During reading period, with the inevitability of finals mounting, stressed and anxious students cling desperately to their last moments of freedom, and humiliating moments have a way of accompanying this nervous tension.
But beginning Dec. 8, students were able to relieve their stress through Brown FML — a Web site where students can anonymously post stressful or embarrassing experiences, usually with a touch of humor mixed in.
The use of the phrase "FML" (F— My Life) to denote a particularly negative or embarrassing experience skyrocketed after the debut of the original site, FMyLife.com. As the phrase became integrated into teenage popular culture, more forums appeared documenting unfortunate but humorous events in the lives of young adults.
Brown FML is a school-specific Web site following this trend. The Brown site is part of the larger College FML project, which was initiated by Harvard freshman Jonah Varon and now includes over 50 colleges. Varon said he hopes that the forums serve not only as a place for students to complain but also as opportunities for contact between fellow students. Varon said he envisions the individual college FML site as "an anonymous forum where students can communicate."
Varon said he deals primarily with the technical aspects of the site, making sure everything runs smoothly on all of the different college FML sites. The moderator for Brown's site, who asked to remain anonymous because she has received an increasing number of threatening comments in recent weeks, is responsible for choosing to approve or reject comments based on their level of appropriateness and to edit offensive posts. The individual moderator for each school's site is responsible for giving the site "the flavor of the school," Varon said.
Diana Ohrt '13 said she can see differences between the Brown site and the original FMyLife.com. "I feel like it is a little more sophisticated," she said, adding a mock example of the regular site versus the Brown specific site — " ‘I slammed my hand because I was drunk' versus ‘I overslept and missed my orgo exam.' "
The FML site plays off the idea, as the saying goes, that "misery loves company."
"There is some comfort to know that people are going through the same thing in one way or another," said Jeanne Tong '10, noting that the site's use was highest during finals. She said she posted a comment on the site when she was stressed out from writing her thesis last semester. People responded telling her to hang in there.
Brown FML focuses on problems particular to Brown students, allowing shared or comparable experiences to build connections between members of the same community.
"It builds camaraderie … like ‘F' our lives together," said Anna Hsu '10.
The anonymity puts the individual at ease and makes them more willing to share, Ohrt said.
"(The site) lets me know that not all these perfect ‘Ivy-League' students are so perfect," she added.
Despite this community building, the site still serves mainly as a form of entertainment, where embarrassing or stressful experiences are combined with a dash of absurdity. One anonymous poster wrote on Dec. 12, "I live in Caswell, and I was awoken at 4 a.m., five hours before my exam, by kids on Lincoln shooting roman candles at each other whilst shouting Harry Potter spells. This went on for half an hour. FML."
The comments "are usually pretty entertaining," Ohrt said. "I'm not gonna lie, though, it's a source of procrastination."
The combination of anxiety and humor may explain the site's continued success. If nothing else, Jane Chen '13 added, it "makes me feel better about my own life."