whiteboards with my roommate. And yes, my own room has a white board, which we use for leaving messages about dinner, our whereabouts, silly quotes, and seasonal doodles. I don’t know what impression my neighbors have of me based on that board, but I’m sure it’s an interesting one!

A Famous quote

If you based all your assumptions about college on movies and TV, you’d think every door has a whiteboard and no one has anything better to do than leave cute messages for each other. It’s like in those middle school TV shows when the girl finds a mysterious note in her locker shoved in through the air slots. Everyone has a secret desire to find that note, or in college, the “Sorry I missed you, call me -(name)” scribbled on the board. It shows that someone’s thinking about you.

So, if we all go into college expecting to see whiteboards, and bringing whiteboards with us, then why aren’t they actually used?

Of the eight floors (I believe 152 rooms) I searched, there were only 19 rooms with whiteboards. Seven of these were blank.

Some of the boards had welcome back messages, but many had goofy jokes and drawings (like my own room’s)

Whiteboard2Whiteboard3

The interesting bit is that as I worked my way down from the first year to upperclassmen floors, the number of boards decreased. Well, with the exception of the floor for Ad Finitum, which actually had the most whiteboards.

Why this change? Why are there so few whiteboards in the first place? What has caused this change in communication?

It’s very easy to say technology, but is that all? Sure, blame it on the instantaneous text message, the Skype chat, the faceless email, but I feel like there’s something else to this picture.

The human element of interaction. Whether it’s a physical handshake or a physical note, it’s something that is becoming less and less prevalent in our culture. I’m not saying technology is bad, or we should stop texting and start writing missives to our friends. I’m just making an observation.

If you’re wondering how I came to make this observation in the first place, or at least to look into it, well, my boss asked me to. At first I thought “What? Whiteboards? Really?” but it slowly grew on me. I got excited to look into this seemingly random yet relevant topic and I think the results were worth it!

Deadboard

Tying It All Together: Sunday Morning Questions, Thoughts, and Fears

One of the things I’ve always valued and loved about the weekends is the Breakfast Ritual. It could be Saturday or Sunday, really, but I feel Sundays are better suited for this. Here are the basics:

  1. Wake up without an alarm. It sets a nice unrushed feel to the day.
  2. Tiptoe around the room so as not to wake your roommate.
  3. Listen to The Dallas String Quartet and Jingle Punks Hipster Orchestra as you do the dishes.
  4. Make (strong) coffee and a bowl of Marshmallow Mateys (ShopRite’s version of Lucky Charms)
  5. Sit. Eat. Think. Ask Why?
  6. Repeat step five for as long as you care to sit in solitude enjoying the quiet. Or until your roommates get up.

That is the start to a good morning. Just contemplating your life, thinking about what you want to do, not what you have to do, and ruminating why you chose the paths you did as the coffee kicks in.

Today, my Sunday morning questioning takes the form of this writing, and I’ve just hit all the marshmallows in the bottom of my bowl (I like to save the best for last).

I know asking really vague questions isn’t as fun as other things, or as comfy as staying in your nice warm bed. But sometimes it’s good to let your mind wander and take an uncharted and unplanned course. Which has led me to thoughts of yesterday afternoon.

I met with the same group of friends who gathered to talk about what authenticity is, but this time we focused on why people have trouble being authentic.

Why are we so afraid to be our true selves?
Why do we find the need to prescribe to societal standards that don’t always reflect our true inclinations or beliefs?
Why are we intimidated by letting people in?
Why are we afraid of being open or practicing self-acceptance?

The answers that come to mind without thinking are the ones most likely to be true. Peoples’ responses yesterday: Fear of rejection, fear of ridicule, fear of not being accepted for who we are. And the list goes on …

Those words: ridicule, rejection, acceptance, all bring me back to middle school bullies and trying to change who I was in high school (it took me a couple years to realize how much I was hurting myself and those around me in a fruitless battle to be “cool”). I’m 20 and I still have the fears of a 13-year-old. Please tell me I’m not the only one.

If I’m not the only one, then shouldn’t it be easier to reach out and connect with others, who undoubtedly want to feel like they belong at this school just as much as I do? Or is this a larger social problem, something that is impossibly huge and scary and multi-generational? Maybe it’s a combination of both.

Spiked hair on a Sunday

Confession: If I felt that people were more open, I'd probably spike my hair more frequently.

Self crossword - the missing letter is a T, by the way

You can't tell who a person really is just by looking at them. You have to ask and listen. Don't be afraid to initiate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know I don’t have the answers to all these questions, and I’m not asking you to, either. I also know I don’t have perfect solutions. But I have an idea about the (possibly subconscious) intimidation of others.

When you walk over the bridge on Charles St, or through College Center, unglue your eyes from your phone or iPod and look at people as you walk by. Smile and wave. Ask how they’re doing and mean it. Show interest in their life and well-being; they will reciprocate. You don’t have to go out of your way to be present to others. Just a nod will do. I know I’m not the best at this; sometimes I miss a wave or “Hey’” because my earbuds are in, but I’m trying to get better.

One thought and smile at a time.