A little over three years ago, members of the class of 1967 sent an open letter to President Faust accusing current Harvard undergraduates of apathy and political indifference. They subsequently asked for a task force on the issue, proving once again that the pot can in fact call the kettle black. So we’re not exactly chaining ourselves to John Harvard in protest of the array of rainbow colored lawn chairs nearby. We’re not practicing sit-ins for the return of hot breakfast and party funds, though a combination of the two would be phenomenal—shots of Bacon Bacardi, right? Regardless of our lack of overt activism, we still find ourselves very much attuned to current events in a very dissimilar way than our fellow alums.
Much of this technological revolution is unfairly associated with vapid time-wasting. I mean, there is that, but these changing technologies specifically have also directly improved our college years here at Harvard. For one, picture the second floor Lamont student, anxiously fast-forwarding lecture videos to speeds where booming professors’ voices are now chipmunk serenades—in fact, Rebecca Black maybe ought to take a note out of this Lamonster’s playbook. We no longer have to navigate the canals of Widener and Lamont for our research—Google Books provides them in a single click, and you need not worry whether or not they are soaked in urine.
So we have new ways to study or find the best classes and cheapest things: “So what?” you may say, “That’s been essential to every college experience, not just ours.” Yes, I concede, we may have found new ways to do it, but workload fatigue and stinginess have always been regular elements of college life. Well then, how have things truly changed for just us? Well, for one, we have found an outlet for the non-existent dating scene here. You can post a missed connection on ISawYouHarvard about that extremely unique girl —she had brown hair and was in Justice lecture! Later you can lament about the aftermath on Harvard FML. More aggressively, you can now “spark” love interests on campus, proving that we can actually degrade ourselves lower than poking to electromagnetic metaphors that make even less sense.
In addition to aiding and abetting Harvard’s awkward dating scene, we have found in new forms of technology a means to strengthen our sense of community. We collaborate on Housing day videos that attempt to change that popular top 40 song about rappers’ models, money, and power, into ones about masters, mascots, and the prettiest bell tower. Certainly, we must not overlook our favorite social media ladies we love to hate—the Harvard Hoochies, who not only represent a promising thesis topic for a Women and Gender Studies concentrator on male hegemony, but also the BU community uniting with that of Harvard, though in ways that I’m too much of a gentleman to speak of.
No, class of 1967, we are not apathetic; in fact, we are very active. We express our opinions, desires, tragedies, and whatever other vapid emotions we feel on these websites and programs. We don’t revolt, we re-tweet. This is a new level of comfort in a different means to interact, one that has latently underpinned our four years at Harvard. Somehow, it’s okay to poke someone instead of asking her to grab coffee; it’s okay to BBM friends about events, instead of mailing paper invites; it’s okay for you to be “invisible” but still continuing conversations, transcending time and space. New avenues of interaction have changed Harvard for us in ways to which our alumni and other generations truthfully cannot relate.
While it’s not to say this interaction is good or bad, it is simply different. Insomuch as we may be able to better maintain friendships from afar as post-grads, we are also opening a window deep into our personal life, for which we are unaware who is observing and at what times.
We will adapt to these new technologies and means to interact with little fear; well, unless twin Olympian rowers continually stalk and sue you claiming intellectual property infringement. An isolated incident, of course. As a result of this increased ease of communication, though, we must remain cognizant of our true friendships as well as how they exist outside a series of windows and clicks that can too easily be muted or closed.
Our truly memorable experiences at Harvard, though, are the ones beyond the screen. The excitement of storming Annenberg for housing day, the feeling of triumph over Yale, or the epiphany that the D-List Yardfest artist you had never heard before actually is talented can never be quantified by tweets, sparks, or photo tags. Yes, maybe one day we will be the spiteful curmudgeons of the class of 2011, angry that present-day Harvard students have forgotten to share their every emotion, reaction, or check-in with others. The class of 2011 leaves Harvard, a proud contingent of @post email owners, but also real people behind the send button, capable of hugs instead of friend requests, smiles instead of sparks, laughter instead of LOLs, and even tears instead of FMLs.
Kevin P. Prior ’11, a former Crimson associate business manager, is a government concentrator in Kirkland House.