Parody Twitter accounts poke fun at University, students

Molly Mcnamara and Molly Mcnamara

With the ability to remain anonymous and still capture the attention of thousands in 140 characters or less, a surge of “parody” Twitter accounts have hit the cyber world.

The University hasn’t gone unnoticed in this Twitter phenomenon, with a fair share of parody accounts made at its expense. Popular accounts have emerged in the past year based on a variety of University-related topics and many have gained a significant following.

Coming in with a little more than 5,700 followers, the Twitter handle @Falcon_Problems is the most popular. The majority of the account’s tweets are retweets from users who tag the popular handle with anything from complaints to what they did during the weekend.

Freshman Alexia Chesbrough started following @FalconProblems this year after hearing about the account from a friend.

“I think it’s funny because it’s just joking around about any problems here,” Chesbrough said. “I’m sure every college has a Twitter account like that.”

The account @OnlyatBGSU, started this past spring, is not far behind in popularity, with a following of more than 3,300. The creator said via direct message he or she began the account with a friend for fun and never expected to gain so many followers.

“We started the account to give students something fun to read that 99.9 percent of the students at BGSU can relate to,” said the now-sole runner of the account.

The creator said they haven’t received much negative feedback from Twitter users and none at all from administrators, but instead actually knows of professors who encourage their students to follow the account.

Another account with a fast growing following is @GossipFalcon, created as a spin off of the television series Gossip Girl.

The account has more than 1,200 followers and, according to its creator, who admitted they will never reveal who they are, is there for people to see humorous things people do on or off campus as well as a way for people to vent.

The account functions based on tips and tweets that users send in via Twitter or an email address set up by the creator. Because these tweets often deal with relations between students, the creator said they have had to draw a fine line in what they will post.

“In the past I have stepped on some toes with controversial posts,” the creator said. “Most people send pictures to me with the intention of slamming someone and I recognize that. What I also recognize is the harm that can cause. With the high amounts of young people committing suicide from online posts, I find it my responsibility to be sensitive and stray away from that.”

Though some of these parody accounts have tweets that can reflect a negative image of the University, Dave Kielmeyer, director of Marketing and Communications, recognizes that the creators and users of the accounts have a right to academic freedom.

“While we’re always interested in protecting the BGSU identity and brand, it’s obviously a free speech issue and people can say what they want,” Kielmeyer said. “One of the founding tenants of universities is free speech and open debate.”

Kielmeyer also said the only area in which they would be concerned is if something tweeted was threatening or a personal attack on a student or faculty member.

While a student or any member of the University community could face the student code of conduct for posting anything threatening or harassing to another University member, the anonymity of Twitter makes it difficult to determine if the identity of a tweeter is even a student.

In a worst-case scenario, such as a threat of violence to a specific student, Kielmeyer said University Police would likely get involved to determine an identity, but it has not been an issue so far.

“Not all of them are negative and some are fun and do kind of help build that sense of community,” he said.

Senior Taylor Kleman, who follows @FalconProblems and knows of @GossipFalcon, agrees the accounts aren’t necessarily bad for the University image and also administrators shouldn’t be able to remove posts.

“I feel that would breed discontent towards the University by the students and, more importantly, infringe upon individual rights of free speech,” Kleman said.

Though the tweets may not all be positive toward the University, creators, followers and administrators don’t think they pose any specific harm.

As followers reach the thousands among these accounts and those alike, it’s unlikely they will disappear anytime soon.

“My followers make the job of manning the account fun and enjoyable,” said @OnlyatBGSU’s creator. “I think it’s awesome how many followers the account has and I thank each and every one because I would be nothing without them.”