Mize: Flitz Clamantis in Deserto

The Dartmouth tradition is a strange and good one.

by Frances Mize | 1/11/19 2:15am

 Much has been said about Dartmouth’s isolation. We are “the” voice crying out into the wilderness, and the institution wears this as a badge of pride. Cut off from the realities and logic of the real world, Dartmouth students have essentially developed that own language — a complex network of lingo and slang that is intimidating to many at first, then exhilarating when mastered. “Meet me in Blobby,” I can now say with ease. “Can I borrow your flair?” I ask with a peaceful smile. As a result of our propensity to name things, these fairly typical collegiate concepts (costumes, the lobby of the library) become Dartmouth-specific. When we as a student body lay this sort of nominal claim on a thing, it becomes an important part of our culture. Nothing signifies the power of this act of claiming as much as the almighty flitz, or the “flirty Blitz.”

A 2003 New York Times article titled “All Quiet on Campus Save the Click of Keys” explores the ubiquitous, heavy handed presence of Blitz in Dartmouth culture. While Blitz was phased out and replaced by Microsoft Suite in 2010, the culture around email remains the same. BlitzMail is technically gone, but with that zealous determination Dartmouth students employ in the face of a threatened tradition — which, according to an article from The Dartmouth, is how many saw this change — the act of emailing is still referred to as “blitzing.” This tenacity is a testament to the prominence of email in student life. Writer Katie Hafner notes that since campus-wide email was introduced at Dartmouth, the platform has served a greater purpose than simply to facilitate logistical communication. It is an integral part of student-to-student communication and has managed to remain so even after the dawn of text messaging. Because each Dartmouth student has the same level of access to the program and because everyone’s email address is available within its system, the interface is an automatic source of interconnection. Every student is accessible to one another. Plus, we are able to avoid the cumbersome awkwardness of the “can I grab your number?” move.

The Dartmouth community intentionally adopts these strange terms, and when we are on our most ideal behavior, it is with intentionality that we communicate with one another. With the aid of blitzing, this intentionality is embodied in the strange, freeing, stand alone logic of the aforementioned flitz. Putting a name to something, as we have done to the art of the flitz, can normalize the unusual. As a result of this, Dartmouth students have assumed a unique level of transparency in the ways we flirt with one another. From what I have gathered seeing friends from home over break, there is no comparable equivalent to the flitz at other colleges around the country. It embodies an ideology that few of us are used to in our lives before Dartmouth. Flitzing rests on the maxim that if you are interested in someone, either romantically or platonically (in this case, send a fritz or a “friendly Blitz”), don’t play games or wait around. Put your feelings in an email. You can and should let them know.

The flitz and its platonic counterpart are used for everything from asking someone to a formal, a coffee date to even just requesting a friendly meal at Foco. A friend told me that her trip leaders were adamant about explaining the importance of flitzing to life at Dartmouth, and acknowledged how unusual the practice is by swearing to their trippees that this wasn’t just another Trips prank. They had an entire dinner devoted to going through each flitz/fritz they had sent or received, teaching them the ins and outs of navigating this new form of communication.

More astounding than the miracle of its very existence, a particular set of rituals also accompanies the flitz. To make a flitz as enticing as possible, the sender will use eye catching colors and fonts, even sometimes writing out their message in rhyme. Extra points for iambic pentameter. Dartbeat articles offering up guides to constructing the perfect flitz abound. If you’re feeling especially assertive and want to give your message that special something, see Patrick Chen’s 2010 post “How to Aggressively Flitz.” What is less resolved to me is the insertion of GIFs into a flitz. Is this a sign of strength or of weakness? Are GIFs a cop out for those unsure or intimidated by the infinite possibilities of a blank email, a keyboard and a heart full of unfettered feeling? This could be the subject of another article entirely. I will end this one with noting that this campus is lucky to have been blessed by the flitz. In our esteemed isolation, we’re all we’ve got. So we might as well talk to one another.