By Andrew Cashing
It’s easy to leave footprints on the Web and forget about them. Content we added years ago fades from memory, but remains accessible, preserved like time capsules of former thoughts and attitudes. Police reports, newspaper articles about high school achievements and archived LiveJournal entries (a timeline of embarrassment) are a few clicks away. The bizarre thing is that anyone can post nearly anywhere about anybody, which means we have no control over who might create our next cyber-presence.
One of the foremost Web sites that embraces this concept is juicycampus.com. The premise is simple: students post about other students. In short, it’s a way to make gossip travel even faster. Juicy Campus’ slogan, “Always anonymous … always juicy,” is only half true. Anonymity is promised to the people who post, not those referred to within the posts. In the Brown University portion of the site, post topics range from the mind-numbing (“hottest boy on campus?”) to the mind-imploding (“sluttiest sluts”), and users name names in their responses. So we know who the hottest boys and the sluttiest sluts are at Brown. Who cares? Web users have been spearheading crusades against slutty sluts for a long time.
Juicy Campus is different. It extracts the sense of community inherent in applications like Facebook and MySpace and appropriates this online networking for more malicious purposes. In the way that Facebook (somewhat) brought students together, Juicy Campus turns students against one another. One of the subjects of a post in the Harvard section is “sluttiest girls at Harvard?” Another is more cryptic: Its subject is “Natasha K,” and the user asks, “Who knows her, what do you guys think?”
The site has generated some negative feedback. Understandably, those who oppose are students who have been smeared by incendiary posts. In addition to peer scrutiny, their disapproval might be connected to a worry thatrelatives, friends and potential employers will stumble onto the site and read a bogus account of a sexual encounter on the beer pong table at Lambda Iota.
While I empathize with the fear of a sullied online reputation, I can’t help but wonder if it’s worth the headache. Won’t anyone who visits Juicy Campus assume that the information is not coming from a credible source? Or maybe the problem is that the sources are reliable. In some cases, an avatar reveals more about a person than the person is willing to reveal. There’s no way for me to know if Ben Bavies at Cornell really is “the sweetest guy.” If I trust the post, then I believe he’s the type who goes around picking women’s hankies off the ground. But if I bumped into him on the streets of Ithaca, he might be a real jerk.
I checked out tidbits in Yale’s virtual gabfest (“Who is due for coming out of the closet?”), and sifted through Dartmouth’s juice (“Anyone hooked up w/ a prof?”). When
I entered Savannah College of Art and Design into the search bar, there were no results. Are SCAD students capable of spreading rumors on a site like Juicy Campus? If they are,
would it be any different from rumors spread by word of mouth? Let’s skip a dissection of the respective powers of verbal and written communication and agree that gossip is gossip, regardless of the forum. It doesn’t matter who the sluttiest slut is, or if she’s even as slutty as we’re led to believe. What matters is that she has been deemed a slutty slut, albeit in a virtual world. And as long as people engage in that world, our cyber-selves and their reputations will live on.