Campus culture online becomes toxic – The Oracle

The anonymous Instagram account “@gossipgirl_hamline” entered Hamline culture online for immediate controversy a few weeks ago. The title “Source on Outrageous Lives of Piper Elite” encourages students to send anonymous tips to “expose” their classmates through a Google form in their bio.

The username “@gossipgirl_hamline” appears to be a nod to The CW Television Network’s teen drama series “Gossip Girl,” which was recently repopulated by the 2021 sequel series on HBO Max of the same. name.

The “@gossipgirl_hamline” account also appears to be sort of a sequel, especially the “@hamlineconfessions” Instagram account. The account alludes to this in their first post.

“Gossip Piper here I’m here to do something Hamline Confessions is about [sic] afraid to do. Uncover your deepest darkest secrets, and by name. Just to let you all know, I’m here to play well. For the moment. Xoxo, Gossip Piper [kissing emoji]”, We read in their message.

“@Hamlineconfessions” is also an Instagram account that encourages Hamline students to submit anonymous confessions “about anyone and anything to Hamline,” as their own Google Form puts it.

“@Hamlineconfessions” testified in an Instagram direct messaging interview that they don’t want to “bully or target specific people with this account.”

The owner of the anonymous account explains that he only posts confessions that mention people by name if the confessions are “tame in nature”, and believes their refusal to post more inflammatory and specific confessions inspired “@gossipgirl_hamline” , who did not respond to the Oracle. request for comment.

Josh Sedarski, a sophomore at Hamline and a mentor for new students, thinks some accounts are beneficial.

“There are aspects of accounts like hamlineconfessions that I personally really enjoy… these are spaces where common experiences can be shared positively… except for one case, they refrained from posting names, ”Sedarski said.

Sedarski believes that “@gossipgirl_hamline” has contributed negatively to Hamline’s online culture and calls it bullying. He notes that there should potentially be space to “expose” certain people, like bigots, but doesn’t think that was the purpose of “@gossipgirl_hamline”.

Prompted by worried letters from students, Dean of Students Patti Kersten emailed all students on October 25 titled “INSTAGRAM WARNING”, in which she condemns “@gossipgirl_hamline” for having “the potential to cause extreme emotional damage ”to students. She lists the possible effects of cyberbullying and encourages all students affected by “@gossipgirl_hamline” to report it to the Office of the Dean of Students.

Although Kersten only mentioned “@gossipgirl_hamline” in his email, Hamline students were quick to mention other Instagram accounts, including “@hamlineconfessions” and the now deleted “@hamlinebackgrounds” account.

“@Hamlinebackgrounds” follows in the footsteps of a TikTok trend, where anonymous TikTok users post candid, aerial videos of pedestrians and create fictional names and characters for them. While the trend was mostly accounts from large universities, it spilled over to Hamline a few weeks ago.

In the short life of the account before it was removed or deleted, “@hamlinebackgrounds” posted two videos of identifiable Hamline students with fictitious names.

“From my impression, [“@hamlinebackgrounds”] is all about harassment and bullying in its own right, ”said second student Max Ridenour. “Seeing this page made me feel incredibly nervous and uncomfortable. Not to mention that the “jokes” that are supposed to accompany these videos are petty, fictitious hypothetical situations that play on the physical appearance of people in their posts.

Senior Amanda Kanninen agrees and notes that taking videos without the students’ consent is “disrespectful”.

In a video of two students, “@hamlinebackgrounds” called one student “low-key homophobic” and the two “on their way to [S]tarbucks to make the women who work there uncomfortable.

One of Hamline’s students in the video identified himself as Avery Nelson. Nelson, a senior at Hamline and chairman of the student-athlete advisory committee, didn’t take the video too seriously because he believes he demonstrated during his time at Hamline that he is not a homophobe.

“Obviously it’s not great… but I really didn’t take it too seriously. The only thing I was a little upset because I had just had my hair cut which I liked a lot the day before and I was then aware that my haircut made me look like a homophobe, ”he said.

Nelson believes Instagram accounts like these are reminiscent of high school behavior.

“Because of [COVID-19], it’s possible that incoming students haven’t quite taken it out of their system in high school and still feel the need to engage in this type of immature behavior, ”he said.

The reactions of Hamline students to “@gossipgirl_hamline”, “@hamlineconfessions” and “@hamlinebackgrounds” have been mixed, with some students expressing outrage and others expressing contempt.

I have the impression that these unofficial accounts are an invasion of privacy ”, In second grade, Carmen Garcia wrote. “They disseminate information about students which can be false, manipulated or extremely personal. They are detrimental to the student community and can be a leader in some serious mental health issues. “

This sentiment is shared by the Director of Consulting Services, Hussein Rajput.

Research suggests that cyberbullying is linked to depression among college students (and that LGBTQIA students are targeted at higher rates than others), ”Hussein wrote in an email to Oracle. “Anyone seeking help after being a victim of cyberbullying is encouraged to contact Counseling Services at 651-523-2204. “

Although Kersten notes that since the accounts are all anonymous there is little the university can do, Sedarski and Ridenour hope the administration will continue to listen to students and monitor Hamline culture online in case the problem becomes. worse.

Nelson, on the other hand, believes they will be self-regulated by the community. Regardless of how things develop, escalate, or resolve, many students hope this has been a learning opportunity for the Hamline community.

“These accounts provided a clear reminder to avoid creating and perpetuating these cultures, ”said Ridenour. “As a student collective, I think we should all elevate each other. “

While there may always be students hoping to perpetuate a culture of drama and gossip, Kersten noted that many students have come together to report “@gossipgirl_hamline” to Instagram, as well as write to her for the ‘inform about the situation.

She encourages students to think about what they post on social media because, when done right, posts “can be positive and uplifting.”

Note: If you have been targeted by anonymous Hamline Instagram accounts, please report it to the Dean of Students office. For victims of cyberbullying, Counseling and Health Services offers confidential support.

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