Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Your success and my failure

Sometimes I'm snarky about things that I have no right to comment on. I wonder, in these moments, why I feel enabled to be opinionated in any capacity. Are there certain affiliations or stereotypes that I subscribe to that give me license to make bold and unabashedly slanted commentary on a subject? Sometimes, I think yes.

I posted a status on Facebook yesterday in response to all those who have been telling everyone on their friends' list that they are interning at such-and-such a place this summer. "I'm so excited about interning at [insert publication here] this summer! Just wanted to join in on the festivities," it said.

That was light poking - I think. And I'm glad that no one took it personally - I hope. Because in truth, it was a hypocritical comment to make. When I was accepted to study abroad in London, I immediately wrote a Facebook status about it. Right after calling my dad and letting him know, my next stop was the internet. I even wrote a blog about it later.

I don't know what my motivation was at the time. I think sometimes when you have exciting news you just can't wait to let the entire world know - or at least let someone know. In the case of London, this was something I had been planning since before I arrived at college. In senior year of high school I applied to go to university in London. In the end the cost was too high and I decided to settle on a school in the Midwest United States. I never regretted my decision, but I did set my sights on eventually going to England to study.

About a month into freshman year, I set up a meeting with the study abroad adviser who handles universities in the UK. She offered me some information, but reminded me that most students endeavor to study abroad in their junior years, not sophomore years. I had to wait two whole school years to go to the country I could have already been studying at.

I didn't think I could handle the wait, but I did. A year and a half later, I got the confirmation that not only was I going to be studying abroad in England, but it would be at my top choice university - the one I had wanted so badly to go to when I applied via UCAS in senior year.

So in some way, I think I hold a little bit more of a right to exclaim over this particular win. For those of us who have gone through the internship search, there is rarely a single place we are incredibly excited about working at. We put our names in the hat at a million different organizations - hopefully all that we care about to some extent, but who knows - and pray that someone picks us out by chance.

Getting an internship is exciting, and a great one is even more exciting - but is the reason we're sharing it online because it really matters to us, or because we want a hearty congratulations?

In the case of London, I believe my motivation was the former. I could have gotten no responses to it, and I would have kept the status up as a reminder of the day I heard the exciting news I'd been waiting for since I started studying at college.

I realize my judgment is harsh. People have different reasons for doing things - not everyone is sharing their place of internship because they want congratulations and some people really are just excited and feel the compulsion to share regardless of who they reach with the news.

But it also bothers me that while a lot of my friends are still struggling with the internship search, some of our mutual acquaintances are being incredibly forthcoming, maybe even gloating, about what they've snagged for the summer.

When I heard back about my internship, I was sitting with my dad waiting to see Fountains of Wayne come on stage. My immediate reaction was to yelp and then try and figure out how on Earth I'm going to learn to drive on a freeway. I was lucky to have my dad nearby to help me work out my anxiety and let out my excitement.

Maybe that's the problem here. When we're at school we don't have our moms and dads nearby at whom to scream "I'M DOING SOMETHING PRODUCTIVE THIS SUMMER!" Without that outlet, we turn to our next best friend - the Facebook news feed.

To be honest, I don't mind people sharing where they're interning online. It's exciting to see what people are planning on doing over the summer. But yesterday it started to feel like it was a trend for the trend's sake. After one status went up, a half a dozen others followed. For some reason I doubt that everyone got the news of their internships within the same 24 hour - more like 5 hour - period. If I had wanted to, I could have done the same by offering the news of my internship a few days after the fact to receive some congratulations. But in the end, I came to the conclusion that I'd rather just have the support of the people who actually care.

The reason I told everyone I was studying abroad in London via my Facebook was because it was an instinctive decision - not premeditated at all, really - to throw the information online. I didn't take a few days to share it, it was a result of the impulse of the moment that I couldn't hold back.

With all this said, I must give my concession to those who did share their information. It is an exciting prospect to be interning for the summer. But considering all the extrapolations from your decision, was it worth it to get a few dozen likes?

I still remember getting letters back from colleges in high school. When I didn't get into a few that I hadn't considered reach schools, I was eager to shy away from the world and never talk about acceptance letters again. But the news of other people getting into one of my dream schools (Berkeley, in case you were wondering) was pervasive and distracting. I would walk around school, look at my Facebook wall, etc. and be unable to escape the news of my peers being successful while I failed.

It may not be anyone's intention to achieve this result, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be considered. Good news is great when its purpose is to be shared with those who matter in one's life. But when it becomes a mechanism for self-flattery and resulting hurt to others, it's no longer any fun. For anyone.

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