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September 05, 2012 11:00 AM Picking the Roommate

By Daniel Luzer

09-05-12Luzer.jpg It’s the time of year when many students go off to college for the first time. One of the primary concerns that they have at this point, given that actual classes aren’t terribly demanding at this point, is the roommate.

For many students this will represent the first time they’ve shared a room with another person for any significant period of time. So it looks like a big deal. So they work to try to find the perfect roommate. But how to do this? Some colleges think Facebook can help.

According to an article by Jenna LaConte in USA Today:

While many colleges stick with the well-established practice of randomly assigning roommates, Facebook and other social media platforms have introduced a means of linking prospective roommates before colleges have the opportunity to do so.
Certain schools mediate this networking process by allowing future students access to websites such as RoomSync, which operates through Facebook to unite roommates.

While the Facebook strategy might theoretically offer better chances at roommate selection than random assignment, no one know if this really works. Do Facebook linked roommates end up will more successful living situations?

The problem is, as LaConte points out, that Facebook only really lets potential roommates know three things: “their appearances, the information that they choose to share through statuses, and the way that other people interact with them on their walls.” None of this really has much to do with how two people will get along as roommates.

This attempt to find the perfect strategy for pairing strangers in dormitories might actually never work. There are too many unknowns here, and too many variables for any one system to be perfectly effective. Also some people are just terrible to live with. There’s no matching system that can pair them with the right people. Sometimes there are no right people. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer