Virtual Off Campus
It was an opportunity to abandon forever, or at least until your next visit home, the nickname you had been given in second grade. It was an opportunity, with luck, to change your image, the picture of who and what you were held by those around you. But there was was also the frightening prospect of a world where you had no friends, where nobody knew you, where you would have to rebuild in months the social networks that you built, or had built around you, over the past many years.
That was before the Internet. For college freshmen as for the rest of us, the online world provides portable friendships. I can fly to Paris or London, connect to my hotel’s Wi-fi, and continue a conversation started a day or two earlier from San Jose. A new student arrives at college complete with a network of online friends.
Here too there are advantages and disadvantages. The first day is surely less frightening if you know that, back at your dorm room, lots of friends are waiting for you via email, facebook, or your evening WoW raid. On the other hand, knowing that reduces the need to go out of your dorm room looking for new friends. As one colleague I discussed the matter with suggested, the situation of a student in the dorms in the world of the Internet is rather like that of a student, in the old days, who lived off campus. His classroom life was shared with fellow students; his social life might well not be.