Students and administration question parody account’s influence
Student Life Editor
Until 2006, Facebook was the online water cooler and unofficial outlet for individuals to gossip and show off their personal lives. It was and still is a place for people to post photos depicting how exciting their relatively mundane lives are. It’s the ultimate breeding ground for passive aggressive statuses to show just how you really feel. It’s a place to connect with long lost friends and family, exes you thought you’d forgotten about, and the only place you can get “poked” by a classmate or co-worker and not file a sexual harassment complaint.
And with all that, Keene State College got a little bit smaller when classmates’ faces and names began popping up on more than just the Facebook Newsfeed.
How about that awkward moment when a student realizes the person next to him or her in class is the drunk, passed out kid in the photo @ksc_blackout just tweeted, or they see their name mentioned by @KSC_Crushes, or the conversation they just had with a friend is retweeted by Overheard at KSC, @eavesdropKSC.
In 2012, Facebook had an estimated one billion users worldwide. But six years prior, another social network was created in San Francisco, Calif., and has since boomed into the new go-to for posting photos, daily complaints and thoughts, all under 140 characters.
It’s Twitter. In 2013, Twitter estimated it had 500 million users worldwide. KSC, like other colleges and universities, has taken advantage of the site, creating multiple Twitter parody accounts. These accounts include @KeeneStatePblms, the unofficial “first” KSC account, and many others such as @KSCConfessions, @KSCCompliments, @KSCgirlProblems and even a Twitter account for the over-aggressive campus squirrels.
In October 2011, the account @KeeneStatePblms paved the entrance for the school into the Twitter world. Its creator, a KSC student who wished to remain unnamed, said the idea came from noticing other colleges’ accounts where students tweeted about problems and people on campus.
The creator started the account as an outlet not with the objective for people to tweet about what is wrong with the campus but, rather, tweet suggestions.
“I created the account not thinking it would be this whole big thing,” the student said.
The KSC junior established a line that tweets or retweets cannot cross.
“Sometimes people will tweet stuff about DC staff or student center staff and I don’t know if I want to retweet that. I don’t want it being brought back to me that I retweeted that.” ‘Problems’ creator said the aim is to keep the account as lighthearted and inoffensive as possible, and that often, when rude or targeted tweets come in, they will not be retweeted. The creator said tweets are read over carefully so as to avoid anything being misinterpreted.
“The most fun is seeing people agree or seeing the retweets climb,” the student said, “It’s just seeing that people agree and that people connect over it. That’s the best.”
Eric Grady, a KSC junior and a University System student body representative, said he follows @KeeneStatePblms and the account @eavesdropKSC. Grady said these accounts, and others, could have the potential to hurt the college’s image.
Grady said that while accounts like @KeeneStatePblms are good for current students, it might not be a good image for incoming students.
“I think they’re not great for the college’s public relations, as far as recruiting new students,” he said, “But I think for our current students it’s funny and it’s a way to blow off steam.”
The junior said he sometimes checks the account before attending Student Government meetings to see what the students are upset about or want to see changed.
Another account with a similar goal of sharing laughs is @eavesdropKSC.
The student creator, who also asked to remain unnamed, explained the account as a place for students to tweet humorous conversations they hear with the hashtag describing the conversation’s location. The creator stated, “I think I pretty much will retweet any quote that is said. I think the funniest ones are the ones that people cannot really relate to but laugh at. Some of them might give off a negative vibe about college life here, but I think that’s college life anywhere.” Another Twitter account shares the same goal of seeing students positively come together.
KSC student and creator of @KSCCompliments,
who asked to remain anonymous, said she created the account with the intention of spreading a positive image for the college among some of the more negative Twitter accounts.
The freshman, who began the popular account only a month ago, said, “I knew there were a few other accounts that were anonymous, but a lot of them have negative vibes.” Ms. Compliments mentioned the account @ksc_blackout as one of these accounts, where students tweet photos of their friends, or anyone, blackout drunk. “It’s hilarious, but it’s not really that positive of an image.”
@ksc_blackout was reached for comment and refused an interview.
The account has since been deleted. However, its tweets and their effect have not faded as quickly as its 15 minutes of Twitter fame.
Robert Weiner, KSC professor and women’s volleyball coach, stated he has seen his athletes on @ksc_blackout. “It is what it is. The idea that people find this funny is kind of tragic to me because it isn’t,” the coach said. Weiner continued to express his concern for this college generation’s “fascination” with drinking to excess and bragging about such “accomplishments.”
“I’m fascinated by cultural change over the time from when I was a student until now. It’s changed, it’s different,” he continued, “I didn’t drink with the expectation of blacking out, ever, therefore I didn’t. I think somehow that the desire and the okay-ness of partying past the finish line is scary.”
Weiner said he is alarmed at the idea that friends would publicly share photos of their friends in the blackout state. He said it says a lot about friendships today and how and why other people are interested in seeing these images.
“Maybe it confirms the worst stereotypes about college student behavior,” he said, “If any sort of survey you do college-wide proved this is not the norm, this is the tail wagging the dog.”
Weiner said he was aware that KSC was not the only college with these accounts and warned of the image such accounts might send.
“I think it lowers the perception of what we’re really here to do, and I’m not speaking about athletics, I’m talking about higher education in general, or being in your 20s in general. This is going to go on whether or not we have twitter accounts for it, but I don’t think we need to see it,” he said.
Some students have a different perception of the account than Coach Weiner.
