Column: Seaweed

During Summer Session II, I took ENL 178 with Professor Stephen Magagnini. The class description was dry, but it ended up being the most enjoyable, enlightening class I’ve taken at Davis. This speaks volumes, because I generally do not like things.

On the last day, our class met at the professor’s house, where we took the final and had a potluck. Over dinner, we realized just how much we would presumably miss one another, and someone commented that we should create a Facebook group to stay in touch. I volunteered to make the group, which is ridiculously out of character for me. For some reason I was feeling the good vibrations and the usual cynicism just wasn’t there.

But within a week or two, I acknowledged that the group was fucking dead, and that none of our “Kumbaya” dreams were going to come true. We don’t pretend that we’re all great friends, and it’s generally understood that we’ve come and gone from each other’s lives.

Seaweed friendships are different, however. They happen in life’s littoral zone, in shallow waters where it’s easier to leech sunlight. Seaweed friendships are those “friendships” you develop with the people you’ve reluctantly touched base with over the course of your college career.

Seaweed friendships are not particularly good or bad. They’re just there, limp green wrappers on your shitty sushi. You live in the same building as some random guy, and he insists on saying “hi” even though you don’t give a fuck about him, and he doesn’t give a fuck about you. He might break the monotony by suggesting “hanging out sometime.” And you’ll say, “Yeah, sounds good,” with absolutely no intention of following through, because what sounds even better is silence and solitude, away from seaweed friends.

That’s courtesy, I guess.

When you’re just walking around campus, it’s nice to see a friendly face. But when you’re studying in the library and a seaweed friend goes out of their way to say “hi,” it’s pretty annoying. You miss out on epiphany moments and you’re forcibly reminded of how pointless and shallow most college friendships actually are. Then you reflect on your existence as a misanthropic butthole.

Seaweed friendships become especially palpable during ASUCD Senate elections. Competition can get fierce, and your vote truly does matter. With that in mind, candidates stretch themselves thin to appeal to potential voters. They’ll add you on Facebook. They’ll spout platitudes like “It was great meeting you today!” Whatever.

I get that candidates can’t realistically befriend every potential voter. The most efficient way is to subscribe to a “standard” of friendship, where you meet the minimum requirements and move on.

I’m not saying this to criticize any candidates. It’s good politics, and I wouldn’t act any differently if I were running for Senate. Campaigning is just emblematic of the shallow friendships that abound in college, and it’s a reminder that life is bureaucracy.

In the end, you can’t expect to be much more than a unit in a political numbers game. That’s just the way it is.

Which makes it all the more important that you figure out your real friends and appreciate them for everything they are. It’s a sermon straight out of Elwood City, but it’s one of the most important factors in your college experience. You don’t want to spend four years surrounded by only fake bitches and people who don’t give a shit about you.

If you’re still a freshman, start building from the ground up. It’s not going to get any easier than it already is, when you live in a dorm, have DC swipes and don’t have as many personal and academic responsibilities.

If you’re not a freshman, figure something else out. Join some clubs. Rush a fraternity. Talk to the people you like and forget about the people you don’t. Don’t let your existence become steeped in cynicism, where you wake up and think, “Fuck the world. Nothing I do actually matters. I hate everyone. Suck a dick, reflection.”

That’s my life, gray nihilism interspersed with the occasional ray of sunlight. Writing for The Aggie has been one of those rays, and I sincerely thank everyone who’s made this experience a memorable and thought-provoking one. I’m not good at this sentimental crap, so I’ll wrap it up. Fuck your fake friends, find your real ones and don’t be like me. That’s it.

There’s no longer any point in contacting BEN CHANG at bcchang@ucdavis.edu.

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