Anonymously UON: A look at the University’s unofficial pages

From the romance of UON Love Letters to the humour of UON Memes, Jack Moran looks into the the unofficial Facebook pages we all know and love.

If you go to the University of Newcastle and have Facebook, you’ve probably seen a post from UON Love Letters appear in your newsfeed. Whether you or one of your friends are part of the 7692 individuals who like the page, you probably have some idea of what it is about. UON Love Letters is just one of several unofficial UON Facebook pages, along with UON Rants, UON Stalkerspace, and UON Memes, that constitute the social media culture of the University.

But are pages like UON Love Letters just harmless fun or could they be an issue for students and staff? According to the University of Newcastle’s Social Media Policy, “the University explicitly prohibits social media being used to harass, vilify, bully or discriminate against another person” and this applies to content on both official and personal social media channels. The University’s Social Media Policy also emphasises that there can be severe consequences to behaviour that breaches the policy. Sanctions that offending students can face are “a warning, counselling, or disciplinary action” and, depending on the severity or nature of the breach, the case may be referred to authorities outside of UON. While some posts sent through to these kinds of pages can be funny and lighthearted, others may be harsher and more personal to the people they refer to.

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Whether sweet, specific, mean or justfied, pages like UON Love Letters and UON Rants have a wide variety of content. Images: UON Love Letters and UON Rants on Facebook.

“I try not to post the ones that are too explicitsays one of the two current admins of UON Love Letters, who wishes to remain anonymous. “But we are now at 7000 likes and we think we will be discussing our new limits very soon”. The admin, a student who took responsibility for the page at the start of the year, also says that they tend not to publish posts that are very offensive, long, or passive aggressive.

The page has a policy of taking down posts if prompted to do so but according to the admin there have been very few requests to take a post down since they took over the page and often they come from the submitter themselves. “We don’t have a complicated process,” they said,  “if someone is feeling uncomfortable or raises a concern regarding the post, and if it’s reasonable, we just remove them”.

According to the admin, the focus of the page is in no way malicious but they are aware of the downsides. “We just want people to have a space where they can send love messages to someone they fancy,” they said. “Personally I don’t mean to harass or offend anyone and I’m aware it’s definitely an issue we need to work on.” The admin is also very conscious of how pages such as theirs can make individuals uncomfortable, as they have been a receiver of a love letter themselves.

“Sometime last year, someone wrote a message on the page that was intended to me. I have a few distinguishable features and they described exactly what I was wearing and doing,” they said. “It was lovely yet extremely creepy at the same time.” When they were offered the positon, they thought they would become an admin to help reduce the amount of weird messages that were posted on the page.

Unofficial Facebook pages like UON Love Letters, UON Rants, UON Stalkerspace, and UON Memes are a popular part of the culture of the University of Newcastle and allow for students to interact with each other, bond over shared experiences and vent the frustrations we all have about aspects of university life. However, like any form of social media they can also be used to bully and to harass. When submitting to pages like these it is important to consider the principals of the Social Media Policy to ensure that the pages – and the University – can be safe and fun places for everyone.

When approached for comment, a representative of UON Marketing referred us to the University’s Social Media Policy and Student Conduct Rule.

Image: Screenshots from UON Love Letters, UON Stalkerspace, UON Rants and UON Memes on Facebook.