Under the Button is part of a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Philomathean Society Communicates Via Messenger Pigeons Instead of GroupMe


Photo by Ukendt / CC0

Talk about "tradition"! Penn's oldest student group, the Philomathean Society, still uses messenger pigeons to communicate internally; meanwhile, other student groups today use GroupMe or a comparable platform invented in this decade for internal communications.

Despite its status as an oddity today, Philo's peculiar communication practice was all the rage in 1813 when the group was founded. 

The majority of Philo members expressed subdued enthusiasm about the preservation of the messenger pigeon method. They cited "mysticism," "quaintness," and "irony" as their favorite things about this ancient method.

One member, however, did not share this enthusiasm.  He cited "speed," "practicality," and "security" among his concerns about the messenger pigeon method.  To illuminate his concerns, he shared some examples of instances when the messenger pigeons impeded Philo's work.  According to this member, who requested to remain anonymous, meeting cancellations and last-minute updates are made particularly difficult by the pigeons.  His concerns are most acute when it comes to talking shit about certain members behind their backs.  

"My pigeon would always misunderstand me and deliver the message not to the intended recipient, but instead to the person who I was trashing in that very message!" he reported. Ouch!

All things considered, the messenger pigeon method has a few pros and cons, like anything else. Is it a whimsical nod to the past or tradition gone too far? It's hard to say!