Why Fraternities Are Dying: Written By a Member of a Dying Fraternity

Let’s wind the clocks back to 1993, the year I was born. The internet was in its infancy, and cell phones were the size of a brick. Tablets and virtual reality were only found in science fiction. The foremost claim to fame fraternities had was John Belushi wrapped in a bed sheet.  Forrest Gump had yet to explain to the world what life is like.
Now, 23 years later, a lot has changed. Twitter is arguably the foremost news source in the world. Transgender Olympians receive more media attention than a controversial deal with a nuclear-capable nation. A black man is the president of the United States, and a woman is the favorite to be the next. Gay marriage is not only feverishly advocated for, but constitutionally legal. Marijuana is becoming a lesser evil than alcohol, again. We now know that life is like a box of chocolates.
23 years later, we live in an exponentially hyperactive, hypersensitive world. Remember #KONY2012? Remember Trayvon Martin? Or better yet, I want you to name 5 of the towns that have had mass shootings since 2000. I bet you can’t do it. Don’t worry, neither can I. If you gave us a couple of minutes, I’m sure we all could remember at least 5, but the point I’m making is this: what was once a trending hashtag now has become somewhat of an afterthought. But that doesn’t make you, or me, a monster. It makes us human. A human in a world where anything that will get a click will be written and shared, no matter how horrible the subject. A world where people will tweet and post to Instagram and Facebook advocating for a cause that they virtually forget all about half a year later. We live in a hyperactive, hypersensitive world. And anything that becomes a target in this world, that rocks enough people’s boats, will be swiftly annihilated. And that brings us to the reason you are reading this post: because of your opinion on the state of fraternities. Well, here is mine.
Fraternities raise A LOT of questions. Why join? Are they really paying for their friends? Do the positives outweigh the negatives? Is rape culture real? Is the statistic that fraternity members have a higher average GPA legit? What is an elephant walk? Who is The Sir (or The Man, or the Pledge Master/Educator, or whatever the f*ck you call it)? And unfortunately, a lot of these seemingly black-and-white questions produce frustratingly gray answers. Is rape culture real? Yes, unequivocally, rape culture in fraternities  is real. But is it the widespread epidemic that the media portrays? Of course not. If you are in a fraternity, does that make you a sex-crazed molesting demon spawn? Also, of course not. But are there the handful of degenerates that perpetuate the rape culture and deserve to be banished? Of course.
You see, the problem with fraternities is not their actions: whether you want to realize it or not, fraternities have always been this way. In fact, they probably used to be worse. The only thing that has changed is the attention fraternities receive. For example, take these jerkoff’s from Old Dominion University, who found themselves in hot water these last few weeks over the offensive banners they strung from their house. Mind you, these gents aren’t creative geniuses, they aren’t this “funny”:  they got the idea from somewhere. And that somewhere is a long history of fraternities pulling misguided pranks.
Needless to say, the internet exploded. Monsters! Deviants! Rapists! Typical frat boys! That’s what the masses were saying. However, odds are, 98% percent of this particular fraternity are genuinely good dudes. But that doesn’t excuse them from being f*cking morons. And trust me when I say this, as a member of a once controversial fraternity, these guys are f*cking morons. In the world of moment-to-moment action and reaction, from SnapChat stories to live tweeting, anything — and I mean anything — has  the potential to become viral. These boys wanted to go viral. These boys were asking for that attention; however, what they failed to realize is that, today, any attention a fraternity receives, is probably negative.  They were asking for attention in a world where anonymity is safety. Not all publicity is good publicity, especially in greek life. In the minds’ of the fraternity brothers, it was a mildly harmless, decently hilarious prank, poking fun at incoming freshman and their families. But to the rest of the world, to the people, it was perceived as an immature, insensitive promotion of rape culture. And that is what is ultimately going to cause the death of fraternities: sensitivity and perception. Because as we all know, for better or for worse, perception is reality. And the perception of fraternities is that all they do is cause trouble. Hell, there is even an interactive timeline on Bloomberg.com that shows “Every Time a Fraternity or Sorority Got in Trouble This Year”.
And the perception of fraternities is that they are a diseased, dying breed that need to either be hung by their thumbs in the middle of Main Street, or put down quietly behind the family shed. The perception is that there is no room in the world for fraternal antics, and unfortunately, that perception is correct. We live in a hypersensitive world,  a world where everyone is a social media activist; a world where everyone “cares.” In 2016, there is no room for a breeding ground of alcohol, drug use, and sex, which in the eyes of the public, is all fraternities are. Back in the 1970’s heyday of sex, drugs, and alcohol, “fraternal behavior” was commonplace. In fact, it was more or less encouraged. But today, “fraternal behavior” is seen as unnecessary nuisance that only complicates an increasingly chaotic, nuisance-filled world. Forget about the brotherhood bond, forget about philanthropy, forget about all of that. As we all know of mass media, sex and violence sell, and unfortunately for fraternities, that not only remains true, but is exaggerated.
When I first started working at COED, my editor said to me, “Eric, don’t sh*t on fraternities just to sh*t on them.” I quietly nodded my head in agreement, not because I’m a nervous new intern, but because I didn’t feel it was my place to tell him he was wrong. (Sorry, Ned.) I don’t sh*t on fraternities just to sh*t on them; they sh*t on themselves, I just report on it. Just like everyone else reports on it. And every report I write, every negative greek-related headline I create, is another nail in the fraternal coffin. Because in the hypersensitive, second-to-second ‘perception is reality’ world of 2016, there is no room for sex-crazed, alcohol-fueled, polo-wearing millennials. We have too much other important sh*t to deal with.
Ask me, and I’ll tell you fraternities should always have a place in our society. Ask me, and I’ll tell you that I love my brotherhood, and my brothers, and that joining a fraternity my first semester of college was one of the best decisions I have ever made. But it doesn’t matter what you or I think about fraternities. The only thing that matters is what the media, and therefore the masses, think. The death of fraternities will not be caused by the actions of its members, but by the sensitivity of its outsiders. Fraternities are bold, they are controversial, they are misunderstood, and misrepresented, and unfortunately, they are not long for this increasingly hypersensitive world.

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