Creating or joining a Facebook page for one’s freshman class is a tradition now for many students newly accepted to school. This year’s freshman class page, with over 8,000 members from various classes, was no different — until it began to instigate cyberbullying and fraudulent elections.
Founded by Steinhardt freshman Kevin Lee, the NYU Class of 2018 Facebook group was an attempt to foster a community. With the help of three other administrators, Gallatin freshman Brian Greco, LS freshman Miles Kilcourse and Steinhardt freshman JR Stein, the group started out as a fun way to unite students. It soon turned toxic.
When Class Activities Board elections took place, many freshmen expressed outrage that some, though not all, of the administrators of the Facebook group also ran for CAB leadership positions, seeming to give them an unfair advantage, as they were able to control the postings in the influential group.
Even before any of the freshmen actually arrived at Washington Square, hostility began to separate the class and start gossip. Along with the administrators of the group, a few students also became increasingly popular among the class, rising to freshman year fame with a few posted pictures getting hundreds, even thousands of likes.
As soon as the administrators and a few other popular users arrived on campus, everyone seemed to know their names, as if they were celebrities.
“Somebody came up and grabbed my face,” CAS freshman Hannah Duke said. “It was a strange and objectifying experience.”
Another Facebook user who became influential through the group, LS freshman Carly Tennis, experienced a similar situation.
“I was super unpopular in high school and now it’s weird because people will come up to me and say ‘Hey, you’re Carly Wonderland,’ and I don’t know them,” Tennis said.
These students have become objects of public scrutiny. But Duke points out that while social media is an essential part of this generation, the Class of 2018 Facebook group may have gained too much influence.
“People were judging [other] people in a negative sense and taking things out of context and because it’s the internet, and it’s easier to make sense those judgments,” Duke said. “I guess I kind of brought it on myself because I posted, but I never meant it to become what it has.”
Several posts on the group page have even ignited instances of cyberbullying, particularly the posts about CAB elections. Advertisements from the students running for positions received comments that attacked candidates and even other commenters.
The rampant use of slurs and seemingly unprovoked attempts at shaming other users has caused the Class of 2018 group administrators to reconsider the creation of the page altogether.
“I think the Facebook group went too far,” Lee said. “I regret in many ways making the Facebook page because there could have been many other ways of facilitating a community. It’s a lesson learned.”
Additional reporting by Hannah Treasure. A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Sept. 18 print edition. Email them at [email protected]