Madeleine Crutchley mourns the loss of the famous Overheard @ UOA Facebook page, revisiting the glory days and celebrating what once was. When did it all go wrong?
Since we’ve been shoved off-campus and into our isolated study-caves for most of the uni year, Facebook has become one of the most important spaces for students to foster a sense of community. AUSA has been utilising the platform throughout the year, with quizzes, Zoom sessions and regular updates constantly flowing into student’s newsfeeds. At Craccum, we’ve also relied heavily on FB to keep our connection to students, since we’ve been unable to actually distribute any physical copies on campus. We’ve even ventured into *shudder* meme-making to try to get your clicks. However, AUSA and Craccum aren’t the only pillars of student culture; student-run FB groups have been crucial to maintaining connection and solidarity during the long and punishing remote learning periods.
In addition to the Titan that is Overheard, there are a few incredibly popular groups and pages that students from UOA tend to converse in and around. UoA: meaningful confessions, currently sitting at about 22K likes, allows students to submit anonymous text and repost the opinions/confessions/cries for help to the main page. They cover everything from mental health struggles to complaints about university decisions (most recently, someone slandered the increase in the price of Munchy Mart muffins). You’re not a true UOA student until you’ve desperately scrolled through the page, hoping to be someone’s #LOVECONFESSION.
Relatable Memes for University of Auckland Teens isn’t far behind the confessions page, with just under 22K likes. This one is pretty self-explanatory; the page shares memes made by UOA students. Throughout the second semester, these memes have often berated the university for bad decisions in the COVID response (namely, the yo-yoing of on-off campus promises). Under usual circumstances, the page also comments on more general aspects of student experience and studying.
Quotes from Professors at UOA sees students relaying the best jokes, comments and roasts from their lecturers. Often these posts are actually quite sweet. Especially during the periods of remote learning, students have been celebrating displays of humanity and empathy coming from their lecturers. Occasionally, they’re not so nice, calling out Professors who do and say stupid things. One of the most popular posts in the last few months called out a Professor for supporting the anti-lockdown protests.
Now onto the star of the hour; Overheard @ UOA. The group currently sits at about 32K members, making it one of the most popular community pages for UOA students on Facebook. In its heyday, members in the group would share funny, bizarre and *relatable* things that they had heard on campus from students, tutors and Professors. In the times before COVID, you were always at risk of having your private conversation broadcast to the wider uni community. The group also became a spot to post updates about events, announcements from uni and AUSA, relevant news articles and, like any other spot online, memes. The demise of the community seems to have come at some point during the first semester. In the transition to remote learning, the page was still going strong, with students exchange messages and memes of solidarity. There were jokes about Zoom and the absence of sensational chicken, as well as consistent trading of information about the university’s COVID response plan. Things were good. Then, at some point during June, things started to get hairy. A few users (but largely one account) start to spam the page with religious posts. Craccum managed to talk to the main culprit, who defended her right to share her point of view. However, critics were just as outspoken; one stated “When did this page become a platform for Christian propaganda? Don‘t get me wrong, it’s hilarious, I just don’t think it fits the group’s purpose.” The group was also home to COVID disinformation and nasty attacks amongst students. The lack of active admins and moderators was causing the sense of community to disintegrate quickly.
Shortly after these complaints were lodged, True Overheard @ UOA was launched. The organisers told Craccum’s Justin Wong “When people post really harmful material, or spread disinformation about COVID, there’s nobody to really police that other than community moderation, which can be very easily thwarted by the poster.” The group currently has 3.6K members and has steadily been gaining traction. Meanwhile, the original group continued to descend in toxic chaos. Now, in October (crunchtime of second semester, when students arguably need these community based pages the most), it has become home to one vocal user who consistently posts about Judith Collins, Jacinda Ardern, ACT, Blue Lives Matter, socialism and communism. Also, some guy is looking for a girlfriend? Many members seem to be sticking around, snacking on popcorn, watching in wonder as the once-great group burns itself to the ground. It’s a contained sense of chaos, which is quite therapeutic in the larger scheme of things.
For now, I’ll ask you to all pour one out for Overheard @ UOA. What more will 2020 take from us?