From SMFA Affirmations to Tufts Ice Cream, student-run Instagram accounts shake up Tufts’ online presence

A computer displaying student-run instagram account @tuftsaffirmations is pictured on March 9. Kiana Vallo / The Tufts Daily
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Tufts inhabits a variety of online spaces, and Instagram is one that represents a motley of cultural life, coming in the form of student-run accounts that are not affiliated with Tufts as an institution. These social media accounts are often anonymous and sustained by contributions from a community of users. 

Some accounts cater toward the Tufts student population at large, while some serve a more specific target audience, such as SMFA Affirmations, anonymously run by a first-year student who spoke with the Daily under the pseudonym Monica.

I’m a freshman, which is pretty obvious from my posts because first-year BFA residents are all on Beacon Street. A lot of my friends saw Tufts Affirmations, … and were like, ‘Oh, my God, we should have one for SMFA, because we have very, you know, hyper-specific gripes and things that we all relate to,’” Monica said.

Other accounts were also inspired by existing trends among American colleges and high schools, and add to a larger network of social media accounts that revolve around the same theme yet are grounded in the context of a certain school. 

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Tufts Fits, an account run by a group of six account administrators, created a group chat that now includes many similar Instagram accounts that feature ‘fits,’short for outfits, of students from institutions around the country. Tufts Fits spoke to the Daily under the pseudonym Seymour.

It’s really strange actually … like sometimes I’ll see [students from other ‘fit’ accounts], and they’ll be following people that I know, so it’s like this kind of little community,” Seymour said.

In the case of first-year Justin Perez, his account Tufts Liminal Spaces was inspired by a similar account made by his friend at another university. 

One of my friends actually started [a liminal spaces] account [at] Johns Hopkins, and he told me about it, and the idea seemed really interesting to me,” Perez said.And then I basically also told my friends at other colleges like Duke, Northeastern and Berkeley to do the same thing, and it’s a thing now at multiple universities.

Independent social media accounts might also attract the attention of prospective students. Joey Marmo, an incoming first-year from Levittown, N.Y., came across a couple of student-run Tufts accounts on Instagram after he decided he was going to apply. They offered a special glimpse into the milieu where he would be spending the next few years, directly from his soon-to-be peers.

I feel like the word that everyone was using on the [Tufts campus] tour was … ‘quirky’ … and [these accounts] definitely [show] how quirky, I guess, [Tufts] is. I hate using that word, … but yeah it just seems like a fun community,” Marmo said.

The content that accounts will post range in tone and intended purpose. Perez described the tone of Tufts Liminal Spaces.

[The account creates] an activity … [involving working] together throughout campus exploring and looking for dark, spooky places,” Perez said.

SMFA Affirmations seeks to spin self-aware comedy out of collectively-felt issues. 

We’re just trying to come together and make dumb jokes that only, you know, [SMFA students] specifically will relate to, and maybe air out grievances, but not in a way that supposes that we have it the worst of [all] Tufts students,” Monica said.

Monica outlined the effect that SMFA Affirmations is meant to have on the SMFA community.

Obviously with a meme account, there’s not a lot of very high aspirations … but I do think it’s interesting that, besides just posting relatable things, people will DM me and be like, ‘Hey, there’s something that’s going on … Can you post this on your story? Can you spread awareness about this?’” Monica said.Just, getting ideas out there or connecting people to other people is something that I have been doing and totally did not expect to do going into this account,” 

Jimmy is a pseudonym for one of the administrators of Tufts Ice Cream, an anonymously-run Instagram account that accepts candid photo submissions of students eating soft serve ice cream in the dining halls. In their opinion, anonymity surrounding the management of such an account is a key element of its success. 

[Anonymity] adds to the excitement of the account, because we hear people around us questioning our identity which makes it funny for us and fun for others. We also believe people are more willing to send in pictures to an anonymous account,” Jimmy wrote in a statement to the Daily.

Account managers must decide their own terms and conditions for publishing content directly submitted by other Tufts students. Ethical considerations include the consent of people featured in photos and the anonymity of users who submit suggestions.

Jimmy does not require the expressed approval of the students displayed on Tufts Ice Cream posts. 

It’s a lighthearted account and if the person in the picture is upset they can [DM] us and we will take down the post,” Jimmy wrote.

In contrast, Tufts Fits only accepts consensual submissions after a negative experience that occurred in the early stages of the account. The administrators had posted a photo of a person’s outfit and received a disapproving comment from one of the person’s friends. After that interaction, they decided to only post with a person’s consent.

Independently-run social media accounts certainly amplify student voices, though they aren’t truly democratic forms of expression so much as creative outlets for those who run them. Overall, they service the Tufts student community with spirit and goodwill. 

As with any commitment, it takes time and effort to be responsible for a public-facing Instagram account. The results are often worth it, for both the creators and the audience.

I think my favorite [SMFA Affirmations] post is probably when I ‘yassified’ Tony Monaco,” Monica said.It took me like an hour … I feel like I got so much brain rot from doing that because I was trying so hard, and it just looks so weird … I think that’s probably my favorite post, just because of how ridiculous it is.

Tufts Ice Cream has even received multiple requests from people who wish to join the team behind the account or reveal the identities of the administrators. Currently, the administrators have no plans to turn over the account, Jimmy noted.

We’re not sure how long we will run the account for. We will probably continue as long as it’s fun for us and remains popular, Jimmy wrote.

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