Oberlin Blogs

Loop Theory 2.0

March 9, 2024

Ozzie Frazier '27

As I write this blog, I am sitting in the middle of Wilder Bowl, Oberlin's central quad. It's just hit 70 degrees for the first time this semester, and everyone and their mother is lounging in the sunshine or playing frisbee. It's a real-life college ad. 

The last time college-ad Wilder Bowl occurred (February 7th) was during the first week of classes, and it wasn't nearly as warm out. Nonetheless, the sun was shining, and I couldn't help but take advantage of the weather. Over the course of about half an hour, I ran into 7 people who live in my building, the entirety of my PAL group, and at least a dozen people I met once during Orientation and don't remember the names of. The uninitiated might think this is some sort of coincidence, but I know the truth: it is Loop Theory in action. 

Coined by former blogger Minerva Macarrulla and their friend Bianca Berger, Loop Theory is the idea that you are destined to run into specific people on campus. Taken from Minerva's original blog, "Loop theory applies to things you do on a regular basis, which could be explained by your schedules aligning, but also to the random, off-schedule, one-time things you do. Loops are cosmically laid out for us; they are not something you can decide to change." Loop Theory was one of the first blogs I read as a prospective student, and I think it really speaks to the fact that Oberlin is the perfect size. You'll never go anywhere without seeing someone you know. Since arriving on campus, I've reread the entire blog aloud to several of my friends, and we have all become deeply familiar with the ins and outs of Loop Theory as a whole. 

After spending my whole first semester running into the same 4 people everywhere I go, I have to say I am a Loop Theory diehard. A Loopist, if you will. In the name of converting others to the cause, I would like to make a few expansions on Minerva's original (and already perfect) blog. Think of this as a guide to identifying your very own loop.

Students sitting in Oberlin's North Quad
Me and my friends sitting in North Quad.
Photo credit: Mattias RowenBale.

First and foremost, planned meetings do not count! This rule has been a point of confusion for Loop Theory skeptics in the past. If you ask your friend to get lunch with you at noon, it is no twist of fate that you run into them at 11:55 outside of Clarity dining hall. That's just what happens when you both have a tendency to be on time. In order for someone to be in your loop, your run-ins must include accidental and impromptu meetings. 

In fact, one of my favorite things about Loop Theory is that it's complete coincidence: you can recognize someone as a member of your loop without even knowing them by name. More often than not, my loop has included people I've never formally met. This might sound confusing, but it's actually quite simple. It goes like this: first, you notice someone out in the wild. Maybe they're wearing a cool hat or they say something really impressive in class. Then you see them again at lunch, and then at the library the next day. Then you walk past them on your way to a club meeting. All of a sudden, this complete stranger has become a cute little background character in your life. It's possible that this is just a form of confirmation bias—like learning a new word and then suddenly hearing it everywhere—but I'm choosing to ignore that possibility. After all, why would I reduce something to happenstance when it could be credited to fate?

Of course, this can get confusing when you try to explain the people in your loop to someone else. To combat this problem, my friends and I have started making up code names for the people we constantly recognize. Last semester, for example, some of our favorite on-campus characters included Mysterious Trench Coat Man, Hot Boots Girl, and Roller Skates Guy. (And yes, I realize these are awfully reductive labels, but they each have incredibly nuanced and made-up character traits in my brain.) The best part of recognizing all these characters is when they all appear at once—like in college-ad Wilder Bowl. This is what's known as a crossover event!

Another thing I have noticed about Loop Theory is that loops can sometimes change randomly mid-semester. Although the beginning of a new semester is a near guarantee that your loop will be upended, little shifts sometimes occur completely unprompted. Think of this like walking on a Mobius strip—you're following your loop as usual when suddenly everything twists upside down, and you don't recognize any of the characters in the background. Or one of the characters just disappears. Or a new character shows up! Okay, maybe the Mobius strip isn't the most apt metaphor, but you get the idea. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Loop Theory doesn't just apply to people. It also works for classes and life events. Of course, this might just be the result of a liberal arts education, but I think it is no coincidence that three of my four professors last semester mentioned Sara Ahmed's Queer Phenomenology within the same week. Even if your courses are all in different departments, there will always be crossover. One of my profs recently referred to this phenomenon as "the serendipity of a semester," and I think it's the perfect compliment to Loop Theory.

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