Wash. U. problems signifies some problems

| Staff Columnist

A recent StudLife column entitled, “#washuproblem? Get over it,” stirred up much criticism among Wash. U. students who have understandably taken a liking to this student-created Twitter/Facebook craze. Comments on the column suggested that the author should “chill out,” and recognize that #washuproblems is lighthearted and should by no means signify a spoiled attitude among members of our student body.

The thing that makes #washuproblems funny is that most of us can relate to one or more of the posts that are listed. One of my favorites is, “When BD runs out of metal forks and you have to use plastic ones,” as I have been annoyed by this before and can now realize the stupidity of my annoyance. It is a form of self-deprecating humor in that it allows us to recognize and make fun of our own spoiled tendencies, which have only arisen due to the extreme comfort of our surroundings. After making fun of these concerns, we can then become more grateful for all that we have here and perhaps even laugh rather than be annoyed the next time we realize that there are no more metal forks.

It might be too optimistic, however, to assume that everyone is using #washuproblems as a means of enhancing their appreciation for our school. For example, one of the comments on the controversial “#washuproblem? Get over it,” Studlife column states, “Not everyone has to think Wash. U. is perfect,” indicating that this commenter views #washuproblems as a means of venting about things that actually bother him or her. #washuproblems strays further from harmless self-deprecation through tweets such as, “I can’t concentrate on reading this column because the cleaning lady’s vacuum is too loud,” which begins to demean the hardworking staff and potentially cross the fuzzy line between a self-deprecating comment and a condescending complaint.

I believe there is an additional group of #washuproblems fans who relate to the craze as a defense mechanism for their feelings of “Wash. U. guilt.” This sensation is characterized by the constant awareness of how expensive our tuition is, how beautiful our surroundings are, how entitled we feel and the constant underlying anxiety over whether or not we truly deserve or need all that we have been given.

Forum columnist Junsoo Park voiced this type of guilt as he stated in a recent column, “I came to be aware that I could be unworthy of occupying a student seat at a successful university.” As a freshman without much direction, I have experienced similar concerns. It is my hope that these feelings will subside in the long run once I gain more of a sense of how my education can help me to contribute to society. In the meantime, however, #washuproblems serves as a viable form of short-term relief. By poking fun at our entitlement, we are allowing ourselves a temporary break from the anxiety that all this opportunity and privilege provokes.

#washuproblems is valuable in its ability to signify some of Wash. U.’s real problems that are otherwise uncommonly explored. There is the problem of students caught up in elitist concerns, and the problem of those who lack self worth or purpose. These opposite problems stem from the same main cause, which involves getting an education at a prestigious university. Hopefully, by the time we graduate, those leaning towards the elitist side will gain a worldlier outlook on life, and those leaning towards the guilt-ridden side will realize that they can truly put their Wash. U. education to good use. For now, however, the clever and tasteful humor of #washuproblems helps us become more aware of our daily thoughts and happenings, and should by no means be considered a problem in itself.

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