Recently, there has been much discourse on Dear Blueno, a public Facebook page that publishes anonymous posts submitted by members of the Brown student body, about the role that frequent commenters play in the online forum. Many of the posts have been negative, contending that frequent commenters take up too much space without making space for others to contribute. Some even say frequent commenters are entitled and should stop commenting so often. As a frequent commenter myself, these posts have made me think more deeply about why I choose to add my voice to the many others that populate Dear Blueno’s comments section.
When I encountered Dear Blueno my first year on campus, I saw it as a community where Brown students could consult their peers for advice of any kind. Questions individuals might otherwise be too embarrassed to ask could be answered candidly without the awkwardness of a non-anonymous social interaction. What’s more, those questions could be answered by multiple people, giving the original poster either a variety of perspectives or corroboration of a single answer. I tended to ignore the bait posts — those designed just to get a rise out of others — and focused my attention on the genuine inquiries of my peers.
I have learned an enormous amount by reading Dear Blueno posts and, after being at Brown for about a year, came to see the comments section as a way to give back to a community that had helped me navigate my transition into Brown and collegiate life as a whole. Whenever I felt I had relevant experience, I started putting in my two cents. From my perspective, if even one person found a single one of my comments helpful, then the few minutes I took out of my day to link a resource or give my opinion would be worth it.
As I’ve continued to have new experiences — taking difficult classes; struggling academically; dealing with relationships, friendships, imposter syndrome and more — I’ve given advice to my peers who describe similar situations through Dear Blueno. I imagine being the student who cannot decide between APMA 1650: “Statistical Inference I” and the more advanced APMA 1655: “Statistical Inference I,” the one who doesn’t know how to ask a professor for an extension or who is struggling to find their place on this campus. I try to be the helping hand that I looked for when I dealt with the very same issues. I am by no means the definitive authority on any of these topics, but my hope is to, at the very least, provide a sense of validation for those struggling so they know they’re not alone.
At the end of nearly every one of my comments, I write something along the lines of, “Feel free to message me if you want to talk about this more!” More and more often, my peers actually take me up on my offer to chat about their situation, even if they were not the original poster. I’ve both made friends and fielded criticism by answering messages that I receive, and I’m grateful for all of it. I know that commenting on a post on Facebook does not make me infallible and I much prefer to be corrected than to continue disseminating incorrect information.
In the end, any hatred I receive for being a frequent commenter on Dear Blueno will not stop me from doing what I can to pay forward the help I’ve received from the online community. As long as there is someone out there who genuinely wants their questions answered, I will be around, doing my best to support them in whatever way I can. For me, Dear Blueno isn’t just a silly public forum named after a beloved blue bear. It’s a way to start conversations that some may be too afraid or nervous to have outside of the veil of anonymity. Of course, I am but one person and cannot speak for anyone beyond myself, but I know that as much as Dear Blueno commenters were always there for me when I submitted my burning questions, I will always be there for those who choose to inquire.
Emilia Ruzicka ’21 wants you to know you can always message her if you want to chat at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send responses to this opinion to email@example.com and other op-eds to firstname.lastname@example.org.