Freshman Column: The Class of 2016 Begins to Surface

Tempted as I am to revert to my characteristic post-break existential crisis mode and take this moment to wax poetic about the significance of all that pesky undefined negative space carved out by our college careers, I’m going to allow you silent reflection on our recent monthlong hiatus while I turn my attention to that paragon of procrastinatory outlets, the uncontested jewel of social networking: Facebook.

Wall-to-wall heart-to-hearts, angst-ridden status updates in the lead-up to finals, embarrassing middle school pictures, your most scandalous Pub shots—it’s all there, laid out in Helvetica against that pristine blue and white background. As any self-respecting college student in America can tell you, there have been a few changes to the layout recently—there’s now a billboard of a personal photo marring the top of my page, and the new sidebar of my life makes it look like nothing significant occurred in the intervening years between my birth and my joining Facebook, just to name a few. But I’m not here to talk about First World Problems (at least not those ones). The innovation that’s got me reeling is the sudden appearance of the Pomona College Class of 2016 Facebook group.

I had to have known it was coming. The prospies I hosted, the lunch guests I chatted up, the application reminders sent to me by the College Board that go straight to my trash folder (OK, so somehow I signed up for the 2016 Listserv too, and, okay, I’m too lazy to unsubscribe)—all the fanfare had to be leading up to something. And I did know it – I just never really took the time to imagine how it would look. Somewhere, while I was busy awkwardly finding my way in the party circuit, wading through mounds of dining hall rice and beans, trying not to fail English, and looking for Pitzer, I forgot that I wouldn’t be a freshman forever.

I’m big into things staying the same. I like being a first-year, because it’s what I know, and, for all my innumerable hang-ups and scrapes, I can say now, with a semester under my belt, that I feel safe as a first-year. Sure, being an upperclassman holds exciting prospects—cars on campus! Desirable registration times! The new dorms! Younger and smaller people to kick around (just kidding). But with all those privileges comes—perish the thought—responsibility, and scary, scary stuff. Next thing I know, people will be wanting to know what I’m going to do with my life. My college career is more than one-eighth over. You know how it goes—slouching through sophomoredom one minute, out in the real world striving to make a living the next, watching miserably as my childhood dreams shrivel up and fall away as my youth wrinkles and fades, ultimately dying a slow and painful death and leaving behind a callous and uncaring world. And all of this is directly related to the Pomona College Class of 2016 Facebook group.

OK, so maybe I’m overreacting, but if you look at it another way, we the first-years of the 2011-2012 school year are being officially ousted. Not that I’ve made it any easier for myself—any way you slice it, introducing the freshman column to TSL is not exactly the best career move in terms of job security. Next year, I’ll be put out to pasture while some plucky young upstart with a room with a view on South Campus and a widget thesaurus will be click-clacking away at the keyboard into all hours of the night.

There’s been another interesting development in the Pomonian corner of the web-o-sphere, though. As a direct result of 2016 development (to which several dozen voyeuristic ‘15ers (myself included) are privy, since we’ve just gone ahead and joined the group), months-old posts from the Class of 2015 group are being resurrected. Friends are “liking” records of their first digital encounters while jokesters poke fun at the ridiculousness of past tentative attempts to get to know one another (you know, all that stuff in the vein of “What dorm is everyone in?” “Favorite poems?” “Anybody taking AP Animal Husbandry tomorrow?” and so on). It was kind of nice to see all that dredged up again, and that made me realize that, in my state of unbridled hysteria, I hadn’t stopped to realize the beauty of the thing.

I can’t speak for any analogous groups at the other 4Cs—and to the best of my knowledge, nobody’s taken the initiative to start up the Claremont Colleges Class of 2016 group (who makes these things, anyway?)—but, by and large, I can say that the Pomona ‘16ers cadre, once you shave off all those ‘15ers lurking about, is composed of high school kids (big surprise there). They’re smart and interesting, according to the Office of Admissions, but that’s not what makes them endearing—that’s not why we lurk. We lurk because they’re asking each other about their favorite books and movies and TV shows and desperately scrambling around looking for someone with whom to watch Doctor Who, just like we did. Sure, I’m sizing up the competition (which one of you has plans for a “freshman column,” eh? You’ll have to go through me first!), but I’m also deeply engrossed in their online niceties because they remind me of me gone by. The Class of 2016 comes not only to oust us, but also to show us ourselves.

We came here to learn something, didn’t we? It’s taken those initial posts from the ‘16ers to really drive home how young and innocent we were when we started out, and to get us to examine—via the eternally preservative medium of the Internet—the change that’s already happened. Do I really hate change? If that had been the case, I never would have made it through the semester—heck, I never would have come to college in the first place, and that would have been pretty sad.

So come as you are, 2016 kids. There’s room enough for the both of us (not the seniors, though; they have to go).

Welcome back, everyone. It’s going to be some semester.

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