Student - 13 februari 2013

Flirting on Facebook

The university library has always been a place for delving into the world of knowledge in deep concentration. But since the advent of Gespot:UB, a Facebook page for flirting with people you spot in the library, there has been a whole new reason to go to the library. This latest Facebook hype has even reached Wageningen. 'If I go and sit in one of the circles I get the feeling I am being watched.'

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1-Gespot-UB-WUR-GA--20130207-ND7_2277.jpg

Foto: .

Do you have trouble keeping your eyes off that pretty blonde girl sitting opposite you? Do you long to speak to that irresistible boy over there, but lack the guts to do so? Post a love letter or propose a date anonymously on the Facebook page Gespot:UB WUR. The webmasters will place it for you and then you just wait for a response.
Gespot:UB started last Autumn in Utrecht. Other university towns soon followed suit with their own pages. The Wageningen page started in December and quickly became a phenomenon - now with more than 1700 likes. It appears to be particularly tempting during revision week to let your eyes stray over the people around you instead of focusing on your textbooks: the posts follow one another in quick succession. A juicy example?  'Handsome boy on the first floor who is so enjoying sucking on his fruit. Wouldn't you like to suck on my fruit some time?'
But is there more to this craze than anonymous babble? Do the passions expressed on Facebook lead to face-to-face encounters? Resource wanted to find out. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Would that cute redhead I sometimes see in the Forum meet me for a drink? Not afraid of a bit of participatory journalism, I placed a message: 'Girl with the red hair, stripy shirt and jeans at the table in the forum canteen, every time I see you I am enchanted by your beauty. I have to study until five o'clock. After that, will you have a drink with me in the Grand Café?'
Now all I have to do is wait.
Do you ever get any serious studying done, with all that digital flirting going on? It seems indeed to be quite difficult. Fourth year student of Plant Sciences Mathia opts for an avoidance strategy: 'If I follow that page I can't sit then in the library in a normal way. And I prefer to look for a quiet corner. If I go and sit in one of the circles, I get the feeling I am being watched.' Mathia doubts whether everyone in the library nowadays has come there in order to study. 'I recently saw a girl who spent an hour fiddling with her smart phone before she even got out her books. I reckon she only came there for the messages on Gespot:UB WUR.'
Fifth year Biology student Patrick follows the messages every day. 'I am always astonished at what people post, without the slightest embarrassment.' But sometimes, he must admit, 'they really are quite funny.' The posts on the page are a regular topic of conversation among his friends: 'We often talks about the best quotes of the day at suppertime. "I find you attractive but you do look a bit like an otter" is already famous.'
For Master's student of Communication Science Annemiek, the Facebook page is a source of entertainment. 'I once posted something just to tease a girlfriend. But I did tell her straightaway that I was the one who posted it. Luckily for her, she had a lecture and she had to leave the library almost as soon as it appeared. She did get some nice responses, she said.'
Psychological intimacy
The existence of an online flirting facility has not escaped the notice of the librarians either. It provides a distraction. One of the librarians admits, 'Now and then I look to see if I can recognize a girl from one of the posts.'
The effect of the raging hormones is still restricted to the digital sphere, though, say the librarians. As far as they can see, the atmosphere in the library has not altered noticeably. 'Sometimes boys and girls chat each other up on the stairs but that was always the case.'
There is an explanation for this, says Wageningen professor Reint-Jan Renes, who studies mass media communication. People automatically seek balance in the degree of 'intimacy' they enter into with another person. If someone stands very close to them (in a lift for example), people create some distance by avoiding eye contact. It's is good to be close, but not too close. It works the other way round as well -physical distance leaves scope for psychological intimacy. The limitation of the social media, the lack of physical intimacy, makes it easier for us to make contact and address people, in Renes's view. In this sense, the Gespot:UB pages are part and parcel of recent developments: social media change the way in which we make contact with each other.
Grand Café
But the question of whether real live dates come out of Gespot:UB has not yet been answered. Let's go back to my venture into participatory journalism. Just as I start looking around for that cute redhead, the Grand Café fills up with winter AID participants. I plough through the crowd of fresh international students but don't see her anywhere. Did she see my post? Is she going to show up at all? I take a walk around the ground floor of the Forum in case she's somewhere there. It is now ten past five: one last look around the Grand Café. And yes, there she is, sitting waiting on a bench.
Gespot: UB WUR


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"Handsome boy on the first floor who is so enjoying sucking on his fruit. Wouldn’t you like to suck on my fruit some time?’


"Dear giggling ladies in the library,
I realize you are facebooking hard and really don’t have time to study. I’ve got another idea. You. Naked. In my bed. See you tonight.”


"Hey you, cool guy with your nice shirts in the microbiology lab at the Dreijen. If you paid as much attention to me as you do to your DNA cultures, my love for you would grow as fast as e-coli on lukewarm beef! Shall we have a 1,2,3-trimethylxanthine together tomorrow?”


"Hello beautiful girl on your laptop at the bottom of the library stairs. You are playing so nicely with your hair. The boy in the yellow shirt would like to play with you too, you know."


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