Last October, a first-year student from the United Kingdom started the Instagram account ‘UvAHappenings’ through which UvA students can share their unfettered opinions about life at the university. For fear of criticism, the creator and administrator prefers to remain anonymous.
Why the anonymity?
‘Everyone who uses the account is anonymous. I don’t know anything about the students who submit their stories, and they don’t know who I am. This way people can share more freely. Likewise, when people send criticise or hate messages, it feels less personal and doesn’t affect me as a person.’
Why did you start UvAHappenings?
‘I noticed that we didn’t have a “community” at the university where students feel at home. Inspired by similar accounts at other universities, I wanted to create a platform where students can interact with each other and experience student life even from a distance.’
(Read more below the Instagram post)
You are also the person behind the Instagram account UvAWellbeing. What is its purpose?
‘It’s meant to be a “safe space” for discussing mental health issues. The past year has taken a toll on my mental health and I had no idea where to go for advice or support. So I created UvAWellbeing for students to share their experiences and advice with each other.’
What do you want to accomplish with these accounts?
‘These accounts are intended for all students, but I think it’s particularly useful for international students. It’s difficult to get to know each other from a distance — as a freshman and as an international student. You’ve just moved to a new country and are trying to find your own place. It can be comforting to hear about other people’s experiences and to be in contact via Instagram.’
How are these accounts different from a study or student association where students come together?
‘While student associations often exist within one study or faculty, these accounts are open for the entire university meaning it can be easier for students from different faculties and programmes to come into contact with each other.’
What is your relationship with the UvA?
‘Although I use the UvA logo, the account is independent of the university. I’m the only administrator. The submissions are of course by and for UvA students. The reason I don’t have another logo is purely because I’m not good at designing logos. If there’s anyone who can and wants to make one then I’m open to it!’
How do you decide which submissions to publish?
‘I post as much as I can. But I don’t publish submissions that are hateful or where anyone can be identified.’