3 Lessons We Can Learn from Last Week's Roommate Twitter Saga

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If you have a problem, speak up!

If you didn’t read about it when it happened, earlier last week a pair of freshman roommates at Penn State found themselves embroiled in some roommate drama that went beyond the dorms. 

The full story can be viewed here, but I’ll quickly summarize what happened between the two girls – we’ll call them Monica and Rachel (only because I have a Friends obsession, not because their relationship is anything like the Penn State girls’). 

Monica was on Twitter when she found out that Rachel had been tweeting about her for several weeks, usually things along the lines of “I hate my roommate” and then grievances she had against the other girl. As retaliation, Monica printed out all of Rachel’s tweets and hung them up in her dorm room. Their RA got involved, but so did all of Twitter, which quickly split into Team Monica vs. Team Rachel. 

If you want to find out the more angsty, drama-filled aftermath check out the full article, but be warned: I stayed up way too late reading through “Monica’s” tweets because the story is just too intriguing. And now I am fully ashamed of myself. 

So, besides realizing how grateful I was to have my random roommate freshman year (who turned out to be my best friend), this story struck me for one big reason. Neither girl had ever talked to the other about their problems! Monica even says that she didn’t realize Rachel had a problem with her until she saw all the tweets. And then, instead of talking to her about them, she went to social media instead. Probably not what I would have done. 

So instead of trying to discuss who’s right and who’s wrong here, which I think is a waste of time, let’s talk about several important lessons that we can take away from this story:

1. If you have a problem, speak up

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The main thing that irked me about this story was the seeming lack of communication. Now, all that I got was a story based on tweets, which is hardly the whole story. But regardless of whether Monica and Rachel had tried to discuss their issues beforehand, it’s a good reminder: your roommate may not realize that he or she is exhibiting inappropriate behavior. I’ve had some roommates ask if they could do things that I thought were perfectly fine, but then again someone else may not have found those actions acceptable. 

Now, there’s no guarantee that your roommate will stop doing whatever it is that’s annoying you – some people are just bad roommates. Or they may think that you’re being unreasonable. If that’s the case, talk to your RA, who can help you figure things out. Or if you’re in an apartment, see if there’s a community assistant who can mediate between the two of you. But if you only vent privately or to friends, then the behavior definitely isn’t going to stop. 

2. Set ground rules (as early as possible)

The semester has already started and a lot of people have been in school for over a month, but if you haven’t set rules and boundaries with your roommate (and everything isn’t smooth sailing) then it might be time to have a formal conversation. 

This is good because each roomie can specify their preferences and special needs, and nobody has to be nervous about bringing up a problem randomly. In Monica and Rachel’s case, it seems they never had a conversation about alcohol and other illegal substances in the room (alcohol being illegal because both roommates were underage). If you have a problem with these things, you should bring it up ASAP. 

There are other things, like when the lights can be on, what space is yours vs. theirs, how loud you can play your music, etc. which are really important but can be overlooked in the hassle of moving in. After a while, you may think it’s too late to say anything: Not true! During my sophomore year, one of my roommates stepped up and announced that the apartment was starting to get messy because we didn’t have good rules for where to put things and when to do chores. It was probably November by the time we instituted a system, but the new chore chart and rules list was actually a godsend.

3. Try not to involve other people

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I’m not talking about your trusted friends – if you need people to vent to for a minute because your roommate just isn’t listening or following the rules, that’s fine. You don’t need to hide problems you’re having, and it might be good if someone knows what’s going on in case there’s a situation where it’s your word against your roommate’s (it’s also nice to know there’s a place you can crash that’s not your room). 

But try not to start drama or turn people against your roommate, because this only going to make your relationship worse and could turn into bullying! Monica claims that Rachel got her friends to harass Monica since Rachel was better-liked in the dorms. This is just petty. Be the bigger person, don’t start trouible, and know that if you don’t like your roommate it’s okay – moving is usually an option, and if not, there’s always someone better out there next year!

How do you handle roommate drama?

Have you had any roommate tension in the past? How did you address it? Let me know in the comments!

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