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Senior Reflection: How Technology Shaped My Time At Penn State

There’s so much to experience in Happy Valley over the span of just a few years. As I’m toasting to the beginning of my fourth and final year at Penn State, I can’t help but reflect on how technology has shaped the past three.

Any Penn Stater will tell you watching a Snapchat story or going through your friend’s Facebook album pales in comparing to witnessing the roaring crowd of a home football game in real life. But while we would all love to boast about how we enjoy “living in the moment,” there’s no denying the ever-present, yet constantly changing role social media plays in the life of each and every student. Here’s a little breakdown of how these burgeoning social applications shaped my experience at Penn State — and likely yours too.

Popular Apps That Changed Campus Life

Uber

This transportation service finally came to State College in 2015, but it didn’t seem to truly pick up until last year. If this app was at my fingertips during the cold, frosty months I hiked from East Halls to downtown State College, I could’ve avoided the madness that was the White Loop at midnight.

As a senior living relatively far downtown, this app is miraculous. Traveling to the bars with your friends at 10 p.m.? It’s almost effortless now. Trudging back home after five Irish trashcans? There’s almost no other option but to open up the app for a quick ride. It’s hard not to wonder how the class of 2018 ever survived without it. At the same time, it likely built a sort of character unique to those who were here before the app arrived.

Yik Yak

This anonymous messaging app peaked in 2014 during my my freshman year here. Though this was admittedly an innovative and entertaining platform, its pure anonymity was reminiscent of platforms like FormSpring. The app arguably did much more damage to the Penn State community than good.

Former Onward State staffer Claire Marchon acknowledged the obvious problem with Yik Yak at the time. The app did occasionally free the stage for candid discussion, as well as occasional words of inspiration or compliments to a stranger. However, it more often than not opened the doors to offensive remarks, and in our worst case scenario, a bomb threat.

In an anonymous survey of 100 Penn State students, 73 undergraduates reported use of the application, and some reported checking it as often as eight times a day. It’s astonishing how that proportion has plummeted in just two years.

Social media advancement has greatly improved my college experience in only four short years, but not all apps have had the same effect — Yik Yak was a prime example. Give middle schoolers anonymity on media like FormSpring? Bad. Give it to riled up, opinionated college kids? Worse.

Venmo

This currency exchange app has actually been around since 2010, but it didn’t become a staple of daily life until I got to college. The ability to transfer rent money or split appetizers at the Corner Room is a huge game changer. You can even check out other people’s activity on a news feed within the app.

Money will always bring about sticky situations with others, but when seemingly everyone has Venmo, it’s hard to give the no-cash-on-you excuse. (Hint: don’t be that guy who just “doesn’t have Venmo.” Pay your share of the damn pokey sticks!)

GroupMe

While high school relied heavily on mass group texts and Facebook, GroupMe has become the main communication source for Penn Staters everywhere. It’s safe to say most on-campus clubs and organizations wouldn’t be the same without the app.

This simple, intuitive app made my life loads easier because I had a new sense of control. I could muffle the less important groups or obligations I had, while highlighting those I valued most. Groups like the ones below just can’t survive on a platform like Facebook.

Tinder

If Penn State’s demographic isn’t a prime candidate for this dating app’s target audience, I don’t know what is.

Though I don’t have my own personal expertise or success stories with the delicate art of swiping right, many definitely do. After picking up speed here in 2012, Tinder gave Penn Staters the ability to make a seemingly endless dating pool smaller. While it might not have such a major effect at a smaller school, it was a total game changer for a school as large as ours.

Penn State-Specific Resources That Went Mobile

CATA

Whether it’s the WHOOP or the BLOOP, CATA buses have are a longtime staple of Penn State navigation. The app only came out in 2014, though, and this development allowed users to see the buses move in real time.

Before the app’s emergence, you had to navigate an entire online database and log-in section to figure out which bus to try to catch next. Though plenty of us simply waddle on over to the bus stop and hope the next one comes soon enough, you just don’t have that kind of time when you’re about to be late to an exam across campus. This app was a savior during my time in East Halls, when a minute too long waiting in the State College rain or snow was enough to ruin your entire morning. Though apps like Uber have become tremendously helpful, you can’t beat free public transportation. Knowing exactly when to expect each bus is even better, and it’s undoubtedly changed how countless students navigate their daily lives.

LionPATH

Though LionPATH is new itself, it has the same primary role as eLion: signing you up for classes. The app came out last year, and despite the initial backlash the app has faced, I’d consider myself a fan. There’s nothing that beats the ability to drop a class after simply one click on your phone. Though the app could use some work and cleaning up, I’m sure this will serve future Penn State students well.

OrderUp

Founded in 2009, OrderUp made it easy to order food quickly for takeout and delivery in dozens of cities across the country. In essence, the app allows you to browse nearly all the major food establishments in State College that offer delivery through OrderUp. The OrderUp app created the far-too-easy chance to order your guilty pleasures, with limited human interaction.

[email protected] 

If you currently live on campus, chances are you’ll be eating in the new and improved dining halls. With a plethora of options like campus eateries, dining commons, special promotions, and late night options, it’s difficult to keep up. That’s why the Dining app — released in 2014 — came in handy for many students on a daily basis.

The [email protected] app will tell you what each on-campus dining commons serves throughout the day, and it includes hours of operation. It also tells you the calories in one serving of each dish. I used this app on occasion, but for the most part I just waltzed in and hoped the entrees weren’t especially horrendous.


Which social media tools and apps have shaped your Penn State experience? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author

Carolyn Popescu

Current senior studying Advertising and Visual Arts, Carolyn has a passion for entertainment and music. She also loves photography, film, graphic design, social media, and all things in between. She's the current Sony Music Marketing Representative for State College, so be sure to reach out to her with any local music scene questions, ideas, proposals, or if you just need someone to geek out about music with.

(Contact her through [email protected] or [email protected])

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