Building community, one message at a time

Past posts have often referred to the Social List — Fletcher’s email list for non-official purposes.  I can’t remember how long ago the School decided we would have two elists — one for official news (carefully monitored) and one for, well, more free-wheeling unmonitored conversation — but it’s hard to imagine Fletcher without the Social List.  (How did students communicate with each other back in the day?)  Last October, there was a discussion (on the Social List, of course) about what belongs there, starting with one student’s suggestion that “Foodie” emails might not be proper Social List content, and should be relegated to their own thematic list.  Prisca Benelli (soon to graduate from the MALD program and then return for the PhD program) jumped in with her defense of multi-faceted discussion.  I filed the emails away for future blog use, and here’s what Prisca said to make her case:

I like the Social List because it brings me a lot of unrelated, funny, sometimes interesting — sometimes not — topics.  I like it because I can find everything on it, and I like the freedom of posting a totally random request.

I like to read — and sometimes respond — to the questions and emails I see, as a way to procrastinate.  I like it because it’s unpredictable and chaotic, which is how communication is in real life.  I like to discover more — both fun facts and serious opinions — about people I know, based on the requests they send.

So, I don’t feel bothered by foodie requests.  Nonetheless, I would never sign up for a list for food, and I don’t want to be inundated with food discussions.  The SL, I believe, works as a moderator because people restrain themselves from sending too many emails, fearing they will annoy others.

I like the Social List the way it is:  a potpourri of ideas, pictures of dogs, announcements of conferences, and occasional debates.  It feels messy, but it feels like community.

So, thank you for your efforts to make the list a better place, but please, don’t spare me from foodie mails.


Picking up the conversation and, in true Social List style, taking it further, Jonathan Perry (also, soon-to-graduate) joins in defending the Social List (or, as he prefers, The Socialist):

Like Prisca, I’m writing in support of this madness we call The Socialist.

To second my colleague, I like The Socialist because it’s ridiculous, informative, provocative, random, and surprising.  Today’s headlines alone taught me a lot about my fellow students:

1) Sam, the poor guy, is looking to get his hair cut and will offer baked goods in return.  Is there anyone out there for him?  I would offer myself but I’m afraid he’d need to wear a paper bag on his head for a couple of weeks.

2) There’s an interesting documentary on maternal health in Nigeria coming up soon.  You should check it out, if you want to.

3) Elena’s cat is missing!!!   This is seriously stressful.  Elena, I hope you find Minky soon — AND I hope that your message to The Socialist helps you to that end.

4) Alexis is looking to road-trip New England…awesome!  May I suggest a jaunt down Route 2 West and up to southern Vermont?  You won’t be disappointed.

My point is the following:  The Socialist is an online community (yours, mine, and our community) that brings together the immensely wide range of interests present at Fletcher.  It’s an incredible resource for anyone trying to tap into the human capital that 500 impressively experienced, intelligent, and motivated students combined bring to the table.

Yes, it’s messy, and of course postings can be trivial.  Book-swapping season alone can lead to many, many irrelevant emails to you and me both, BUT have you tried selling a Stats Book on it during the first week of September?  That’s money in the bank my friend!

Like Prisca, I’ve enjoyed the foodie discussion, but would probably not sign up for a foodie-only site.  I am also — like most of us — an IR nut who enjoys discussions on all sorts of international issues, especially if they come with the opinions of my classmates.  I would argue that putting your ideas on The Socialist is a direct line to a 500-person audience, with the added bonus of a critical peer review of equal size.  Be bold, post your IR analysis for everyone to see.  (I hear Prof. Drezner subscribes to The Socialist.)

So, just like my classmate, I commend you for trying to bring order to the chaos, but please don’t forget that, within the chaos, there is a benefit that sub-sites and topic-specific discussions miss out on.


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