A culture of love

Full disclosure: I have a thing for Columbia guys. I didn’t realize this until my mother sent me a New York Times article on DateMySchool and encouraged me to apply for a job and find a straight guy (I was studying sex at NYU—the prospects for employment and a heterosexual boyfriend were limited). So, I joined DateMySchool and found myself immediately addicted.

Now, having worked at DateMySchool for a year and a half, exclusively gone out with CU guys, and observed Columbia’s dating culture while promoting on campus (yes, I was the one who gave you that pen), I’ve spent maybe too much of my free time thinking about love, relationships, and Columbia.

To be fair, I don’t think there’s one answer to “What is love at Columbia?” I think love at Columbia is far more physical, than say, the sexually unsatisfying love at NYU, and more open than the (from what I’ve heard) religiously disciplined love at Fordham. I think that it’s more attainable than ever because of digital platforms like DateMySchool. But overall, I think that love at Columbia is the intimate relationship between interpersonal connections and Columbia’s robust academic culture, strained yet also inspired by school pressures, tight student schedules, and educational hierarchies.

A Columbia grad student recently told me, “People get better dressed for Butler than they do for the bars.” Likewise, DateMySchool’s Columbia MBA co-founders, Jean and Balazs, remember their study sessions in the business school library getting interrupted by all the nursing students who’d hit the books just to flirt with the entrepreneurs. Totally cute. We at DateMySchool, too, have those library fantasies about hooking up in the aisles of 19th-century lit, but picking up exam-crammers as they’re convulsing from caffeine is not the most productive wooing tactic. Yet, such a culture illustrates that the educational environment of Columbia plays quite the seductive role in students’ romantic lives.

Of course, it also plays a preventative role: With ambitious class schedules, Columbia students are often too busy to date. We’ve heard that Columbia’s academic priorities generate more of a hookup culture on campus. When it comes to forming close connections or even finding a new boo for a casual 2 a.m. rendezvous, Columbia singles feel too pressed for time. However, a sophomore, who met a Ph.D. student on DateMySchool the same day she registered for the site, told us that she feels that DateMySchool is changing this hookup culture into an instantly gratifying dating culture, because the site “makes it so much easier to find people with similar interests who want to hang out.”

At DateMySchool, we agree, and it’s shaped my thinking into believing that ultimately, Columbia’s academic structure plays the foundational role in guiding and expressing on-campus love. As DateMySchool members can block and sort through schools, departments, and age range to choose who they want to reach out to and who can reach out to them, we’ve noticed some trends (never shared before) about the one third of Columbia students who are DateMySchool users. The stats point out specific behaviors of how Columbia’s educational levels (and gender) affect the personal relationships at Columbia.

It’s a schoolwide version of one of those Shakespearean love triangles: Columbia gals are chasing the Columbia students who are after the non-Columbia users. CU women send 52 percent of their messages to their school’s users whereas CU guys send only 35 percent of their messages to CU users—65 percent are of course then sent to users at other schools nearby. Why do you think this is happening? Is it just about good-looking photos? (In our NYC Hotness Index picked up by NYMag last year, Columbia guys were rated fourth hottest, whereas the ladies came in last place. Girls, we know you’re gorgeous!) Or, is it rooted in intellectual dynamics?

Because there definitely seems to be some unrequited love between Columbia students with different educational levels. CU undergrads send 50 percent of their messages to Columbia grad students, whereas grad students only send 21 percent of their messages to undergrads. My bet is that the college students are looking for some super smart conversations, and perhaps an excuse to be wined and dined (older people should always treat). Columbia alumni send 85 percent of their messages to Columbia students, whereas Columbia students send only 16 percent of their messages to alumni. Guess the recent grads want to relive their campus days or get with a college kid?

But putting aside the students’ unbalanced relationship with love within CU, one thing’s for sure: Love at Columbia is pursued at the Medical Center. Columbia students send 13 percent of their in-school messages to students in the Medical Center, 12.8 percent to folks in Teachers College, and 12.6 percent to undergrads in Columbia College. We have our own speculations as to why, but feel free to enlighten us.

The author is DateMySchool’s director of public relations.

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