There’s a good chance you’re Facebook friends with Alexander Birkel, CC ’18. In addition to being a former president of the Investment Banking Initiative and member of the Multicultural Recruitment Committee in the Admissions Office, the Princeton, New Jersey native is widely known for his prolific social media presence in the Columbia Class of 2018 Facebook group, in which he became known even before his freshman year.
Birkel did not realize the extent of his notoriety until he arrived on campus for NSOP in 2014. A different member of the class of 2018 had devised a game in which students earned points for taking Snapchats with different Facebook group “celebrities” during orientation week.
“I just had random people come up to me on our Intrepid cruise during NSOP and start taking Snaps with me… I didn’t realize until after three or four Snaps in that they were taking Snaps with me for this game. I thought I was just wearing something really interesting,” Birkel laughs.
Despite the fact that Facebook fame rarely translates to real-life social success, Birkel followed up on his virtual interactions and made a conscious effort to use his class Facebook group to meet his fellow new Columbians in person. He organized several meet-ups before his first year, and many friendships that began online (surprisingly) lasted past NSOP. According to Birkel, the core group of frequent posters in his class group are still close, even years out.
Birkel exudes none of the jadedness that the typical Columbia upperclassman exhibits regarding the alleged abysmal social life and lack of community on campus. He cites joining organizations and socializing with students outside of one’s comfort zone and major as the best pieces of advice he has for the Class of 2021.
“Just meet as many people as you can from as many different backgrounds and interests as you can, because that’s really the point of coming here, right?” Birkel says. He calls Columbia “the diverse Ivy” as he continues. “Everybody thinks differently and everybody has different backgrounds, so if you don’t take advantage of that, you know, take your $70,000 elsewhere I suppose,” he says with a laugh.