I am the leader of a student group with a membership of 44 of my classmates. It doesn’t get funding; it’s not recognized by ASG (or anyone else, for that matter). We don’t even have a name. But this group has been a vital part of my college experience.
The group is a listserv established to gather friends for the Crepe Bistro’s happy hour in Norris. If you’re not familiar with crepe happy hour, you’re missing out on my favorite tradition at Northwestern (sorry, Dillo Day). From 4-5 p.m. every weekday, all dessert crepes cost $1.25. My go-to, the French Kiss, is ordinarily $6. I save 80 percent every time I get one. It is the best thing.
This began during the fall of last year when a friend and I had a lecture together in Leverone that ended at 4:50. We discovered that if we blitzed over to Norris after class ended (OK, sometimes we cut out a little bit early), we could get to the checkout line in time for happy hour. We’d be goofing off on the Internet all through class, so we took to inviting whoever was on GChat at the time to join us. This grew into an email list, which became a listserv after I got tired of typing the same names into the “To:” box.
Looking back, it’s clear that my social life hit its stride after I made this group, which I guess makes me deeply indebted to the Crepe Bistro. My junior year remains one of my favorite periods in college, despite the fact that I lived in Plex and took on a crushing load of courses. The crepeserv is almost definitely the reason I enjoyed myself so much; because of it, I was meeting with rotating cast of friendly faces a few times every week. The listserv became a place to plan parties and excursions; as the group grew, so did the possibilities it presented. All crepeserv-organized gatherings were extremely informal, but only were able to happen because of the small structure we put in place.
If the direction that Facebook is going - and I’m talking specifically about the flood of event invites that seems impossible to avoid - is social networking done wrong, then I contend that something like the crepeserv is online social networking done right, at least in some ways. It’s a small group, and it was organically created toward a specific end. It’s a self-selected group of friends who are pretty much guaranteed to actually know each other. But it’s not perfect. Sometimes groups of about five or so people have extended silly conversations over the ‘serv - which is fun, but it also means that everybody else is plagued with nonsensical emails every five or so minutes. It takes news-feed spam to the hallowed ground of the inbox. But it’s helped foster real, offline friendships - some of the best I’ve made.
This, I suspect, is how people maintain groups of friends in the world after college: by finding a really good deal, then meeting to exploit it as often as possible. This is what actual happy hours are for - everybody wants to be a regular somewhere. Which sounds a little pathetic. But no matter how much you like a person or group, it’s way easier to justify getting together if you have an activity that can serve as a convincing enough excuse to meet up, like book club or trivia night at the bar. And the thing that scares most of us most about leaving college is that it’s going to take a lot more energy to find those opportunities, which means that it might be harder to sustain as many relationships. It’s possible that I’ll never have this many good friends again.
Obviously, once most of us graduate and go to the four winds, it’ll be hard to use the crepe discount as a way of keeping up. Perhaps preemptively, the listserv has dwindled to a trickle of promotional messages over the course of the quarter; the last time someone actually used it to organize a crepe run was about a month and half ago. And despite its inevitability, a big part of me finds this fact incredibly sad. Another part accepts it; the ‘serv fulfilled its purpose and ran its course. Cliques subdivide, friends graduate, newly-minted professionals get sick of being privy to inane email threads.
Mostly, though, I’m grateful that the framework now exists for the Creped Crusaders and I to maintain occasional contact through the years. Instead of exchanging Christmas letters every year like our parents, we’ll have a more informal, immediate connection. Sure, the messages will eventually slow to a trickle – but there’s a chance that even through those infrequent interactions, the whole group, rather than individual bonds, might be conserved. Just like the meetings at Norris, it’s about the conversation.
But I’ll miss the cheap desserts.