It might not be the most graceful — or eloquent — way to complain, but it’s probably the easiest. “FML.” The last two letters stand for “my life,” and it shouldn’t be too hard to guess what the “F” means. The phrase popped into existence in 2008 with the website Fmylife.com, where anonymous users post “FMLs” to be voted up or down. Soon after, a freshman at Harvard launched a network of college-specific sites.
But PrincetonFML, which has seen more than 80,000 unique visitors so far this year — and almost 2 million page views — may be the most popular. Since it was started last year, the site has evolved from a list of anonymous rants to a forum for open discussion, launching a panoply of new abbreviations: MLIA (My life is average), HLIG (His/ her life is good), OLAA (Our lives are average), and so on. The result is a picture of the undergraduate Princeton experience — and a glimpse into students’ thoughts about politics, philosophy, and, as always, relationships.
“My favorite part of PrincetonFML is definitely getting a sense of what the campus, as a whole, is thinking about things from grade deflation to religion,” said Myra Gupta ’12.
Posts range from the news-driven to the confessional. “Health care reform. OLAG!” on March 21 received 81 “up” votes and 30 “down” votes. “Debating whether or not I want to hire a hooker. FML,” on Aug. 21 prompted seven responses, one being “You’re not alone, bro. Considering it myself.”
And that’s part of the strange attraction of PrincetonFML: finding someone who commiserates, or at least can give some advice. Anonymity simply makes it easier to be honest.
“There’s a very strong esprit de corps at Princeton,” said Andrew Slottje ’12. “And on Princeton FML, people can use terms like ‘junior slums’ and ‘late meal’ and they can engage their peers regarding matters that are public knowledge, but not really acceptable for conversation.”
From a post about a just-missed snow day to one announcing that Jane Randall ’12 would be a contestant on America’s Next Top Model (OLAG & HLWillBAmazing), the site serves as a forum to discuss not only disastrous nights out on the Street, but also news about Princeton and about alumni.
“Whenever I look over at someone’s laptop while in class and see that they’re browsing PrincetonFML, it is very, very gratifying, because it lets me know that I am helping to provide the student body with a service that they actually use,” said the site’s student moderator, who asked to remain anonymous but who is known to frequent readers as “Mod.”
Among the most noteworthy pieces of Princeton news this summer was Elena Kagan ’81’s confirmation as the third consecutive Princetonian to join the Supreme Court, after Sonia Sotomayor ’76 and Samuel Alito ’72.
Some students said that the news made them more aware of the potential of their peers.
“It makes me realize that so many people at Princeton often have so much talent ... and it’s understated because we’re usually all working hard on our own things,” said Albert Fernandez ’11. “It gives me a sense of curiosity and respect for my classmates.”
“Starting my Princeton life while the Supreme Court is one-third Tigers definitely makes me appreciate the community I’m joining,” said Peter Carruth ’14.
But for rising seniors struggling to come up with a thesis topic, the scrutiny that faced the three justices’ theses has been a bit of a wake-up call. Immediately after their nominations were announced, media outlets scrambled to get a copy of the nominees’ senior theses. Even before her nomination, however, Kagan’s thesis on socialism in New York City had grabbed national attention. Last year, theNational Journal had a professor regrade Sotomayor’s thesis on Puerto Rico (she received an “A,” according to her thesis adviser, Peter Winn, and her 2009 grader, Brooklyn College’s K.C. Johnson, gave her “an A/A minus”).
“You think of it as something you write for your department and for yourself — and more of a learning experience than a finished product,” said Tara Lewis ’11. “I know I can look back at things I’ve written — and even the way I thought — freshman year, and I’ve changed my mind about a lot of things.”
But the overall campus reaction to the fact that a third of the Supreme Court graduated from Princeton? Pride. Just check PrincetonFML: “OPrincetonLsASupremeYetAgain” (Our Princeton Lives Are Supreme Yet Again).