On Hyper-connective Oxford

922 Mutuals on Facebook with Daniel Dipper. How is that possible, nay how is it allowed? He was our JCR President, and I was his Secretary, so we can be lenient and say 400 Magdaleners are friends on the Zuck site with each of us. Add the common friends we have through the Student Union, and a couple University society circles we both travel in, we should say maybe 600ish people should be the maximum of our common connections. But over 900? It is a distinct feature of Oxford that we somehow not only use Facebook on the daily, but also that we know or vaguely know so many people.

One may say the hyper-connectivity of Oxford lies in these ‘circles’ I and others travel in. The blame is often attributed to hacks, a term for those who are intensely connected to certain societies, such as a journalist Hack, a Union Hack, and a Rowing Hack. Hack, hack, hack. These lot will be common to your college or your timeline. You’ll see the results of the Summer VIII’s, the latest piercing article, or the latest Machiavellian twist from these students. So, is the hyper-connectivity due to these miners of Oxford? No, they may be an easy target for the well connected, but I believe they aren’t the root cause.  

A common cause new freshers (like myself in younger years) thought the issue lay in, was classism. The privately educated journalist with many mutuals, the Westminster student that appears at countless formals or the grammar school rower. Maybe it is certain educational backgrounds that cause the hyper-connectivity from day one? But again no, they may insufferably scurry around colleges, like a normal student chasing a pot noodle, but they have not made the Oxford of the day a key breeding place for the plague of connections. 

This chronic feature of Oxford comes from small man’s syndrome.  Even the humblest of Wadham students must admit Oxford is ‘Oxford’. You and I unknowingly perceive this place as a sprawling chasm of books, history, and the root of many inventions. This place that educated people from Wilde to Thatcher, and many, many more, must be seen as an originator of great impact. So, once we strip away the gold of All Soul’s, the disgrace of Oriel, the spires of Magdalen, we see Oxford for what it is. A small village. From my 1st year Magdalen accommodation in Cowley, to the Greggs on Cornmarket, a mere 10 minutes is needed on a brisk Trinity morn. So, when we see Oxford in Sartrian terms, then we return to the primitive nature of Oxford. A medieval village where all are seen everyday strolling the small stroll. A mutual friend I somehow have on Facebook, buys a lettuce in the Tesco’s, the BNOC I snigger at at Posh Nosh, or you the reader I don’t know walking past me as I write this article in the Rad Cam. We are always around each other; Facebook merely confirms this. 

Is this an issue for Oxford? Well, it causes a blockage of your Facebook page from time to time, a couple of comments along the lines of ‘oh I think I have you on Facebook,’ like a Pokémon has been caught, and a decent amount of using Messenger rather than Instagram DMs, like your childhood. To me it seems another harmless addition to Oxford life.  

A positive is clear, Oxford makes us social. The most common experience I continually hear from friends entering 2nd year, is that their experience in the Vac sees a return to silence most days; continual siestas, and a hibernation to equal a bear. Oxford causes a rush of blood, a fight or flight to do the best work or socialising we can do in the mere 8 weeks we have. Thus, having a Facebook dominated by mutuals makes Oxford a new home. A place where we recognise faces down the high street, a city that once unmasked from its splendour is like a friendly village community – we are simply the village people.


Image Description: The Facebook website open on a mobile phone