With glorified stories of binge drinking, drug use, sex, and countless other compromising situations, students are posting their uncensored – but anonymous – dirty laundry on social media sites for the world to see.
Two Facebook groups – “Texts From Last Night – GWU Edition” and “Overheard at GW” – have drawn more than 4,000 followers on Facebook and another Web site, gwfml.com, is also allowing users to submit embarrassing stories, quotes and text messages.
The “Texts From Last Night – GWU Edition” group was created by four sophomores and has drawn 2,340 followers, many of whom are current students.
“Everyone gets those texts,” the group’s info page stated. “Stories of awkward hookups, or something just plain fucking ridiculous, so it’s time to bring a group just for GWU students.”
Modeled after the wildly popular Web site, textsfromlastnight.com, the group allows Facebook users to post embarrassing or compromising text conversations in their entirety, with little filtering from the group’s administrators.
“We created this group because a lot of people have funny texts and it’s annoying when you hope your text message gets posted to ‘texts from last night’ and it doesn’t,” said sophomore Hannah Libby, who co-founded the group with three others. “That’s the reason why we have made it so accessible for GW students to post.”
Neither “Overheard at GW” nor “Texts From Last Night – GWU Edition” are private groups; “Overheard at GW” is open to any person in the GW network and “Texts From Last Night – GWU Edition” is a completely public group, opening up the door for administrators and potential students to view the posts.
Libby said she had thought about the possibility of teachers and administrators reading the Facebook group and thus put in place measures to keep the posts reasonable, banning any messages that could be considered a “hate crime.”
“Everything on Facebook can be seen by administrators,” Libby said. “If you want to post something about what you did that was ridiculous on Friday night, I’m not gonna control what you post. You have to use your own discretion.”
University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said the University does not condone any social networking groups related to the University, adding that “since this site has been brought to our attention, the Office of General Counsel is taking a look at the use of GW’s name.”
Sophomore Ramsey Andrawis posted two messages to the group in December, where his full name is displayed to the public next to the messages, “(860): What are you guys planning to do today? (215): I think we are gonna get high and go to the zoo.”
Andrawis said he is not worried about students facing sanctions for any of the messages posted on the site – which never directly name those involved in the messages.
“I think it’s funny to look at a little microcosm of the campus at night when people have their guard down and are at their funniest,” Andrawis said. “You’re not supposed to assume that the people involved are the people who wrote the text messages.”
GW law professor Orin Kerr said students who post on the public Facebook group are protected from legal action by their First Amendment rights.
“The key here is that this is public,” Kerr said. “Are the police going to arrest these students? I don’t know.”
Although Kerr didn’t think GW would try to restrict this particular site, he said as a private institution GW has more liberty under the law to “influence” student behavior.
“The University as a private institution could try to influence what the students are doing,” Kerr said. “There wouldn’t be First Amendment restrictions on them because they are not the government. It seems very unlikely to me that they would.”
Sophomore Sally McGregor, who has browsed the group’s wall, said the posts may be shocking to college administrators, but not to students.
“I could see how an administrator wouldn’t like how it is portraying the University,” McGregor said. “But for college students, everyone knows what goes on so it’s no big deal – I think of it as more of a fun thing, I don’t take it that seriously.”
Many of the posts are certainly centered around GW, with mentions of Gelman and University Police Department officers, which Libby said helps students relate to the group.
“I feel like everybody likes ‘texts from last night’ because it reminds them of a fun time they’ve had or something they have done or seen,” Libby said. “I haven’t seen anything that’s truly not something that I’ve seen at GW.”