Names and Cliques

Like any group of young adults, CTYers naturally form themselves into groups and cliques. Often, these groups are segregated by class or hall, but usually at every site and session, there are a couple groups of mostly older CTYers who cross the class and hall boundaries. Often, these groups are large, loud, and noticed. And sometimes, they have names. The phenomenon of named groups at CTY can be traced back to the intermingled LLRTs and Digiclan of the early 90's at Lancaster. Digiclan started as a mailing list for students who took Digital Logic at CTY 1994, and grew to include a number of other Lancaster students around that time. It existed in reunions and mailing lists until the mid 90s, and while the mailing list still gets traffic occasionally, most of the members have gone of to college and formed other bonds. LLRT, in 1993, stood for Land of the Large Round Tables and was the name for the place were a number of these loud, noticeable CTYers gathered to eat. The group of friends merged with Digi, made t-shirts, and in time, LLRT also came to refer to the people as well as the place. However, unlike Digiclan, which did not transfer its name to a new group of people, the LLRT name has been carried down and applied to other groups of CTYers. They can usually trace back friendships to the original Digi/LLRT group, but there is little overlap between the original LLRTs and the Neo LLRTs (as they call themselves) or Little LLRTs (as the original LLRTs refer to them). While other named groups have begun appearing both at Lancaster and at other sites, these two are the earliest that I know of.

I believe that one of the most important factors in a group of friends at CTY becoming a named group is the on-line mailing list. As noted above, the first named groups I know about were the Digiclan and the LLRTs. These groups both started at Lancaster, and both had active on-line mailing lists. Because of the fact that Lancaster focused more on technology and computer courses than other sites, like Carlilse, a higher percentage of the students had access to e-mail and the ability to create e-mailing lists earlier. When one creates a mailing list, one has to have a name for it. It is a short jump to go from "I am a member of the Digiclan mailing list" to "I am a member of Digiclan". I have noticed that as mailing lists become easier to create, with services such as egroups, more and more groups from other sites and sessions have become named groups, though few of them have the history or prominence that Digiclan and LLRT do. Contrast this to my group of friends at CTY Carlilse 1997. Like Digiclan and LLRT, we were the biggest and loudest group on campus, many of us were noticed both by other students for our talent show acts or dyed hair or other stunts, and we were more noticed by the administration in many cases because of the amount of trouble we caused. Unlike Digi and LLRT, we did not have a name, and immediately after CTY, we lost the large group dynamic as we drifted into smaller groups of friends who kept in touch.

This concept of individual friendships vs group relations is very important. Again, comparing my group of friends from CTY 97 to the Digiclan of around the same time, I found that while Digiclan maintained a sense of "group" the Carlilse people did not. Of course, there were friendships that were maintained, and reunions and group integration, but it was closer to a small social circle one would find at a high school, instead of the club atmosphere Digi had. Again, I feel mailing lists played a big part in this. Because of the distance between CTYers during the CTY off-season, it is impossible for students who don't belong to mailing lists to have much in the way of in-person group conversations. The are forced to interact with individual people instead of a group, because they have no way for the group to gather on a regular bases. Mailing lists, on the other hand, provide for virtual group conversation. Instead of talking to one friend and hearing what they have to say, one is talking to a group of friends who respond both to the original poster and other members of the group. This strengthens the idea of the group, instead of letting the group fall by the wayside for individual friendships as happens to the non-mailing list groups. Of course, this doesn't mean that there were not strong individual friendships in the mailing listed groups, just that those friendships also existed in the context of the group. If I had a falling out with one of my CTY friends, because there was no real group dynamic after CTY, it did not really affect any of my other CTY friends. However, if two people on a mailing listed group had a falling out, it did affect the rest of the group, as private disputes were sometimes publicly aired, and as the issues of who to invite to reunions came up.

In addition to some of the problems of individual relationships in the context of named groups, there are other problems. Who is a member? Even though I never attended CTY with members of the Digiclan, I know a number of them and am dating one of them. Does this make me Digiclan? I say not, but there are many who would disagree with me. Do members of LLRT have greater bargaining power with the administration, simply because they are LLRT? The administration doesn't think so, but again, there is disagreement. Charges of elitism have been leveled as well.

Of course, there are pros to these groups as well. The sense of belonging and of acceptance that comes from being a member of a named group is probably good for most of these talented youth who feel like they don't belong at their home schools. The feats of organization and travel that are needed to maintain the group are very impressive. And these groups hold onto CTY history and traditions better than most.

Of course, a particular generation of a group usually doesn't last more than a couple years after the majority of members have become nomore. College, more than anything else, breaks down the group dynamic and cause mailing lists to become mostly silent, reunions to be poorly attended, and individual friendships to take the place of the group dynamic. Other things become important. This is a good thing, in the long run. After all, as wonderful as CTY is, the time comes to move on. However, in many cases, the name and the idea of the group lives on. Digiclan is still remembered. LLRT is on its 3rd generation. And new groups are starting every year.