Looking for laughs online

Chronicle Staff

By Justine Goode and Victor Yoon

 ”I don’t know why they haven’t tried triple stuffed Oreo cookies yet, because I would be ON THAT.” “C-Minus students deserve to be placed in the middle of the classroom, blindfolded, and burned with cigars as their classmates throw tomatoes at them.” “In elementary school, I read Hermione/Ginny fanfiction online. I feel you judging me right now.” These one-liners are only a few of the posts that have appeared since the beginning of the year on the Tumblr blog Overheard at HW, which documents snippets of conversation between students and faculty on campus.

On Facebook, groups and fan pages dedicated to various faculty members have also emerged, such as the Ted Walch page, which has gathered over 150 fans since its creation.

OAHW itself has gained almost 500 fans since it was created by seniors in the class of 2009. It is now run by two seniors who reinvented the site after they said last year’s class allowed it to fall by the wayside.

“Last year’s seniors tried to keep it up, but they failed,” Caleb* ’11 said. “We contacted the ’08-’09 kids and got the domain, the passwords and the email addresses.  We made a new layout, created a Facebook fan page so anyone could ‘like’ us, and updated the submission process so quotes could be submitted directly on the site.”

These improvements have renewed interest in the site, which receives 50 to 60 submissions a month. The influx of submissions requires the site administrators to be selective, as they only post one quote a day. Both administrators agree on what gets posted, but do not edit it once it is up except for occasionally changing punctuation or names for anonymity.

“I see Overheard as an awesome medium to bring the community together in a manner that’s based on laughing at ourselves and the administration,” Caleb said.

Despite its popularity, the site may bring up questions concerning its compliance with the school’s Technology Acceptable Use policy, which states, “If you present yourself as a representative of a school club, school publication, or other Harvard Westlake organization, you must have the permission of the Head of School before posting anything to a site outside Harvard-Westlake.” Caleb said he was previously unaware of the policy, but hopes that the site meets its demands. The abbreviation “H-W” doesn’t directly refer to the school, and the site administrators don’t limit themselves to posting quotes only heard on campus.

“We try our best to make sure all postings do not include any names, places, or groups that could somehow be linked to any specific school,” Caleb said. “If a school for whatever reason thought we were misrepresenting them by using a specific set of two of 26 letters that happen to form the abbreviation of their name (and not to mention the commonly used abbreviations for homework, Hot Wheels, Halo Wars, Harriet-Watt University, and George H.W. Bush himself), then we would be happy to negotiate over email and consider a possible agreement.”

Facebook groups and pages celebrating faculty have sprung up as well. Students can now “like” Ted Walch and Kevin O’Malley or join the group “You might be a disciple of Mr. Yaron if…”. Though the pages are borne out of appreciation, the idea of an online fan base unsettles some teachers.

“It’s kind of eerie. I never understood the utility of this Facebook thing,” history teacher Dror Yaron said. “I would much prefer to hang out with all my so-called disciples and engage in the tangible give and take of real life, say somewhere in the allures of nature, where we can walk briskly and converse in real time.”

The most recent Facebook trend has been a series of albums posted by Ben Castillo ’11 entitled “Seniors DGAF” (an acronym for “Doesn’t Give a F***”). The albums feature pictures of seniors with an appropriately disaffected look on their face and a caption emblazoned across the photo of their name and a variation of the phrase “DGAF.” Castillo said each album takes about a week to create, while an individual photo takes two minutes. He was inspired to make the albums after seeing a similar photo on a friend’s profile. Getting the photos he needs hasn’t been difficult for Castillo.

“I have to admit, there is some [profile] stalking involved,” he said. “But most of it is people sending me their own pictures.”


*name has been changed