Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The Spring semester of 2017 introduced a new dynamic to Swarthmore’s ‘Screw Your Roommate’ tradition with Swarthmore College Computer Society’s (SCCS) launch of their new ‘ScrewDriver’ app. Described as a “new tool for finding a date for Screw Your Roommate” on the Reserved Student Digest (RSD), the ScrewDriver app has opened new possibilities for matching people for this occasion. While the app boasts over 200 profiles as of Tuesday afternoon, which is surely to increase before ‘Screw’, students have had mixed experiences with the app thus far. While the impact and future of the app is unclear, it has already shown a potential to change the way that matches are coordinated on campus.
Though this is the first semester of it’s launch, the idea behind ScrewDriver has been loosely floating around SCCS for a while, according to lead writer of the application Tobin Feldman-Fitzthum ‘19. This academic year, SCCS was interested in creating projects that were open to the entire campus, in addition to their current work with the widely-used mailing lists and RSD. The idea for ScrewDriver was brought up once more and, with all of winter break ahead of them to write it before its launch in February, SCCS decided to run with it.
“When we looked at the timeline and said, ‘Okay, it’s right before Winter Break. This has to be done,’ I knew that I didn’t have many plans over Winter Break and I was 100% sure that I could get it done coming back. I said I would write it over break and I did,” Feldman-Fitzthum said.
After a whiteboard collaborative brainstorming session with SCCS, he wrote the basic workings of the application and reconvened with the group after Winter Break.
“Mine was very much a bare-bones, get-this-thing working,” Feldman-Fitzthum said. After Winter Break, SCCS continued to work together to revise it and improve the graphic design of the app to make it more aesthetically pleasing.
“It wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the whole group. Or, it would be a really crappy project,” as Feldman-Fitzthum puts it.
While Tinder and other dating applications share similar functions of the app, ScrewDriver also holds certain features that distinguish it and function better for the purposes of Screw Your Roommate. For one, the purpose of the app is to find a date for someone else, not yourself. No information on a person’s gender is asked, you can write the bio, and the picture is the person’s Cygnet picture by default. As you use app, different people pop up, one-by-one, requiring you to either say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ There is no ‘skip.’ If you say ‘yes’ and that person matches with you, the match is permanently set.
Adina Spertus-Melhus ‘17 used both the “old-fashioned” way and ScrewDriver to match two different friends this year. Initially, she had trouble writing the profile for her friend which, after she wrote it and submitted it, would say something along the lines of, “enjoys long walks on the beach” by default. Though she contacted SCCS and fixed the problem, she saw similar bios in the app and figured that others had the same problem.
“It’s basically the equivalent of Tinder, except that your Cygnet photo has almost no correlation with how you actually look in real life,” Spertus-Melhus said. She continues to say, “It’s also interesting because they don’t differentiate by gender at all, which is like good on one hand, but it also … you just make assumptions about the other person. Like, my friend says she’s looking for a man. It’s complicated and difficult in that regard.”
On the other hand, the decision not to ask about gender in ScrewDriver was a very conscious decision made by SCCS to make the app more inclusive. “We initially did that because we wanted to be welcoming to everyone… We figured at the end, the best thing to do is if people want to have information about their gender, put it in your bio. If not, it’ll still work. And that is actually something I think we made a really good call there,” Feldman-Fitzthum said.
Whereas the “old-fashioned” way of screwing your roommate often required one to search within their own friend groups, ScrewDriver opened up the possibility of finding a match that you know absolutely nothing about, with no idea whether it’s a good match for your friend or roommate.
“That also makes it kinda stressful, because I don’t know the person that I’m dealing with,” Spertus-Melhus said. Because it’s anonymous, Adina wishes there was more information available about the people in their bios.
Jesse Atkins ‘19, a new transfer sophomore student this year, is experiencing Screw Your Roommate for the first time and turned to the ScrewDiver app as well. Having just heard about this tradition last week, his roommate informed him about the application, but told him that most people do it informally outside of the app. While he initially made a profile for his roommate, the final date was set outside of the application. Yet, because his roommate was still showing up on the app, the two parties matched their friends on the app as well.
“In general, I just don’t think the app is necessary. I would so much rather have someone set me up with somebody because they know a friend and think I’d get along with that person,” Atkins said. “And more often than not, people’s Cygnet pictures are terrible and out of date anyways. I feel like since people rely on networking so much more as it is, it should probably be focused on that.”
Similar doubts and hesitations were on Feldman-Fitzthum’s mind while he was working on the app, but they gradually disappeared. He said, “I think that people will sort of have fun using ScrewDriver. So my idea while writing it was that, this could be a cool project because I don’t think it will actually change how Screw Your Roommate goes down… It don’t think it’ll fundamentally change the dynamic of screw at all..”
For Spertus-Melhus, the benefit to ScrewDriver has been making coordination a lot easier between the two parties and increasing the possibility of truly meeting new people outside of one’s social groups. While the “old-fashioned” way of Screw Your Roommate required a constant checking-in with other parties and their possible matches, ScrewDriver quickly establishes the date with ease, albeit with some stress. While the future of ScrewDriver is unclear, responses to a proposed feedback survey will surely influence how it shapes out in future years.
“It’s cool when it’s a different person, like someone you didn’t know. It can be good or bad but at the end of the day, it’s more about the experience and if you have a good story,” Spertus-Melhus said.
Featured image shows ScrewDriver creator Tobin Feldman-Fitzthum ’19, by Brandon Torres/The Daily Gazette.