Chun: Librex Is Not Your Personal Diary

Librex upholds toxic social mindsets and hierarchies at Dartmouth. Students should post with caution.

by Elizabeth Chun | 2/10/22 3:00am

In a world where technology is an increasingly present aspect of our lives, hiding behind our screens is becoming more and more convenient. We no longer need to talk to people one-on-one when we don’t feel like it; we can simply stay in our dorms and shoot our message out into the void that is the internet. Click, clack, boom. Just like that, with a few touches of our keyboard, the job is done.

This is exactly the kind of attitude that Librex, the anonymous posting app frequented by Dartmouth and other Ivy League students, promotes. Think of the app as the pretentious, anonymous and chaotic sister of the website Reddit. While its interface is rather simple, its usage among Dartmouth students is unparalleled. Each day, Librex becomes saturated with posts like “Is Novack open?” and “Is anywhere open for late night tonight?” However, there are also posts that are racist, misogynistic and — some of my least favorite — personally attack one’s own friends. While the anonymous nature of Librex makes it easy to make such posts without immediate personal consequences, there is in fact an even more substantial consequence that gets overlooked: The posts that currently fill Librex uphold toxic social mindsets and hierarchies in our community. We should bear this in mind moving forward and proceed with greater caution when we post on Librex; after all, the comments that we make, albeit anonymously and from behind our screens, can have significant repercussions for our campus culture.

The freedom that students feel to post whatever they’d like on Librex, completely uncensored, is evident on a daily basis. Indeed, Librex is frequently a place where people openly share the disparaging, resentful thoughts brewing inside of them. After all, who cares that you just called your close friend “one of the dumbest people at Dartmouth” if they won’t ever know that you did it? Buying into this mindset that what is shared on Librex stays exclusively on Librex, people post without considering any consequences. What they don’t realize — or perhaps don’t care about — is that doing so is cowardly and pointless. If you don’t have anything nice to say, then you might as well keep it to yourself; and if you have something important to say, then muster the courage to say it in person.

What students also don’t realize is that what they share on Librex does, in fact, have greater consequences: Their comments have a direct impact on our campus culture. For instance, there are countless posts expressing hate towards particular clubs and organizations and even specific individuals on campus. Even beyond such hate speech, polls classifying and ranking groups of people on campus can be extremely toxic. A popular post on Librex is a poll asking users to rank Greek houses — think “the girls in X sorority are the hottest” or “the guys in Y frat get the most girls.” Recently, I even came across a poll asking about preferred body types to hook up with. These disparaging posts contribute to a culture of toxic social hierarchies and can trigger insecurities and anxieties for many students on campus.

That said, while Librex’s anonymity promotes meanness and toxicity, this same anonymity also enables a degree of vulnerability and honesty that is difficult to capture in everyday interactions. It’s hard to share personal stories or thoughts when talking to someone one-on-one; on Librex, people are emboldened to open up.

A good example of this relates to the “floating duck syndrome.” This term, references to which can be spotted at elite universities across the U.S., describes the phenomenon where every student looks on the outside as if they are thriving – like calm, graceful ducks at the surface of the water. On the inside, however, many of these students are paddling furiously just to stay afloat.

Librex is a place where people finally admit to the latter condition. While they crack jokes with their friends and calmly sit at the library, they go on Librex at the end of the day to admit to the truth that they got a C on their paper, or that they spent an hour crying in the bathroom on third floor Berry and got no sleep the night before.

These posts can provide a sense of comfort, especially to newcomers to Dartmouth’s community, that they are not alone. Dartmouth is fast-paced, stressful and academically rigorous, and we don’t talk about it enough. It’s easy to feel like you are the only one struggling to stay afloat; Librex provides a daily reminder that, despite the impression that everyone gives, we are all sharing this experience together. In this sense, posts on Librex can sometimes foster unity and community.

Still, Librex’s occasional provision of comfort ultimately cannot make up for its sins. Most of the time, I shut the app shocked at the kinds of negative thoughts that run through my classmates’ minds. That’s why I made the decision a week ago to uninstall the app from my phone.

I often wish that I could understand why the authors of disparaging comments or toxic polls on Librex feel the need to post at all. Maybe it’s cathartic — a way to purge yourself of your own negativity. We’ve all had mean thoughts, and maybe releasing them onto a platform that can’t judge you is like a weight being lifted off of your shoulders. As a Librex user who never posts but only scrolls, I won’t ever know the answer.

But what I do know is that the current patterns of hate on Librex need to stop. “Banning” Librex seems childish, unnecessary, and unrealistic. In lieu of that, I urge that we pause to consider the repercussions of the posts that we make — and the type of campus culture that we want to foster. The concept of a College-wide anonymous social media can actually be entertaining, helpful, and funny. What’s in it for anyone if we spoil it with hate and toxicity?

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