Finding love on a college campus is an experience so fascinating that the New York Times is willing to pay for a chance to pick our lovelorn brains.
They did this three years ago as well, when they wanted to hear what love was like for college students in an age of constant tweeting, creeping and texting.
The NY Times is reaching out to students again, offering one essay winner $1,000 and his or her essay to be published in the May 1 “Modern Love” column of the New York Times.
So what is love on a college campus, if there is any at all?
The gist of the winning entry for the 2008 contest was that this generation of students shies away from commitment, refusing to feel like anyone’s property.
But is this really any different from dating in college 10, 20 years ago?
Oh yeah. This is not your grandparents’ dating pool, and we have the technology to prove it.
I got a clear picture of it last week when I was first introduced to likealittle.com. For those of you who haven’t seen this addicting yet creepy website, it’s a forum for people to post where they saw the object of their attraction, that person’s gender and hair color and a love note that sounds something like “You had on a red shirt, you’re hot, I wish you knew how I felt.”
This gives students the chance to announce to everyone else that they like someone, but never actually confront the person they’re interested in.
Then there’s Facebook, which allows us to stalk anyone we’re interested in down to their birthday, religious beliefs and photos from summer break three years ago.
Aside from all that, dating in college is weird to begin with. Eating Easy Mac in your dorm with the girl from 2A can easily count as a date, and most people I know who started dating in college began with a hook up and a text the following day to say “hey.”
We are constantly connected and that makes for some serious side-effects. And apparently, these effects are drastic enough for the New York Times and the general public to want to take a deeper look.
It’s easy to hide behind a perfectly executed text or Facebook post, but what about good, old-fashioned flirting? What about making yourself look like an idiot when you fumble over a simple “hello,” and they smile and wave anyway?
Times are changing, obviously, and we now have the freedom to communicate with several people at once in a sort of technological mass-flirting. But the cornerstone of any relationship is honesty and trust, which is much harder to develop from behind a computer screen, and even tougher in a college setting.
As the New York Times filters through this year’s crop of modern love essays, they will undoubtedly discover that love on a college campus is a lot like Ramen soup; instant, easy and satisfying until cravings for a real meal set in.
What the New York Times calls “Modern Love” is lust, intrigue, lightning-fast messages sent hundreds of times a day. Whether or not real love is any part of that equation is up to us to decide.
Heather Swick is a journalism major from Schaumburg. She is the Scout news editor.
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