Facebook is not complete for a St Andrews student without Overheard in St Andrews. For anyone who hasn’t discovered the joys of Overheard, it’s a Facebook group for you to post funny things that you’ve overheard people saying in town. From dodgy flirting to drunken misunderstandings to downright absurdity, there have been constant updates on the group for the last three years or so, although none quite as good as my all-time favourite:
“What’s the number for 999 in Scotland?”
You know where this story’s going. After a couple of years of activity and a growing number of users (at time of writing, the group has 7,177) someone decided that the group would be a fantastic way to contact the entire student base at once, and a lot of posts started looking a lot more like this:
“Sorry guys, I didn’t overhear this, but you should definitely check out my Mermaids show, freshers’ week event, sponsored run, research questionnaire, or whatever the hell else I think everyone else needs to know about right now. I know it’s not meant to go in this group, but it’s important!”
To start with, it was something you could ignore. Okay, someone’s spamming a joke Facebook group, but hey, there are still good posts, and my life’s not going to end. But as more and more self-promoting idiots started to see the group as a way to advertise, the pools of junk got bigger and bigger until the entire group was just a sea of spam. That’s when people started to get annoyed, and the war began.
Every time a spam post appeared, a barrage of abuse would appear underneath it as everyone leapt to defend their group from the invading spammers. I joined in, and I honestly had a lot more fun flaming the poor people trying to sell tickets or promote societies than I ever had reading quotes. So I kept it up, pretty much only checking the group at all so I could go and shout at people to relieve stress.
Now, it’s a bit of an uncomfortable moment when someone on the group is promoting a charity. You do feel a bit like Mr. Burns if you complain about someone supporting charities by promoting it on a Facebook page. But then, how far is reasonable? A great case, as always, was the KONY 2012 campaign earlier this year. As soon as someone kindly posted a link to the video on Overheard, people immediately jumped in to defend it, pointing out that as a cause it was far too important to be subject to the usual bashing we treat spam with. And we were all happy for about 24 hours, until suddenly someone realised the truth: only hipsters care about African children. It was remarkable how quickly public opinion changed, and the people defending the video not two days before were attacking it as a pointless, self-serving cause abusing an issue that doesn’t really exist. More evidence that people on the Internet don’t make any sense at all, so I just carried on telling everyone not to spam.
Eventually people noticed that it was always the same guy being horrible on all the posts, and some people started calling me the “Overheard Police”. That was fun! The only time it got a bit creepy was when a girl came over to me when I was sitting on one of the sofas in the union to tell me that she recognised me from Facebook and liked my posts. So, drunk union girl, if you’re reading this: you seemed very nice, but that was a bit creepy. Also, you have weird hair.
The other opportunity this slight celebrity has given me is the chance to write in The Saint, starting from this week. Apparently they want a light-hearted, slightly angry, ranty opinion column for people to read, and “that guy from Facebook” seemed like a good choice. I did write a very good article which was meant to go in the previous issue, but at the last minute The Saint’s bloodsucking business manager gave me some story about printing issues and time constraints and told me that article was going to be an online exclusive. And if that’s what he told me, then who am I to question it? I thought about writing online for The Stand instead, but I don’t think I have enough material about the difficulties of finding men in Ma Bell’s to keep it up for an entire year.
Anyway, hopefully this article will make it into this week’s issue and I’ll have a regular place to vent my rage other than this year’s relatively peaceful Overheard. Weirder things have happened, eh?