Here’s a familiar situation. You’re walking to class, and suddenly you realize that you’re about to cross paths with this girl you met at a party one time, and you don’t totally remember her name but you know you know her, and you know she knows you know her, and oh no, she’s getting closer, should you say hi? Should you smile? Should you pretend you need to sneeze? OH WAIT YOU JUST REMEMBERED YOU HAVE TO SEND AN URGENT TEXT TO SOMEONE AND YOU SHOULD FOCUS ON THAT REALLY HARD UNTIL SHE PASSES. Yeah, we all do it.
At Columbia, though, students have gotten so good at not talking to each other that the administration has decided it’s time for action. And by action, we mean offering Columbia students prizes to stop being awkward jackasses and snubbing each other all the time.
The project, which was devised by a group of (obviously Prozac-addled) RAs and is being sponsored by Columbia residences, will run from November 15th to 19th. It basically works like this: the powers-that-be pick a bunch of “password holders” from the student body to serve as the cryptkeepers of joy and happiness. Everyone else then logs on daily to the program’s website, which will post a different “prompt” every day. Speak the prompt to the “password holder,” and they’ll tell you a password in response. And THEN you go back onto the website and type in all the responses you’ve gotten from these Mafioso weirdos who are wandering around waiting for you to open their sesames. And if you get more passwords than everyone else, you win cool shit. Like $500.
There are so many things wrong with this that we don’t even know where to start. First of all, there’s the obvious flaw that befriending someone because of financial incentives is basically the same as marrying an old rich guy so you can cash in when he snuffs it. And could this program be any more complicated? If the problem is that Columbia students ignore each other in the elevator, post a sign in the elevator that says, “TALK TO EACH OTHER, YOU JERKS.” At the very least, don’t make people bookmark your social experiment website. We have a hard enough time checking Facebook as it is.
Also, let’s talk about this “password” business for a second. How are the password holders going to be selected? Are they the students who have the hardest time making eye contact? Do they smell so offensively bad that no one will come near them without the promise of a fat $500 check?
And how, exactly, are these conversations supposed to go? You say “string bean,” he says “I Love Lucy,” and then you run home cackling to your dark dorm room and maniacally type that exchange into your computer? Do we call this “socializing”? Maybe it is for Russian mobsters hacking the website of the Department of Homeland Security in order to smuggle sniper rifles into LaGuardia airport. But most Columbia students don’t fit that description. Probably.
On the flipside, perhaps Columbia students will find the whole thing so ridiculous that they’ll start talking to each other about how stupid it is. If that’s the goal, then the Columbia Social Experiment is a work of legit genius.