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Davis, California

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Column: Seaweed

During Summer Session II, I took ENL 178 with Professor Stephen Magagnini. The class description was dry, but it ended up being the most enjoyable, enlightening class I’ve taken at Davis. This speaks volumes, because I generally do not like things.

On the last day, our class met at the professor’s house, where we took the final and had a potluck. Over dinner, we realized just how much we would presumably miss one another, and someone commented that we should create a Facebook group to stay in touch. I volunteered to make the group, which is ridiculously out of character for me. For some reason I was feeling the good vibrations and the usual cynicism just wasn’t there.

But within a week or two, I acknowledged that the group was fucking dead, and that none of our “Kumbaya” dreams were going to come true. We don’t pretend that we’re all great friends, and it’s generally understood that we’ve come and gone from each other’s lives.

Seaweed friendships are different, however. They happen in life’s littoral zone, in shallow waters where it’s easier to leech sunlight. Seaweed friendships are those “friendships” you develop with the people you’ve reluctantly touched base with over the course of your college career.

Seaweed friendships are not particularly good or bad. They’re just there, limp green wrappers on your shitty sushi. You live in the same building as some random guy, and he insists on saying “hi” even though you don’t give a fuck about him, and he doesn’t give a fuck about you. He might break the monotony by suggesting “hanging out sometime.” And you’ll say, “Yeah, sounds good,” with absolutely no intention of following through, because what sounds even better is silence and solitude, away from seaweed friends.

That’s courtesy, I guess.

When you’re just walking around campus, it’s nice to see a friendly face. But when you’re studying in the library and a seaweed friend goes out of their way to say “hi,” it’s pretty annoying. You miss out on epiphany moments and you’re forcibly reminded of how pointless and shallow most college friendships actually are. Then you reflect on your existence as a misanthropic butthole.

Seaweed friendships become especially palpable during ASUCD Senate elections. Competition can get fierce, and your vote truly does matter. With that in mind, candidates stretch themselves thin to appeal to potential voters. They’ll add you on Facebook. They’ll spout platitudes like “It was great meeting you today!” Whatever.

I get that candidates can’t realistically befriend every potential voter. The most efficient way is to subscribe to a “standard” of friendship, where you meet the minimum requirements and move on.

I’m not saying this to criticize any candidates. It’s good politics, and I wouldn’t act any differently if I were running for Senate. Campaigning is just emblematic of the shallow friendships that abound in college, and it’s a reminder that life is bureaucracy.

In the end, you can’t expect to be much more than a unit in a political numbers game. That’s just the way it is.

Which makes it all the more important that you figure out your real friends and appreciate them for everything they are. It’s a sermon straight out of Elwood City, but it’s one of the most important factors in your college experience. You don’t want to spend four years surrounded by only fake bitches and people who don’t give a shit about you.

If you’re still a freshman, start building from the ground up. It’s not going to get any easier than it already is, when you live in a dorm, have DC swipes and don’t have as many personal and academic responsibilities.

If you’re not a freshman, figure something else out. Join some clubs. Rush a fraternity. Talk to the people you like and forget about the people you don’t. Don’t let your existence become steeped in cynicism, where you wake up and think, “Fuck the world. Nothing I do actually matters. I hate everyone. Suck a dick, reflection.”

That’s my life, gray nihilism interspersed with the occasional ray of sunlight. Writing for The Aggie has been one of those rays, and I sincerely thank everyone who’s made this experience a memorable and thought-provoking one. I’m not good at this sentimental crap, so I’ll wrap it up. Fuck your fake friends, find your real ones and don’t be like me. That’s it.

There’s no longer any point in contacting BEN CHANG at bcchang@ucdavis.edu.


  1. What most people fail to connect with in life are how they were raised by parents who failed at teaching them how to socialize and make friends.
    When a child is born the child will have this natural feeling to be friends and show compassion and many natural traits. As the child ages and learns from the parents who rarely have friends over that life can much easier done without having friends. “Friends take up a lot of my time.”
    I remember watching my dad make casual conversation and it all started with a “Handshake” which we do not see anymore today among the younger people.
    You should try an experiment by going out and shaking hands and starting a conversation. And try another experiment without shaking hands first to see which one is more effective.
    The problem with people who fail at creating friendship has to do with what they are thinking when they are alone, not while they are around a person.
    People have to think in order for their life to be normal. And this is a problem for it allows a person to sat down or lay in bed and to create a feeling that bring about an emotion. This is bad for it doesn’t require a person to need friends.
    What if, feelings and emotions could only be generated by actively engaging the five senses? You see, I’m in my early 50s and guess what? I’m finally getting to connect with my feelings and emotions and I doing it by engaging my five senses with everybody and the world around me.
    I was born with a severe mental disability very close to low functioning autism and after a near drowning at age six a psychologist tells my mother “he is retarded and there isn’t any type of therapy for his condition.”
    People are missing out on the most important parts of being human. Those parts involve our five senses. Touching my wife’s hand of 31 years, smelling her hair when I give her a hug, a special feeling running through my body when I give one of my grandchildren a hug, or waking up early and watching the sun come up, smelling the morning air as the birds start to sing.
    I’m fascinated by all walks of life. I’m fascinated by even people most can’t stand to be around. I’m fascinated by all things on this planet for my brain is a work in progress. I’m 51 and I feel very young while everybody around looks like life got sucked out of them by aging.
    Learn how to live in the moment will remove stress. Keep an open mind to the understanding “nobody on campus or anywhere is as they truly are for they have become somebody else.
    Ask you parents, relatives, anybody who knew you as a child. Then, compare it to who you are to day. People change and become somebody else as they age. Adolescents can really move a person away from who they really should be.
    And the power of the brain which all the students on campus could use and have perfect memory, instead they chose to engage in activities that binds them with another person in life or in thought, and that becomes their focus.
    I would have to say that 96% of the students have no passion for what they want to do with their degree. Its more about attention and money, recognition and reward and this will only go so far in life.
    Your brain can be very powerful once you learn how not to think. For example, 5th grade, I don’t know how to read and write, I don’t even know the ABCs, yet, my brain without thought looked at the spelling words and the next day I got most of them right.
    Imagine this, from conception to two years, from a single cell to a body, a child is 13 or 14 months old, the child has learned how to sit, stand and walk along with learning a language and many other things. How is this possible? The same way I almost pasted a spelling test without knowing the Alphabet.
    Its the mind that stops the progress of the brain. If, a child could contain their thinking by allowing the brain to do the work for them, that child would have super human abilities and be able to use more of the brain. Which is what I have done and will continue to do for the rest of my life.


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