“After having severe depression my freshman year that resulted in failing a class, I am so scared to go back to school. I feel like I’ve tried everything from counseling to medication and at this point I feel hopeless. FML.”
Expressing a sentiment that, according to data from the 2011 Committee on Background and Opportunity report, close to half of Princeton students have admitted to feeling, this Aug. 15 post on Princeton FML hit home for several of the site’s readers.
Of the many commenters who responded, one — who went by “’16” on PFML but who later adopted the pseudonym “PFMLer16" —started a lively discussion by telling an incredibly detailed story of having "blown" freshman year, which PFMLer16 wrote was highlighted by academic and social difficulties.
The rising sophomore suggested forming a support group of people who felt the same way, named the “People who Blew Freshman Year Club.”
“I didn’t really want to share my story,” PFMLer16, who was granted anonymity due to the nameless nature of both PFML and the new group, said. But, while feeling “pretty miserable” over the summer, PFMLer16 checked PFML every day and decided to comment after reading a post that seemed all too familiar.
“I just felt like, wow, like, I’m not the only one,” PFMLer16 said. “I didn’t really think about making the group a thing when I first suggested it, it was just more that I saw that there were many of us … I had no idea when I first suggested it that people were going to take it so seriously.”
Responses to the post started popping up almost immediately, many of them seconding the idea of forming the support group but insisting that it should be open to students of all years who felt as if they had blown their Princeton experience.
Several days later, one of PFML’s anonymous moderators, who uses the pseudonym Hobbes, offered to help create the group.
“I think a lot of people are in such a rut that they want a group like this because they haven’t felt like they can take advantage of these resources or don’t really appreciate that they’re there,” Hobbes said, noting that there can sometimes be a stigma associated with asking for help from Counseling and Psychological Services or a residential college adviser.
“I think it definitely has a lot of potential, and what I’ve seen so far is encouraging in terms of people being willing to open up in an anonymous forum like that, so I think it will definitely grow and be helpful,” Hobbes added.
Along with general introductions from each user, discussion forums so far have addressed how to prepare for the new year and how to cope with feelings of loneliness.
“Personally for me, I would like to have a place where I can feel comfortable with other people, that I don’t have to pretend to other people that I’m alright,” PFMLer16 said, adding that the group’s overall goal is “just to have a safe place to discuss and not feel weird or bad about it.”
According to PFMLer16, most of the group’s participants said that they have gone to CPS on campus, but that the experience was not helpful as they had hoped.
Interested students simply have to email Hobbes and will be sent login information for the group’s email account. They then communicate under pseudonyms by sending emails within the account.
According to Hobbes, 11 students have access to the email account and six students have emailed within the group so far.
For now, the group will stay faceless through online discussions, although PFMLer16 is open to in-person meetings.
“I want this group to eventually meet up too, but I don’t know if enough people will be comfortable enough to go to a meet up,” PFMLer16 said, explaining that “people don’t want to run the risk of being seen by someone who might not be there for the supposed reason of the group.”
Until that point, Hobbes said the anonymous nature of the group is beneficial, as it allows members to talk about what they are going through without worrying about judgments.
One problem, however, will be in determining who will be allowed to join, since different students have different definitions of what “blowing it” can mean at a school like Princeton.
“I definitely think this group is for people who are in serious trouble — it’s not just for people who are having a bad day,” PFMLer16 said. “We think that many people need this group, but most don’t know about it.”
Hobbes said that “blowing Princeton” can mean anything from failing and dropping courses to not having a solid group of friends to taking time off from school.