By Aisha Ditta
Spotted: Coventry University, “To that final year law student slutty girl in the hub who wore a mini skirt hardly covering her arse, if you had a bf why you gave your number to my friend?” Posted 20 October 2014 and liked by only three people, this is ‘Spotted’ Facebook in all its glory.
Replying to this post, the girl in subject answered: “I’m so glad what I wore offended you enough for you to label me as slutty because I rejected your friend when he whatsapp’d me. You and your friend pestered me as I was in a rush to meet my friends so I reluctantly gave it you as you said it was good to ‘network’ and I don’t have a boyfriend I just didn’t fancy talking to you which I’m really glad I didn’t now.” This was liked by 41 people. Almost instantly, 11 other people also jumped to her defence, commenting, “this isn’t the sixties” and “dang, how dare she wear what she wants.” Unlike prior misconceptions, ‘Spotted’ isn’t all about abusive messages where students insult one another in the name of humour.
‘Spotted’ on Facebook has become quite the trend. A university-‐wide page where users can post comments anonymously most of which are flirtatious, gossip or insulting and cruel. Many pages post crude photographs showing faces and even full names that are available worldwide on the Internet while fellow students leave hurtful comments. Yet the ‘About’ pages clarify that “all statuses are sent in by anonymous members and do not reflect the opinions or beliefs of the Admin team”. Surprisingly, one of the world’s leading universities -‐ University College London -‐ also has a ‘Spotted’ page.
UCL’s ‘Spotted’ admin is currently studying an intensive degree (with high entry requirements) and range of compulsory modules alongside difficult assignments. Asking to remain anonymous, she opened up about the more positive side of certain pages and the heartwarming messages sent to her on Facebook. Contrary to popular belief, ‘Spotted’ doesn’t always have to as harmful as everyone seems to think.
This isn’t the first UCL ‘Spotted’ page. The first page was abandoned around a year ago when the previous admin graduated. As a second-year undergraduate who enjoyed procrastinating by reading funny posts on ‘Spotted’, she decided to make a new one. Starting with only one or two likes, the page suddenly exploded overnight with hundred of likes pouring in. “It was insane, I didn’t expect it”. Speaking about how she has other admins that she likes to call “minions” to help filter posts, it’s obvious she’s just a normal student who also has a lot of coursework and exams to study for. Mid-conversation however, she realised her bedroom windows are open. “Shit, there’s a lot of UCL students in this building,” it’s clear she doesn’t want her identity revealed. During the rest of the chat, she speaks quieter and with more caution. The reason for anonymity she explains is because the admin team would lose trust in her.
She controversially decided not to post sexually explicit messages and photographs allowing users to identify someone and soon stopped receiving those kinds of messages. “I wouldn’t like it if someone did it to me. I wouldn’t mention names, it’s all about privacy.” Taking a completely different stance seen on the usual ‘Spotted’ pages,
‘Spotted: UCL’ still has over 7000 likes despite the strict filtering.
As a typical undergraduate, the workload always adds up throughout the academic year. It can seem easier to abandon the page but a heartwarming message last year was the perfect reminder to keep the ‘Spotted’ page updated.
Spotted: UCL received the message on 24 November 2013 from the admin’s friend (who doesn’t know about the UCL’s admin part-time social networking page).
“To the girl in the science library today with the cut on her wrist almost hidden by her sleeve. Sometimes, life’s a little tough. Sometimes, it feels as if no matter how hard you try, nothing you do is good enough. Sometimes, it feels as if the whole world’s getting on just fine and it’d be even better without you. Now I don’t know your story, heck I don’t even know your name… but no matter what you think, I promise you that you DO matter and you DO make a difference. It’s not easy; some of us have been down that path, but talk to someone… tell them how you feel and you never know, it might make you feel better. You are so incredibly beautiful and this world deserves to see the butterfly you’ll become. It’s just sometimes you’ve got to fall before you can fly.” (727 likes)
This post went viral and deservingly got over 700 likes with the girl in question even messaging the admin to say thanks. “I know this is a page about ‘Spotted’ but it can have good outcomes as well. This post was indirect and all of a sudden so many people care.” She sounds sincere and grateful that her page has helped someone through a rough time. The viral nature encouraged by these pages means a few likes can suddenly turns into hundreds, shared across the web with millions of people.
Yet this isn’t the only happy-go story. “There’s been romance through ‘Spotted’ last year.” After messages came through about a boy and girl in the university café who kept looking over at each other, she wrote some encouraging advice to the couple who are now dating. The couple realised the ‘Spotted’ post was directed at them so ended up talking at the café before continuing their relationship. Cute.
Dan Burton, an aspiring journalist studying at Coventry University, added: “I’d definitely be upset if someone posted something embarrassing or rude about me I think if it’s used in the right way then it’s really helpful. But I think some people abuse it and it could possibly make people feel victimised.”
It’s difficult to run a page that can easily cause controversy. She describes UCL students as opinionated and intelligent, many of whom argue feminine rights. Last year, another admin failed to filter a message about a girl working out in the gym. The sexually offensive post was sent in by a male student and the ‘Spotted’ page was heavily criticised. This was the only post deleted from ‘Spotted’ due to the majority calling for it to be removed. “I choose to find funny things to post to brighten up people’s day but it’s hard to constantly find things that people will like.” Currently running the page alone, she’s determined to continue making people smile even if being admin can be hard work.
While most ‘Spotted’ pages take a different approach, if more pages were similar to UCL’s, there might be many happier students walking the hallways.