Still Bored at Baker

by Zeke Turner | 2/16/07 6:00am

Dartmouth students finally have something better than two-cup, solitaire and masturbation to curb the vicious boredom of winter in Hanover. The popular website BoredatBaker.com, has arrived as an oily fountain of campus dialogue-cum-college mischief where nobody is safe. The site defines itself as a place where students "say anything without having to conform to social norms or societal expectations," by posting anonymous statements. Then it is left to the Dartmouth public to view and judge the site's content as "thumbs up," "thumbs down" or "newsworthy." Bored at Baker has become a place where we can embarrass our friends, denounce our foes, plead for sex and be offensively provocative. But on a campus divided about the merits and limitations of free speech, Bored at Baker has the potential to be a genuine outlet for us to share honest thoughts amongst ourselves if it is not ruined by insensitivity and cowardice first.

Will it become the next forgotten freshman fad? Or can Bored at Baker survive in the yeast-soaked basement of Dartmouth's media establishment?

In February 2006, then-Columbia senior Jonathan Pappas created BoredatButler.com, a website intended to help his fellow Columbia students combat library boredom. Pappas' brainchild received over 2,000 posts during its first day, silencing anyone who ballyhooed his campus forum as trivial or unnecessary. Since then, Pappas has planted the seed of procrastination at 10 other colleges -- Brown, Cornell, Harvard, Princeton, UPenn, Yale, NYU, MIT, Stanford and Dartmouth.

The majority of our campus scoffs at Bored at Baker because the forum is a breeding ground for trash. On any given day, the anonymous posts denounce fraternity brothers as sketchy rapists and posture about the sexual exploits of community members.

I imagine that most of the malicious posts on the site are intended to be funny, but they have the power to hurt and embarrass just like anything that is public. Most visitors to the site nevertheless abandon all ethics and integrity.

Bored at Baker might be tainted by gossip and filth, but it should not be condemned. Hidden in the mounds of anonymous tomfoolery are sincere thoughts and sophomoric pleas for validation.

Bored at Baker shelters the saddest, loneliest, most desperate gossipmongers of our campus. In the hollow courage of Bored at Baker, every voice is heard -- even those that would normally go ignored and unnoticed.

"When one student wrote, "I wish I had a group of friends that I actually felt close to," 40 others legitimized his loneliness by clicking the "thumbs up" icon.

And while students post amok, some visitors to Bored at Baker share genuine thoughts and clever ideas. One student wrote that "disliking the moose is not the same as wanting the Indian mascot back." A second student wrote, "I was a huge loser in high school and am living a lie under the pretense of being cool at Dartmouth." Unfortunately this breed of content -- content that communicates instead of offends -- is outnumbered and swallowed whole by meaningless posts about sexually transmitted diseases and cute sorority girls.

After all, it is impossible to know how many people visit Bored at Baker on any given day. Certainly some people only visit the site when they are in the deepest pits of ennui. Others visit the site multiple times a day, enraptured by the power to hear and be heard, judge and be judged. Realistically, most upperclassmen probably may have only seen the site a couple of times if ever.

Only time can tell if Bored at Baker fades into the distance with the rest of freshman year or blossoms into an inspired forum where democracy encourages responsibly free dialogue. But one thing is certain: Our anonymous internet shenanigans will never be as boring as the library.

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