The unfortunate process of finding roommates on Instagram

Instagram college accounts are unreliable, misleading and promote superficial relationships.

(Noah Pinales / Daily Trojan)

Rather than using Facebook groups and the USC housing portal to find roommates, incoming college students have turned to Instagram college accounts to meet their future roommates. When I committed to USC last spring, my Instagram feed consisted solely of countless photos of different faces from USC 2027 accounts. This Instagram phenomenon is the new way our generation finds college roommates and friends.

The process, in hindsight, seems simple: You submit photos and a bio stating your common interests and personal facts, and in return, the account posts it for anyone to see. After your post is uploaded, fellow incoming students who see your post can choose to follow and reach out to you via Instagram DM, and in turn, surface-level relationships are created. But while swiping through different peoples’ photos to decide who I would get along with, I thought to myself, there has to be a better way to do this. 

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The process seems harmless, easy and efficient, but as someone that took part in it, there were several aspects that left me unsatisfied and uncomfortable.

The act of judging others based on their photos was ingenuine, and contributes to the stereotype culture society aims to get rid of. The process forces you to assess others on their physical appearance, how many followers they have and how fun they look without even knowing them personally. Ryan Ades, a freshman majoring in journalism, explained a similar experience he had when viewing the accounts. 

“There were people who I saw on the accounts that I made subconscious judgments about. I don’t like that I did that, but I couldn’t help it,” Ades said. 

Additionally, when choosing the images that would be posted to represent me, I felt immense pressure and stress to put my “best” photos out there so I could seem “cool” while also approachable so people would reach out to me. It felt like it became a game based on looks, and when I viewed the account, I noticed the most conventionally attractive people received the most likes and comments. 

“It felt like people were trying to find friends based on what they looked like or what they posted and it felt superficial,” said Celia Slavet — a freshman majoring in philosophy, politics and law — when recalling her experience with the Class of 2027 Instagram account.  

In reality, you can’t grasp how awesome a person is through their pictures, and reaching out to people should be based on personality, not their online persona. 

As most of us should know, you can’t trust everything you see online. A lot of times, people falsely represent themselves, and picking your roommate from an online conversation is dangerous because people can be deceiving. It is very likely the person you are talking to over DM that seems amazing is, in fact, the opposite.

“There were people who I thought were really cool from seeing their posts on the page that ended up being not cool or not being nice,” Ades added.

“I think a lot of times when people meet the person they were talking to in real life, it’s not exactly what they were expecting because people romanticize what they put on the Internet,” Slavet said. You simply cannot figure out who someone is based on their online personality.

The accounts also initiated an artificial and misleading hierarchy. I remember there were girls I followed from the college account commenting on each other’s posts and it seemed like they were already good friends. I recall feeling like I wasn’t talking to enough people and left out before I even got to school.

It gave me the perception that when I started school there was going to be some type of predetermined hierarchy. However, when the year actually started, I noticed that none of the girls that I saw in the comments even hang out or talk to each other — it was just an artificial reality created by social media. 

Not to mention, the small talk in my DMs was exhausting. The same boring questions were asked repeatedly with identical answers as responses. It was impossible to sense others’ personalities or hit it off with people, as it just felt unnatural and fake. I stopped reaching out because it began to feel like a chore. 

Now that I am at USC, I realize that you don’t hang out with most of the people you message with beforehand, so the whole phenomenon was counterproductive.

As an alternative, the University should administer a weekend-long overnight orientation where students stay in the dorms. During the day, students can do speed dating and hangout to get to know each other on a more personal level. In-person interaction is the most effective and natural way to find your roommate; if you are talking to someone online, I advise you to meet with them in person before committing to being their roommate. And, of course, be aware that not everything you see online is real. 

Lily Blankenhorn is a freshman writing about the effects of modern technology on society. Her column, “Tech Talk,” runs every other Thursday.

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