Facebook has become a warzone. With chilling precision, its creators and monitors have begun a deadly campaign against the Princeton community’s most beloved pages. Though Tiger Matchmakers, Tiger Back-Handed Compliments, Tiger Creepers, and Tiger Microaggressions have somehow slipped under the radar, Tiger Compliments and Tiger Admirers have been brutally smothered.
This article is not about Tiger Compliments. This article is about Tiger Admirers, the page everyone once loved to hate and hated to love. For those of you who don’t care about campus culture, Tiger Admirers was a Facebook profile on which students could post anonymous sentiments. Some of these posts were short, beautiful, and heartwarming. Others were long, rambling, and terrifying. Some were directed at individual students, and singled them out for their voices, smiles, and kindness. Others were directed at amorphous categories like “women of Princeton,” “sophomore guys,” and “people who don’t know how beautiful they are” (how does one know whether one knows how beautiful one is?), and made sweeping, uncomfortable generalizations.
In response to the brutal repression of Tiger Admirers, battle lines have been drawn among students. On the one hand are those clamoring for Tiger Admirers to return from its exile, some of whom recently created a “Reinstate Tiger Admirers” event on Facebook. The event explains that Tiger Admirers was shut down for failing to follow Facebook’s requirement that Facebook profiles be actual people. Though Tiger Admirer’s could reorganize as a “page,” on which all posts would be made public (on the original profile, only friends of Tiger Admirers could see the posts), the event states that “Obviously, TA posts cannot be made public.” It then encourages students to message Facebook individually and to argue that Tiger Admirers should be reinstated because it’s purpose “is closely aligned with that of Facebook itself – to connect people who otherwise wouldn’t be connected.”
On the other side of the trenches are those who applauded Tiger Admirers’ demise. Though they are afraid to reveal themselves for fear of public backlash, there appears to be a small, dedicated core of students reveling not only in Tiger Admirers’ defeat, but also in other students’ misery over it. Since Tiger Admirers’ inception, they have set themselves against it, and claim to have eliminated it by repeatedly reporting its non-human-profile status to Facebook.
A recent article by a publication that does not deserve to be referred to by name discussed the destruction of Tiger Admirers in a characteristically uncontroversial way. Let us be honest with ourselves, though. This is the most dramatic, scandalous thing that has ever happened to the Princeton Facebook community, and we should give it the controversy it deserves. In order to be as inflammatory as possible, I reached out to members of both camps. The Admirers were passionate in their defense (I have changed their names for their protection). Mindy said, “I think it’s important to have an anonymous posting site for students who want to share emotions and just feel like someone is listening.” Michael echoed her sentiments, and added that, “Affection benefits our campus, which has a culture of negativity.” Lisa told me that she appreciated the posts because “occasionally scrolling through, you’ll find ]one] that’s tender and romantic…[and] maybe, just made, it might be a declaration penned by a hopeful, faceless Romeo… I don’t mind the quiet 1% that beckons my slumbering memories of heart-fluttering moments walking by my crush in locker-filled hallways just three years ago. At the end of the day, you never know whose spirits may be lifted by reading Tiger Admirers.” Everyone who I asked said similar things, arguing that though Tiger Admirers had plenty of annoying posts, they were outweighed by the intermittent heartfelt compliment or declaration of unrequited fascination. Others mentioned that it is an “invaluable source of procrastinatory hilarity.” I will admit that I, too, often scrolled through Tiger Admirers’ lengthy wall, every now and then emitting a wholehearted chuckle and, even more rarely, breaking into a tender smile. If for nothing else, I admired the Admirers for their earnestness, and their desire to make campus a friendlier, more sensitive place. Though they acknowledged Tiger Admirers’ dark side, including its occasional creepiness and frequent rants, they believed that, ultimately, it created a sense of community.
