Whitman’s list serv, Shantou’s BBS: two ways of living revealed

Rensi Ke

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Credit: Wolff

Credit: Wolff

Having studied at Whitman for more than a month, I initiated a Chinese writing project  entitled “Wei Meng Zhi”: Whitman Stories. “Wei Meng” means “Whitman,” which also means “strong and robust’; “Zhi”  refers to  stories.

One day, I got a message on Shantou University Tulip Bulletin Board System where I post my stories: “Rexy, are you homesick or STUsick for living alone in the U.S.?”

I am not very homesick, since Whitman  has been  a home away from home thanks to all the wonderful people I have met here. But I am certainly ‘STUsick’ because the campus culture here is vastly different from the campus culture at Shantou University.

Every day I post a brief  Chinese translation of Whitman Web pages or  a journal entry  about my Whitman experience, on STU BBS.

This satisfies my home schoolmates’  curiosity about their American peers, just like they spice up my life by posting  numerous texts and pictures about  current  affairs, school news, class announcements, personal stories  and all that other intriguing information.

Every day,  BBS automatically generates a top ten list featuring the ten most-replied-to posts. The contents of the top ten posts are extremely  polarized: some are  significantly  newsworthy  or intriguing, while some are crazily  gossipy or boring.

But that’s probably the use of BBS: you log in either to take in new information  or to chill out for relaxation.

Wanna know what’s going on with Obama? On Oct. 10, top ten has a lot to tell.

The 33-line  prose poem  titled “What an International Joke” argued that it was the Chinese leaders who should have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize,  since China has initiated no war in decades,  but  in the end the poet appeared to change his or her mind: “Maybe the  Selection Committee is right: as they gave Obama this prize,  Obama will  be too embarrassed to wage new  wars: North  Korea and Iran, you have a good night.”

Regardless of this politically-overwrought poet,  most STU students  are self-centered. Right now (although the ranking constantly is changing)  the top post  is  about soliciting designs for making the uniform T-shirts of the Student Union of my school, Liberal Arts School.

With 19 replies so far, the post was most recently replied to by a student who has been waiting for the new T-shirts for a year, exclaiming, “Thank goodness! We will finally have our own T-shirts!”

Going over a few club advertisements and basketball news posts: I have no idea why basketball news always gets a bunch of frantic readers: I got to the last top ten post.

The post  came from the page of “feeling”: the BBS  sections of “feeling,” “love” and “bridge,” which are respectively filled with emotional diaries, love stories and personal advertisements (for seeking a girlfriend or a boyfriend: the demand for the former is sky high), remain big sources of top ten posts.

With personal stories plus a tempting title,  such posts are  always in the spotlight. “I heard people say . . . when you  wish someone  ‘all  the best,’ your love for him or her dies already.”

Reply  A: “Right. ” Reply B: “It’s just like when you are told ‘you are a wonderful person.'” Reply C: “It actually means  that you  are not  allowed to love him or her any more.” Good, STU BBS never runs out of love experts.

It was hard  to  match the  screen names on BBS  with the  real people  I saw on campus, needless to  say how strange  I felt realizing that the  most quiet and passive classmates probably were the  founders of the nation: a title given to the most active  STU BBS users. That’s probably  the magic and madness about STU  BBS.

Generally speaking, Whitman’s listserv corresponds with BBS sections of “finding” (similar to Whitman’s lost and found digest), “traveling” (rides digest),  “advertising” (for sale digest). The Interest House Community, as an exception, often sends e-mail advertisements about parties and movie nights, but I am sure that I never saw personal advertisements on Whitman’s listserv.

But even the ways of  advertising are different:  while STU students might post a 200-word ad for a film series, their Whitman counterparts might  simply  e-mail the student listserv one line: Kung Fu Panda Crashes ASH at 8 p.m. on Thursday.

That’s it; Whitman students’ succinct style is probably due to their time-consuming 100-page reading assignments, and the fact that the personal ads: if they were ever needed: translate into vigorous socialization in real life.