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The Melting Pot

A digital, cultural conversation

Happiness. It’s a nine-letter word whose meaning has been twisted, stretched, cotton-candied since the start of humanity.

Happiness. It’s what people strive for and spend their entire lives trying to find. It’s something beyond a yellow balloon with a smiley face on it, something even beyond the muscles in our faces stretching into a smile. The definitions tumble around the atmosphere in a word seemingly subtle but entrenched with scores of perspectives on the satisfied, fulfilled feeling that is happiness, or the ways in which we trick ourselves to believe so.

There’s different stages, which manifest themselves in society.

Maybe it’s not a lie. Happiness is a genuine feeling, after all. Happy is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as feeling or showing pleasure.

Isn’t that interesting. Merely showing pleasure is defined as “happy.” 

It can make us crazed. It can make us delirious. It can make us sappy, superficial cowards. It can lead to falsehood. Drug addictions. Depression. General discontent. So many of life’s problems come from a deep, entrenched desire to be happy.

Maybe, in the end, it really is elusive.

It’s funny how an idea with so much positivity can bring us that much of a downward spiral, too.

I am happy! I’m not anymore.

I am! Now I’m not.

Kendra sighed, impatiently tapping her grande Starbucks macchiatto, as if that would make any difference. Her mood had been swinging up and down all day. All day.

Lamontre Randall, a sophomore accounting major at the university, sat at a table in the far left corner of Stamp Student Union’s Colony Ballroom at the election night party. “I love the atmosphere so far,” he said.

Randall, who voted for Obama, said that the election party has not discriminated people of different beliefs. The room is made up of mostly Obama voters, though there are some who voted for Mitt Romney.

“Everyone’s open to whatever candidate you choose to pick,” he said.

He picked Obama for financial reasons and federal loans that are helping him through college.

Richard Suchoski, a Ph.D student in materials engineering, said that the political sentiment is hopeful but not lasting.

“I don’t see the follow-through to stick with the social change that people want to see,” he said. “After the election, there will be almost half the nation will say, ‘Well, he’s not my president. I didn’t vote for him.’ That individuality divides us still.”

There’s a large voice of complaining that’s given through social media such as Twitter and Facebook, Suchoski said.

Finally, we can vote online, said Student Government Association President Sam Zwerling.

“Maryland is not only letting students vote in the place that they go to school, but it’s encouraging them,” she said.

Over 400 students have registered to vote with the online system in just two days, Zwerling said.

“Think about how many students we’ll get by October 16,” she said.

Everyone loves to hear the sappy story of a guy and girl seeing each other by happenstance one day in a café (so, a Starbucks) and leaving before they could get one another’s phone numbers (because the slips of paper they wrote them on usually fly away). Days, weeks, years go by, until the guy and girl see each other again (normally in a romantic spot, like the top of the Empire State building – really, what are the odds?) and run into each other’s arms and then ride off into the sunset.

But the reality is, that doesn’t happen too often. Or ever.

Cue technological advents to take care of satisfying our fairy-tale dreams.

The New York Times wrote a story about a guy with great biceps riding the London Underground –unbeknownst to him, some girls with an iPhone got a picture of him and put it up on TubeCrush.net, dubbing it “Popeye Guns!” It was a little shocking when he saw it later with his girlfriend.

The New York version is titled SubwayCrush.net, and its motto is “See. Snap. Share.” It’s a place where “your MTA man-crushes can be shared online,” bringing you the “sexy straphangers” and the “hunks of the underground.” In an age powered by mobile devices, the site is hot – it has anywhere from 4,000 to 28,000 visits a day.

He's a subway crush.

The process of doing this has got to be hilarious. We’ve all been in situations where our friends ask us to “pose for a picture” as they zoom in on the person directly behind us and snap a shot of them instead. Oh, it’s great fun when you’re reminiscing about that time and remembering the reason you took a picture of a stranger. But with mobile devices, it’s much more secretive. You hold up your phone and pretend to be texting (at eye level? Okay) and then get your shot and upload it, just like that!

Perhaps the culture of creeping is becoming more and more acceptable with different technological advents. When before was it deemed “okay” to take pictures of random strangers on the subway and post them on websites? Today, it seems to be the norm, in the creation of memes and “fails” posted on sites like FailBlog and Failbook.

If this generation has proved anything, it’s that if the creeping is harmless and funny for the masses, it’s fine. People posting to SubwayCrush.net aren’t trying to harm the men in any way, so it remains okay that they’re there, and it’s even flattering that people like them enough to get favorited.

And it’s fun. The idea of going in-depth with the people who ride the subway, which is often an isolated and quiet setting, seems remarkable. Instead of telling your friend about the hot guy you saw on the train, you can show her the photo on the website, and share it with others.

Fairy tales are supposed to be stupid, filled with unrealistic goals. And sure, close to none of the people who post on SubwayCrush probably ever get to meet their admirer. But isn’t it fun to dream? Fun to think about why he might be on the subway, or how often he rides the train, or how long it takes him to do his hair in the morning? Fairy tales aren’t successful because people realize their elusiveness – they are empowered by those who realize the falseness but embrace it, and revel in the chance of possibility. We’re dreamers when we look at sites like this – is that so wrong?

So is he.

It’s a way that we’re coming closer together and making the increasing world we live in much smaller. It makes merriment of the nuances and the fun of life – what is his backstory, do you think? Does he ride the subway every day? It seems that subway staring websites increase the preservation of happiness and the possibility of that potential Romeo forever.