September 27, 2006: On the Campus
By P.G. Sittenfeld ’07
Every June, shortly after graduation, a mass migration occurs that gives the gray of Gotham a slightly orange tinge. Throngs of Princeton undergraduates head to “The City” — as they quickly and nonchalantly come to call it — for a range of summer internships.
While many come to Manhattan to work in the financial sector, others score summer positions in the fields of politics, publishing, and nonprofits. Regardless of what jobs they land, students find that being a Tiger dramatically shrinks the size of one of the world’s largest and most daunting cities.
At the same time, according to Career Services, of those members of the Class of 2006 who accepted full-time employment following graduation, nearly half took jobs in New York.
Danny Shea ’07, who interned for the political blog Huffington Post, said he saw Princeton students every day of the week, often by chance: “Everywhere you go in this city, there’s always someone you know from school, whether you’re walking to work or grabbing a meal somewhere.”
While chance encounters are frequent, there also is plenty of organized fun, including Princeton Club happy hours, free concerts in Central Park, and lunch dates with professors who live in New York.
Some students observed that the Princeton population could feel so large and ubiquitous that it compromised the urban anonymity of the New York experience.
“It was always good to see friendly faces, but there would be times when I also thought, ‘My god, I’m never going to get beyond Princeton social circles,’” said Janna McLeod ’08, who worked in publicity for powerHouse Books in Brooklyn and lived with her older sister in midtown Manhattan. “It seemed like the eating clubs had simply expanded from Prospect Street into the neigh-borhoods of New York.”
Just as spending a summer working in New York seems to be a rite of passage for many Princetonians, what has become an even more obligatory part of the college experience is joining the wildly popular social networking Web site Facebook.com — and in doing so, creating an online identity.
Students set up profiles in which they post photos of themselves, list favorite books and movies, and share other information ranging from what activities they pursue to details as intimate as sexual orientation.
The main purpose of the site — which boasts 9 million users at thousands of colleges and high schools — is to allow students to request other students as “friends.” Users are then able to see who is friends with whom and to feed their competitive impulses by collecting as many online pals as possible.
Facebook has evolved significantly since it first opened to Princeton students in spring 2004. Today, a large portion of the incoming Class of 2010 boasts hundreds of Facebook friends, many of whom they’ve never met.
Often, rather than real-life friendships naturally being reflected as Facebook friendships, college relationships now evolve in reverse, beginning on the Internet before crossing over into the world of in-the-flesh interactions.
“It can get pretty random,” admitted freshman Daniel Dickerson of Richmond, Va., who at the end of August had 220 Facebook friends — and counting. “I started out ‘friending’ guys on the swimming and diving team who had been on my recruiting trip to Princeton. But then maybe you’ll start ‘Facebooking’ classmates you don’t know who are from your area or are going to be living near you on campus.”
There is no uniform Facebook etiquette to explain who users should and shouldn’t “friend”; each user has his or her own set of guidelines. “My rule for ‘friending’ Princeton people I don’t know is that they have to be from my home county,” said Rebecca Gold ’09 of Wilmette, Ill.
So what happens when Facebook friends who don’t know each other finally meet? “I think a full-out acknowledgment is necessary right off the bat that you only know the person through Facebook,” Gold said.
In such situations the Facebook faithful realize that they can leave themselves open to less-than-favorable impressions. “There’s always the risk of coming off as some cyberfreak,” Dickerson said. “I’m not going to be walking down Nassau Street and yell to someone, ‘Hey there, remember me? I ‘Facebooked’ you like six months ago!’”
P.G. Sittenfeld ’07, an English major from Cincinnati, Ohio, spent his summer in New York writing for a media Web site.
MORE ON THE CAMPUS online: “Summer studies, at home and abroad” by Laura Fitzpatrick ’08, click here.