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Members of the community reflect on the effects of various school-related Instagram accounts

Lily Lee

As Casey Weisman ’22 scrolled through his Instagram feed in August 2020, a post from the student-run Instagram account @hwconfessions popped onto his screen.

Weisman said the content of the post targeted him and made sexual and sexual orientation-related comments. In response, Weisman said he founded the Instagram account @hw.compliments about one week after @hwconfessions’ first post.

“I thought it was so funny because it was an obviously homophobic person trying to get a rise out of me,” Weisman said. “I was laughing because this person was pathetic. I didn’t want to give them the response they wanted, so I was laughing and commenting on the post joking about it. After that, more people started [commenting in support of me].”

Zoe Shin ’23 said accounts like @hwconfessions can result in a loss of trust between members of the school community.

“I believe that these types of accounts are bad as they demonstrate a belief that the exchange of verbal abuse of students for profit off of sparked drama is a just and reasonable one,” Shin said. “I believe that being posted on @hwconfessions could result in a student’s loss of trust in other members of the school community.”

Although Weisman said the post initially made him feel uncomfortable, he said he no tries to see the attention in an optimistic way.

“It made me feel weird because they were targeting me, but it also made me feel cool because it is cool to think that you are get-
ting such a reaction out of people just by existing and to know that you are making people talk,” Weisman said.

When @hwconfessions posted messages objectifying girls at the school, Weisman said he felt the account was becoming an even more serious issue. Weisman said @hw.compliments became a platform meant to encourage students to be kind to their peers.

“My friend and I ran this account together because we saw how toxic @hwconfessions was getting,” Weisman said. “A lot of their comments were offensive and a lot of people were getting hurt. We wanted to detract from some of that toxicity, so we had the
idea to create a compliments account where everyone could send positivity and get their own moment in the sun.”

Weisman said he stopped posting in September 2020 because of declining submissions, but he said the account played an inspirational role in the school community.

“I felt like I was uplifting people and spreading joy, Weisman said. “It was self-fulfilling.”

Weisman said running the account allowed him to gain insight into the school community and that he wanted it to provide support for anyone who might be going through an experience similar to his.

“Know that you have a community behind you [that is] ready to back you,” Weisman said. “We had a whole group of people rallied against the @hwconfessions people and it was uplifting to see because it made me feel included [in the community].”

Margaret Piatos ’23 said @hwconfessions has the potential to negatively affect students’ mental health.

“[The @hwconfessions account] is quite different than funny accounts because someone is being publicly called out for the followers to see,” Piatos said. “I think it could affect someone[’s mental health] because the post might not be able to be taken down, and within seconds a lot of people are viewing something potentially harmful or embarrassing.”

Piatos, who said she was featured on @hw.compliments, said she believes the account aims to show positive recognition to members of the school community.

“Someone wrote something nice about me on @hw.compliments when I was first new to [the school], and it felt good to know someone knows who I am and thinks that I was good at something even though we haven’t fully met in person,” Piatos said.

Another student who contributed to an account, Skyler Griswold ’24 said she took a photo of her brother’s poor parking job and sent the picture to the Instagram account @hw.parking, which has over 700 followers and posts students’ parking mishaps. She
said she finds the account entertaining.

“I think [@hw.parking] is so funny, and people love to look at it and joke around about the people they know,” Griswold said. “Although [the account] pokes fun at people to some extent, none of it is of a malicious nature.”

Out of 248 students polled, 87.1% said they have heard of similar social media accounts oriented toward the school’s student population. Of 247 respondents, 62.35% of students then said they follow these accounts.

@Hw.parking account manager Jasper* said in an Instagram direct message that the account makes students more accountable while simultaneously motivating them to improve their parking skills.
“I think the account is something that provides some laughs and also kind of encourages people to think twice before they park between two spots,” Jasper said.

Jasper said they inherited the account from a member of the Class of 2020.

“It was actually created around four years ago by Tyler Cox ’20 and has been passed down a couple of times,” Jasper said. “The account is somewhat anonymous so people don’t bug me about posting them.”

Grace Kosten ’22 said she follows @hw.parking and thinks its posts are amusing. Kosten said she thinks the accounts promote a culture of accepting imperfection on campus.

“Not everyone finds being featured funny, but 99% of their content seems to not be made maliciously,” Kosten said. “[The accounts] give some lighthearted humor and dilute the need to always be perfect.”

@Overheard_hw account manager Tatum* said the account is inspired by the social media accounts @overheard_la with 1.6 million followers and @overheardnewyork with 1.5 million followers on Instagram. They said @overheard_hw posts quotes
that students overhear other students saying at school, and they said they want to keep the account anonymous. They said they often have to pretend to be unaware of the account manager’s identity during conversations with peers.

“I think remaining anonymous has been one of the biggest challenges [of running the account] ,” Tatum said in an Instagram DM. “I’ve ended up having lots of conversations with different people during which they’d talk about the account, and I’d have to act all unknowing, which isn’t accurate, obviously.”

Tatum said they did not create the account but rather took it over at the beginning of the year. They said the quotes featured demonstrate the students’ lack of perspective.

“We entertain students and help provide a break from school’s hyper-stressful environment while providing deep, insightful commentary about how oblivious our classmates are to the real world,” Tatum said.

Tatum said they noticed that the account helps bring students together and sparks comedic moments between students.

“The posts are pretty absurd and show how insanely out of touch [the student body] is,” Tatum said. “Students [here] are a specific breed of person. In our posts [students ask], ‘Who’s [applying Early Decision]?’ or, ‘Is Duke [University] a respectable school?’ Duke is obviously respectable. It’s an amazing school. Only a person [who goes to school here] would ask if Duke, of all schools, is a respectable school. I think everyone at the school is entertained by the fact that the student body is like that.”

Head of Communications and Strategic Initiatives Ari Engelberg ’89 said he has heard of these accounts, but he said the school does not supervise them.

“We encourage students who post or comment to social media feeds, regardless of whether they are private or public, associated with [the school] or otherwise, to use good judgment and to follow the rules for responsible use of technology that are outlined in the [Student and Parent] Handbook,” Engelberg said.

Emma Miller ’23 said the student account owners should realize the responsibility they hold from running these accounts.

“Even though some of the accounts are meant to be funny, it is important for the students that make the accounts to be aware of the power that they hold and how quickly they can shift from meaningless jokes to cyberbullying,” Miller said.

*Names have been changed