Entertaining or Dangerous?
November 18, 2019
Westridge’s notorious Instagram account, @overheard.westridge, has been making news of its own.
The account, which was first started in January of 2018 and is a spoof off of the popular Instagram accounts @overheardla and @overheardnewyork, is anonymously run. With posts ranging from “college is a religion and I’m atheist” to “how do you discreetly throw a mango onto the roof,” the account is dedicated to posting funny, unusual things students and staff have overheard or said on campus. “I think [Overheard Westridge] is pretty funny and a good way to bring the school together. I feel like most of the content on there is pretty unique to Westridge, like it’s the school’s inside jokes,” said Zelia M. ’21.
Ella S. ’22 also enjoys the account. “I really like Overheard Westridge because I’ve always liked overheard accounts. It’s always funny to hear what teachers or students have said or overheard on campus, and it always makes me laugh when their posts pop up in my feed. I also think it’s fun to submit things so that everyone can enjoy them with you. Overall it’s a good concept and a fun way to show Westridge spirit.”
Although most quotes featured on the account come from student conversations, a few postings of teacher conversations have raised an eyebrow or two from teachers who question the accuracy of some of the posts and worry about the potential fallout. “How would you or your classmates feel if teachers posted on the Internet things students said in class without any context and without their permission?” posed Upper School English teacher Katie Wei.
Tina Singh, an Upper School Science teacher who was featured on Overheard Westridge, questioned the safety and privacy of the people who have been quoted on the account. “Although it may be entertaining, I think the anonymity really reduces the validity of what you’re reading.”
The ownership of the account is anonymous. Students can direct message and submit things they’ve heard, but the identity of the person who manages the posts is hidden and unknown to everyone else.
“I post all of the submissions, as long as the content isn’t offensive or inappropriate. A couple times, I’ve gotten some that feel like they’re walking a line, like it could be taken the wrong way, so I don’t post those,” said the Westridge Overheard account owner. “I’ve never considered the posts to be unethical, and I don’t think the Westridge community does either, but I’m very aware of how things can go sideways very quickly. The purpose of Overheard Westridge is to find the silver lining and humor in what can otherwise be a pretty academic, brutal world. I hope that people overhear things, laugh, and then realize they can share it with the community.”
Of the 300 followers on the private account, 100 percent of them are either recent Westridge graduates or current students — with no faculty or staff following it. “I’ve gotten some follow requests from faculty and admin and haven’t let them follow. I think it’s better for students to feel that it is a space for them,” said the owner.
Students who have submitted posts as well try to keep the quotes light-hearted and upbeat. “I chose to submit something because I thought it was funny and I wanted to share it,” said an anonymous person who messaged the account a quote.
For the most part, featured teachers and staff have responded positively or neutrally to the account. “I think there’s potential for danger, but I’m optimistic and hopeful that it’s mainly intended just to be something for fun and entertainment,” said Joe Busch, Upper School Math teacher, who has been featured multiple times.
Bonnie Martinez, Dean of Student Support, is also cautious about the consequences but finds the idea intriguing. “I’m not taking a stance, but I’m going through the pros and cons. In general, I like all of this and think it’s fun and interesting, and that’s what I love about Westridge. I want us to be out there more progressively, quirky, and intellectually, but there’s always going to be a little bit of a risk when doing so, and I want us to be careful.”