Most schools have them: those social media pages that are student-run, sometimes anonymous and frequently snarky. They aren’t headed up by the school itself, but instead act as mouthpieces for students to vent, voice concerns, or even pay a compliment.
Like any media platform, there are pros and cons to unofficial social media at college. Social media is a fantastic tool for communicating and connecting, especially on a big campus where you might not run into friends on a daily basis.
The issues that come along with unofficial social media sites have to do with risk. Threats made against colleges and universities in recent years are of course taken very seriously. It’s probably more common for students to make posts that present the school or other students in a more unappealing light than is generally acceptable; when given a space where they can voice their views anonymously, most people seem to prefer negativity.
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The “University of XYZ Confessions” page is a rare breed. Often the submissions aren’t actual confessions, but rants or expressions of disdain for a particular individual or campus group. If the moderators are smart, they’ll take off last names or replace an organization’s name with random characters, swear-word style. This practice, however, doesn’t erase the potential privacy issues that arise from confessions pages.
Yik Yak, an app that acts like Twitter but that is anonymous and specific to college campuses, has become especially popular recently. Anyone can post a funny quip, spread a rumor or voice an opinion with essentially no immediate consequences.
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While there are many possible downsides to these sites, unofficial college social media isn’t all bad. Compliments pages are a nice way to give a shout-out to someone who impressed you with their sweet style or the perfect comment in class. Missed connections or secret admirer pages have the potential to be creepy, but can turn out well with the right admin.
“ABC State University” memes pages are often a fun way to build a sense of camaraderie among students, and though of course they have the same issues as any other social media outlet, they tend to be on the lighter side in terms of content.
The best possible way to handle unofficial college social media sites is to disengage. Read if you must, but keep your hands off the keyboard and avoid posting or commenting. Unless you have something nice or helpful to say, refrain from giving your two cents’ worth.
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You’ve probably heard it from your parents, but it bears repeating: what you do online doesn’t really go away, especially when everyone else using the same mediums is just as internet-savvy as you. You want to avoid a situation that spirals out of control faster than you can hit “backspace.”
Any submission that contains details that could cause the subject to be identified is very problematic and could lead to plenty of issues in the real world. Even a seemingly harmless post that gives a first name and a last initial can turn out disastrously; the subject might consider it libelous and file a complaint that could hurt your future.
More importantly, consider the subject’s feelings before hitting “submit.” Would you want to read an anonymous rant that could only be about you?
Remember, too, that faculty members and administrators are aware of these social media pages. They know what’s popular and what’s not and they certainly keep an eye on the more complaint-ridden pages, especially ones dedicated to sharing quotes by or experiences with professors. At my school, instructors have even come into class joking about posts they saw the night before.
It’s clear that unofficial social media has an impact on college campuses.