That earnestness, however, was matched ounce for ounce by the boiling hatred that the anti-Admirers expressed. As I mentioned above, theirs is a tightly knit, loyal, and (ironically) anonymous consortium. After proving my journalistic credentials, however, I was able to reach out to their resistance (I know, a loaded word) leader via email. We will refer to him as Silver Rage. He is a man garbed in mystique and cloaked in inscrutability, known only to a few trusted followers, and is reported to rarely leave his room without covering the lower half of his face. Though we could not meet face-to-face for obvious security reasons, his passion and fury came across quite clearly over the Internet. He told me that, “TA is a plague. It became a medium for people to vent their sexual frustration and openly express just how lonely they were. Facebook already makes relationships between people less personal and TA just exacerbates this problem. Instead of writing an anonymous post about ‘the cute guy at Frist who looked in your general direction for about two seconds and how you felt there was a real connection between you two,’ go up and talk to him. Posting anonymously on the Internet is not going to help anyone.” He revealed to me that he had hatched several nefarious plots to bring down Tiger Admirers, including hacking it and intimidating its administrators, but eventually decided to rally as many recruits as possible to message Facebook about Tiger Admirer’s illegality. When he finally succeeded, he “went to Charter Friday to celebrate.” Silver Rage explained to me that his intentions were not to destroy love and engender vicious hatred, but rather to steal romance from the indefatigable clutches of the Internet and anonymity. “People want love,” he wrote. “But don’t have the guts to pursue anyone or anything they are interested in.”
Though I was initially turned off by Silver Rage’s anti-Admirers fundamentalism and anger, his words made me begin to reflect. How often do we sit in the library and look up to see a cute stranger absorbed in his or her work, desperately typing at 2 AM? How often do we text a friend about it or anonymously post on Facebook (I swear I have never done the latter)? If we took the extra ten seconds to write down our compliment, name, or number on a piece of scrap paper and leave it on his or her messy desk, we could be twice as creepy but a dozen times braver. There is something unnatural about reveling in the comments students post through a faceless, inorganic medium when most of us can’t work up the courage to talk to someone sitting across from us in the dining hall. We hold onto our electronic communication like a child clutches its mother’s hand: we don’t talk without it, we don’t meet new people without it, and we can’t be ourselves without it.
Do I agree with Silver Rage’s guerrilla campaign against Tiger Admirers? Though it made me laugh a bit (and to be honest, I never liked Tiger Admirers), too many of my friends and fellow students appreciate it for me to celebrate its downfall. As imperfect and frequently annoying as it was, it reminded us how often we take ourselves too seriously and that, as a community, we’re not great at being sensitive.
Perhaps Silver Rage’s greatest contribution was pointing out that, though Tiger Admirers raised important questions, it gave the wrong answers. We can’t learn to be more sensitive behind our screens, and we can’t learn to be approachable through wall posts. Real compliments are not public. You can’t “like” them. The problem with Tiger Admirers is that it allows us to be outgoing with no consequences. Why do we have to be anonymous to say kind things? Why are we so bad at being friendly? I don’t mean to sound like I’m preaching, because I’m just as bad at this as anyone. I think plenty of admiring things about people, but I’m generally too embarrassed to say them. When I finally spit my compliments out, I usually stare at the ground; I can’t remember ever telling a guy I hadn’t met that I enjoyed his a cappella or dance performance, and I’ve never told a cute stranger in the library that she looked pretty.
I’m not implying that we should say every nice thing that pops into our heads, but I want to believe that there is a way for us to be better at talking to strangers, or to reach out to each other without a keyboard. Maybe there isn’t. Maybe we’re too many texts and Facebook messages away from each other to relearn how to reach out, but I’ll try it if you will. Put down this article. Tear off the corner, and write something on it. I don’t care what it is. Take every ounce of kindness from the Admirers and blend it with Silver Rage’s unbridled passion. You rocked my world in the BodyHype show; you seem like an irreplaceable co-adventurist; I can imagine your voice rocking my children to sleep. Don’t be too creepy. Don’t rant. Stand up, and walk the fifteen feet across the C Floor of Firestone to that stranger you’ve been staring at between rounds of 2048. Drop it on the desk. I don’t care if you stay to explain yourself, or if you ashamedly power-walk to the nearest staircase before running away. Breathe. Rage. Admire. Don’t be a stranger.