There is great power in shared experience. Unexpected commonalities are where the internet gets most of its material. Somehow, everyone’s parents kept sewing supplies in a Royal Dansk cookie tin. Somehow, every child pretends that raindrops on a car window are racing one another. People risk their scores on College Board exams – which could decide their entire future – to make or reblog relatable memes. Internet jokes can be the force behind the rise or the downfall of celebrities, companies, and politicians. There is a new era of the mob mentality, and it exists online.
It should come as no surprise then, that universities – hotspots of nihilistic millennials trying to procrastinate – all have immensely popular online communities, specifically on Facebook. There are confession pages, crush pages, and meme pages of varying qualities. St Andrews has its fair share of these; at the time of writing this, St Feuddrews has 1.2k likes, Doggos of St Andrews has 1.4k, St Andrews Crushes 3.0 has 2.8k, and St Memedrews has 5.8k. The recently created St Fessdrews is also skyrocketing in popularity. These numbers are even more impressive when you consider that they don’t represent the whole picture: there are plenty of people (admittedly myself included) who haven’t necessarily “liked” the pages, but who certainly frequent them.
St Andrews is a small university in a small town (in case you hadn’t noticed), and our inside jokes are numerous and concentrated. You’re likely to agree with the feuds on St Feuddrews and relate to the memes on St Memedrews. You’re likely to see posts about your friends on St Andrews Crushes 3.0 and rush to tag them. We live in a small but active community, and our online presence mirrors that. The flip side of this is that our size limits our material. We simply cannot provide the volume and diversity of posts that a larger university can. The meme pages don’t post very often, and when they do, the memes are often slightly-altered versions of something that’s already been done. There are bound to be some dull confessions on St Fessdrews and tired feuds on St Feuddrews – we live in a sleepy seaside town, and the fact that there was so much interest around a girl who couldn’t get her bra back from a hookup is a testament to how little actually happens here.
It’s not just current students who spend too much time scrolling through the St Andrews Facebook pages, either. There are numerous submissions from townspeople, especially on St Feuddrews. There seems to be some division as to whether this open platform to air out complaints regarding elitism and entitlement improves town/gown relations or just stokes the flames, but both sides are actively involved. They are certainly aware of this controversy: the page “story” for St Feuddrews reads, “This is St Andrews University, when worlds collide, there will be friction.”
Prospective and incoming students, too, can get a feeling for St Andrews and its… quirks, before they even arrive. Current fresher Ranna Mehr says that she found out about many of the unspoken norms of life in St Andrews – Dervish, slow walkers on Market Street, the reputations of different halls – through the pages, especially St Memedrews. There is a definite culture of St Andrews that cannot be captured on the website or in the Prospectus, but it can be effectively illustrated through a series of feuds, or a couple good memes.
So who is behind these pages? Their administration remains shrouded in mystery – to those who submit to the pages and those who follow them. When I messaged them, though, they were surprisingly willing to answer my questions.
St Andrews Crushes 3.0 is, as the name would suggest, the third page of its kind. The current owner created the page after 2.0 had been inactive for five days, following weeks of infrequent posting. They asked a friend to like the page and to send some submissions to get it started, so it would appear on people’s timelines organically. In fact, they still haven’t “liked” the page themself, so no one can connect them to it. At first, the admin had to copy each submission from a Google form, but then they discovered Crushninja, an anonymous submission platform which has since been picked up by other St Andrews pages. Even with the streamlined process, they have to spend about an hour filtering through the upwards of 60 submissions they receive on a daily basis. They try to post every submission (as long as they are relevant and not obviously cruel), but will take posts down if asked to. The submissions are mostly posted in chronological order, but the admin admits to sometimes bumping their own crushes to the front of the queue.
St Feuddrews, meanwhile, was inspired by Oxfeud, a page of similar nature present at Oxford. It followed the precedent set by St Andrews Crushes 3.0: creating a page on Facebook, encouraging anonymous submissions through Crushninja. They receive about 10-15 submissions in a day, and filter out the ones that are “too controversial” or “too targeted at one person.” The level of controversy on the page seems to be up for debate, evidenced by recent posts, “Filter what you post and stop giving these idiots a platform. I used to enjoy this page but it’s just hateful and rude now,” says one submission. When asked if the admin is worried about the University tracing the page back to them, they responded “No, because it has a lot of student support, so as long as I’m careful about what I post it should be fine.” They continued that they hoped that the page can cause positive change, but even if nothing changes, “…things are better left said than unsaid.” With a heated debate surrounding free speech at universities right now, many people have strong opinions surrounding the morality of St Feuddrews.
Though the anonymous crush and feud pages are an excellent time waster, there’s nothing our generation loves more than a good meme – or an ironically bad one. St Memedrews doesn’t quite have the St Andrews meme market completely cornered, but it is leagues ahead of its competition. It was created in January of 2016 out of pure boredom, and the owner is “still not entirely sure why so many people like this page, it’s not even that good.” Facebook memes are a double-edged sword: the memes are generally not as fresh as those you would find on Twitter or Tumblr – and Facebook has been seen in the past as a platform for 50-something mothers with the “let me talk to the manager” haircut to post minion memes – but sometimes, people can really appreciate an ironic, stale meme. The admin admits that, “There is always a concern for keeping up with the trends, but at the end of the day, all I’m doing is changing a punchline to something about drinking a Pablo or eating Dervish… so it’s not the most groundbreaking stuff anyways.”
Some days, St Memedrews can get five or six submissions, but then they can go a whole week only getting one or two. Though some people do know the true identity of the person behind the page (“well yeah some people know who I am, I mean, I do have friends”), they refused to reveal any aspect of their identity to me. Even if you think you know who runs it though, you may be wrong: the admin spoke about a time when they met a guy in The Rule who introduced himself as the person behind St Memedrews. What I can tell you is this: the person behind it is exactly what a person running a meme page should be – apathetic, sarcastic, and self-deprecating. When asked how much time they spent scrolling through memes on a given day, they responded, “Too much, any amount of time spent doing that is too much”.
That hits a little too close to home.
Online, we have created a unique community that can be instantly understood by anyone of a certain age, regardless of background or culture, but that has proven mostly inaccessible to older generations. Universities, meccas of the young and connected, play host to online sub-communities of growing numbers and influence. You can learn an awful lot about St Andrews by taking a quick scroll through our various Facebook pages – sometimes, more than you really wanted to know.
The internet can be a platform for free speech. It can be a way to find that person you made eye contact with across a crowded room. It can be a little piece of home – something that is the same no matter where you are in the world. As an unusually cosmopolitan group of people, having something we can constantly return to is a comforting thought. Regardless, the internet – both as a very effective time-waster and as a driver for real change – is an absolutely essential part of our generational culture.