The Social Network
She signed on Facebook, accepted the group request in her inbox, and began scrolling through the list of members, knowing full well that it might be considered creepy in the eyes of others. Still, in the comfort of her own bedroom, she began clicking through pictures of other girls though she wasn't looking for a girlfriend or a lover.
She was looking for something even more important, an even deeper relationship: a potential college roommate.
Social media has been a rising approach to finding college roommates. The people who once feared online predators and strangers on the Internet are now terrified of the random roommate assignment process. They're scared of being stuck with someone messy, someone with no similar interests to them, or someone who showers once a week.
In order to decrease that fear and the chance that it might happen to them, freshmen have begun to search for a roommate on their own, via social networking sites. The "UB Class of 2016" Facebook group and roomsurf.com are helping them do just that.
Taylor Mones, an incoming freshman, was told of a random roommate assignment disaster before she even started college.
"One of my friends was paired with an International student that actually slept underneath her bed [instead of on the mattress]," Mones said.
Hearing about her friend's experience - and several other horror stories - drove Mones to search for and pick out her own roommate. She turned to roomsurf.com and messaged a girl named Marley. Their similar taste in music is what drew them to one another and after speaking with each other regularly they decided to request each other as roommates.
Neither Mones nor her roommate want to make the trip from Long Island to Binghamton (their respective home towns), so they plan on meeting for the first time on the first day of school. Mones isn't worried about their meeting. She believes that she has gotten to know Marley well enough online.
Kristin Waldby, an incoming freshman and intended communication major, doesn't share the same mindset.
"Things might not work out for people who meet online and never meet up until they move into their dorm," Waldby said. "Not every person is who they appear to be online, so you have to be careful of that, and meeting in person is a good way to tell."
After watching the movie Roommate, Waldby was left in horror at what might happen if she chose random roommate selection. She logged on to Facebook and began her quest.
Waldby and her roommate met in person once at Accepted Students Open House. They ran into each other's arms and hugged as if they'd been friends for years. They talk on ooVoo and Facebook constantly; social media has helped them start and strengthen their relationship over time.
They hit it off really well and are looking forward to rooming together, according to Waldby.
Many universities and overprotective parents are against this rising phenomenon.
"Officials worry students are focusing on the wrong qualities in these searches - music bands instead of cleaning habits, funny prom stories instead of rules for overnight guests," said Jenna Johnson in her Washington Post article, "College Freshmen Turn to Facebook to Find Roommate."
If students at UB go through the random assignment process and aren't happy with the assignment, UB officials do what they can to help, according to Michael Koziej, Associate Director for Campus Living.
There are Residential Advisers (RAs) on each floor to deal with any problems concerning room or floor mates. RAs are very understanding of the many fears that students have upon entering college because they are students as well.
"The worst situation that I recall involved two students who were randomly placed together as new students," Koziej said. "It turns out these two students actually had gone to high school together and did not like each other. After getting the formal assignment letter, both students (and their parents) immediately called the housing office and started sharing all the details of their relationship and why they could not live together."
These students were immediately relocated.
Another incoming sophomore, who wishes to remain anonymous, also had a nightmare roommate situation. She was randomly placed in a quad and got along with two of her roommates. Her third roommate was where the problem started; she attempted to make the rest of their lives a hell, according to the anonymous student.
"She would update her status on Facebook about us to say things like, 'my roommates only shower once a week, they prance around in lacy thongs,' and 'these girls don't even know what's coming for them,'" she said.
The situation got so bad that the police had to get involved and new rooming arrangements were made. The student said tensions persisted because it was still awkward when they had class together and when mutual friends would bring up the situation.
In fear of being stuck with a high school enemy or someone essentially crazy, each year more students at UB are requesting roommates that they found via social media, according to Koziej.
"I believe the effect social media is having on students is it is allowing them to find someone who has similar habits and interests and, in turn, who they believe would be a good match," Koziej said. "The downside to this is it prevents a student from being placed with someone who is different from them and, in turn, exposing them to new things."
Some students decide to follow the traditional method of being randomly placed with a roommate, while others are using the up-and-coming technique of using social media. Neither method is free of its problems, nor is every situation the same.
There are many people at UB available to help solve tensions between roommates, from the Campus Living Directors to RAs.