The @KSCCompliments creator said, “Personally, I love @ksc_blackout. I may or may not have been on it once. People are going to blackout even if there wasn’t a Twitter account, pictures are going to be taken they’re probably going to be tweeted, it’s just a place for them to go.”
The @KeeneStatePblms founder called the account “controversial.”
Grady commented on Blackout and said if he were ever to blackout at a party he would not want his photo taken and then tweeted by a stranger.
“That could hurt your image or even your credibility for a job or internship. I think some of them go a little too far. There’s a very thin line,” he said.
Another controversial account still in existence is KSC Boobs, an account established just in the beginning of the Spring 2013 semester by a non-KSC student who did not want to reveal his identity. The creator said the account was made after noticing the success of other parody college accounts. He explained students email photos to a private KSC Boobs account where they are then tweeted.
The creator said there are some established boundaries concerning what will be tweeted.
“Anything completely nude or that expose any kind of reproductive parts,” the creator said, would not be tweeted.
“There’s nothing wrong with just seeing like regular boobs. We wouldn’t show vagina or anything like that. We’re just trying to appeal to a fan-base of a bunch of horny 18 or 19 or 20 year olds,” he said.
Another account hit Twitter recently: @KSC_Crushes.
“I chose that because I’d seen the others and KSC already had a bunch of other ones,” the KSC freshman account creator, who wished to remain unnamed, said. She commented on the popularity of other KSC Twitter accounts and said that for the most part, the accounts exist to be lighthearted fun and should not be taken too seriously.
“I think the majority are fun and harmless,” the student continued. “Personally I don’t think the KSC Boobs one is that great. People saw @ksc_blackout as fun and entertaining. And the @KSCConfessions is funny. They’re just entertaining to read.” The student did note that @ksc_blackout and @Kscboobs did seem to have the potential to create problems for the college.
@KSCConfessions, who wished not to reveal their identity, said that account will never tweet or retweet confessions that state names or could easily be traced back to an individual and cause harm, like other accounts could potentially do. The account will tweet names, leaving that judgement for potential harm in the hands of the freshman.
The creator commented, “We’re all very aware of the things college students do. The difference between @KSCConfessions and [@ksc_blackout], that’s showing people who are exploiting the person. I could see how the school could be mad about it. I don’t think it’s harmful in any way. If someone’s offended by a post it’ll be taken down.” The Confessions creator shared that in the last week the Confessions account was suspended because of people reporting the account to Twitter.
The student noted the risk and danger these students put themselves in when creating a KSC affiliated account. The student noted that the potential for harm and a bad image is nothing to take lightly.
“I think people get confused and think that I’m the one saying these things. I do want to remain anonymous because it’s fun to be behind the scenes but I don’t think administration would be offended, but if they were, it’s definitely scary.”
Jen Ferrell, director of student involvement, stated that @KSCConfessions account as “a big problem.”
The director said that though she personally does not like @KeeneStatePblms, she sees its effects as less harmful than the Confessions account.
Ferrell said she was most alarmed by @KSCConfessions. “That one is most concerning to me because of what I’ve seen on there. Seems like it could have the most detrimental effect on individuals or organizations because there are so many actual names. Would you
actually post that on a piece of paper and put it on all the trees around here?” Farrell said if people are thinking these things and making these “confessions” to friends, there is minimal harm done. However, when it’s presented via Twitter to just about anyone with access to Twitter, it could become dangerous.
“What if someone said they raped someone? Or some horrible thing. There is no way to follow up with that, yet you have this knowledge of that–how detrimental could that be to the campus community? The effects of it are ripple effects.” Though the account creator swore to never retweet something with such potential harm, Farrell didn’t buy it.
“It’s not a harmless thing. That’s never true,” she said.
The director agreed with Weiner and stated she was disgusted by the @ksc_blackout account. “I have this really horrible level of disappointment that that exists,” she said. KSC parody Twitter accounts as a whole have the potential to give a less positive image to the college as a whole, according to Vice President of Student Affairs Paul Striffolino.
Striffolino commented specifically on the @ksc_blackout account and stated the account had a “malicious motivation.” He did say, however there could be some value in accounts such at @KeeneStatePblms where the account could be used constructively.
“There’s some value in that,” he said, “It’s good for us to know what things could be improved on campus. That’s constructive, I’d say. But to do something malicious or say something negative about another person and know that you’re getting away with it and not taking any responsibility for that statement, I don’t have any respect for somebody like that,” he said.
Ferrell also commented on the account @eavesdropKSC, “That stuff is usually crap,” she said, stating that the account does nothing positive for the school’s image. “Most of the things are rude, crude or obnoxious—something with a serious shock value.”
Students and administration do not neatly intersect on the subject of Twitter. Some students believe nothing should be taken too seriously, while administration thinks everything should be taken seriously. Whether or not the students and creators of these accounts will meet on the same page as those above them, time may tell. Ferrell reminded the creators of those accounts of the responsibility they take on with the creation.
“Something these people need to realize is the incredible level of responsibility they have. Those people have the ability to not post something.” The director took everything back to the golden rule. She asked, “If you wouldn’t want it done to you, isn’t that this whole role we have? You never know where people are at. You don’t know the one thing that could be tweeted that could send someone over the edge. Something I find totally fine might be something you’ve had some horrible experience in that you just can’t deal. You never know, and that’s the problem.”
Julie Conlon can be contacted at