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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Facebook: the new roommate matchmaker

One of the biggest fears of incoming freshmen is always, “Will I get along with my roommate or will I be stuck with the guy who stays up till 4 a.m., never showers and perpetually leaves food out?”

Over the next several weeks, this year’s freshmen will be figuring out the answer to that question as they become accustomed to living in the dorms with a stranger UC Davis Student Housing randomly chose for them. But some students are bypassing that convention and – with the help of Facebook – are taking matters into their own hands.

For some time now, Facebook has allowed incoming freshmen to talk to one another during the interim between their acceptance and the start of Fall quarter. Many students have taken this opportunity to find their roommates instead of allowing the university to select for them.

Robin Migdol, a senior film studies and English double major, found her roommate, senior human development major Danica Soto, this way. After deciding she would attend UC Davis, she joined the UC Davis Class of 2012 Facebook group. Someone had started a thread on the message board called “Roommate Survey” and provided a questionnaire with roommate-type questions. Some of these questions covered whether you were a morning or a night person, a smoker or a nonsmoker, a neat person or a messy person, and hobbies and interests.

“Tons of people were filling it out, so I filled it out, too. I was reading through some of them and noticed one person that sounded pretty similar to me,” Migdol said in an e-mail interview. “So I sent her a private message and we started chatting and getting along really well. When it came time to fill out housing and roommate requests, it seemed pretty obvious that we’d be great roommates, so we decided to do it.”

Each year, UC Davis Undergraduate Admissions sets up a Facebook page for the incoming freshman class. Kristin Burns, UC Davis marketing and communications manager, said this page has increased in popularity.

“We’ve been setting up class groups for the past four years and have seen activity increase with each incoming class, especially at the freshmen level. It seems like this year’s freshman group has been especially involved in getting to know one another and sharing their excitement for being an Aggie,” Burns said.

UC Davis students are not the only ones utilizing Facebook to find roommates. Students from schools all across the country are using this new system in the hopes of ensuring roommate compatibility. Facebook has even created an application, called ‘RoomBug,’ that anyone in college can use to find a roommate.

Migdol said she would recommend this method to future freshman.

“The truth is, not everybody gets along, and it was such a relief to know who my roommate was going to be and that she and I were compatible,” Migdol said.

But is it wise to break the long-standing tradition of random roommate assignments? Isn’t college the time when we should be trying new things and learning how to get along with different people? Many argue that this new Facebook phenomenon of finding roommates is taking away from the traditional “right of passage” college provides. UC Davis sociology professor Robert Faris agreed.

“It’s true that random assignment sometimes leads to disaster – but I’m not sure that such conflicts are eliminated when students room with their Facebook clones. What is lost, however, is exposure to the great diversity of perspectives and backgrounds we have at Davis,” Faris said.

Although no one wants to spend a year with someone they don’t like or don’t get along with, Faris believed that it may provide college freshman with necessary experience for getting along with all types of people.

“[This] exposure may bring disagreement and some conflict – which is not necessarily a bad thing, if handled correctly,” Faris said.

It thus becomes the question of playing it safe or gaining the experience of living with someone you may not get along with but may provide you with excellent life experience.

In Migdol and Soto’s case, it worked out well. Through Facebook, they met a friend that they might not normally have found and were spared the fear of living with someone they were not compatible with. Soto said even now she couldn’t be happier with her decision.

“It turned out quite well. In fact, we still live together in an apartment with two other girls. I feel lucky that Robin chose me and I do not regret finding my roommate through this way rather than [leaving it] all up to chance,” Soto said in an e-mail interview.

Migdol added, “Even if we hadn’t become such good friends after we moved in together, we wouldn’t have been any worse off than people who were selected randomly.”

But, did they miss out on the experience of living with someone who was very different from themselves? An article published in 2002 by researchers at Cornell University that found white students who were assigned a roommate of a different race ended up more open-minded about race.

For some, Facebook provides ease of mind and an instant friend. But for others, having a random roommate may provide a perfect lesson in diversity and maturity.

CLAIRE MALDARELLI can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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