For first-year students everywhere, the most highly anticipated and/or wildly terrifying moment leading up to school is the arrival of one thin letter, containing the name of their randomly-assigned roommate. There’s so much possibility attached to that pairing: Will you like her? Will you borrow each other’s clothes? Will you appreciate the same music? Will your posters match? Will she be messy? Will she smell? Will she try to kill you in your sleep? You just can’t know.
Now let’s rewind to mid-July before my first year, when I received that momentous letter. Obviously, I immediately went to Facebook intending to go through every picture she’d ever taken since she had gone through puberty. But something stopped me in my virtual tracks before I could get very far – a series of pictures of her dressed up as Spiderman. Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the occasional big-budget superhero movie just as much as the next guy, but it’s not something I ever planned on living with. So after a five-minute attempt at optimism and open-mindedness, I started panicking. We obviously had nothing in common! She liked fantasy; I liked literary fiction. She liked dressing in costume; I liked dressing in understated, solid colors. She was out there; I was very firmly in here. It was truly the greatest tragedy to ever strike my young life.
And so, with great trepidation, I moved in and finally met her in real life. Strangely enough, she was also a teenage human being with a range of interests and the social skills to communicate normally with others in our species. This was unexpected, but quite pleasant. What’s more, we actually had a lot in common: we were both English majors, had an interest in religion, enjoyed Broadway show tunes and a bunch of other things that I couldn’t have guessed just from her Facebook profile. Predictably we got involved in different clubs and activities on campus, so our friend groups didn’t overlap, but that turned out to be one of the best things about our relationship. We’d go our separate ways during the day, and at night we’d catch up with each other, serving as an unbiased third party to vent to when necessary. As for her quirky side, I came to realize that it was a symptom of her unapologetic authenticity, which is one of the qualities I admire most in her to this day.
So here’s my advice to you, class of 2018, on your big move-in day: Don’t judge your roommates by their cover photos. There’s so much more to a person than you can ever know from Facebook, or even from email or texting. For a lot of us, the person we create online is an idealized version of ourselves, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing (really, why would you ever tag yourself in an unattractive photo?). But don’t take Facebook at face value. Try to let people surprise you instead – they almost always will, if you only give them a chance.