St Andrews has an obsession, and I think it’s about time we acknowledged it. No, it’s not tweed suits, or avoiding eye contact on Market Street with people we met during first-year Freshers Week. It’s our prolonged interest in anonymous forums – namely St Andrews Crushes, and its distantly related Facebook groups such as St. Feuddrews and St. Fessdrews. Now before I continue, I’d like to issue a disclaimer: of course not everyone follows these pages. This is probably for the best, given how easy it is to be sucked into the little dopamine hits that these pages provide; whether it be in the silent section of the library or lying lazily in bed. It must be said, however, that despite your following preferences, these pages boast a healthy following with over half of St Andrews’ population following Crushes, and dozens of students posting anonymously each day. As everyday and mundane as this may be, I’ve always been interested in the role it plays in our social lives.
Maybe it has something to do with our size and distance from ‘the outside world’, but everyone I’ve spoken to about this has told me that our anonymous forums, especially Crushes, has a much more prominent role to other schools they know. I wouldn’t be able to count, for example, the number of times I’ve heard “Did you see what it said on Crushes?” in the course of a conversation. Especially in light of Feuddrews’ delayed uploads, Crushes had recently taken on the whole spectrum of anonymous, student emotion, with everything from flatmate complaints, requests for practical advice, and, of course, crushes. From a page originally fueled by (let’s be real) self-interested curiosity that our names might be mentioned, it’s become an odd net that captures everything from the innocent to the indecipherable, to the obscene.
I do find it funny, though, how the page has inadvertently provided a semi-helpful resource for a whole range of student concerns- ranging from the wholesome to silly, to deeply moving. In many cases, queries about who serves food at certain cafes, or who was wearing lime green on the ground floor of the library will be answered in the responding tags. People search for partners and movie buddies; they advertise for flatmates or – in some more controversial instances – plot to infiltrate certain student clubs. More importantly, the forum seems to be a place where students struggling with loneliness, social anxiety or depression can anonymously voice their feelings, and are most often met with kind words, offers of friendship, or invitations to join group chats in the comments below. You see long, heartfelt monologues clearly written with a certain person in mind, where one can imagine that even the knowledge of it potentially being seen by that right person provides a genuine emotional outlet.
There’s also an odd intimacy to the page. Though of course its public, with thousands of students being updated daily, there’s something strangely private about its set-up. Not only is all of its content anonymous, but we all consume it privately. When we scroll through, it’s just us alone, making however many random and seemingly inane connections with what we read, whether it’s a person we know, a TV show we like, or an opinion we agree with. We can sympathize with a post complaining about the same boring lecture we attended, or a thought blasted out at 3am, obviously without any inhibitions but all the more ‘real’ for it. Anonymously written, and (for the most part) anonymously consumed, it’s a funny little opportunity for connecting with fellow students that, for better or worse, will never be realized.
For all my searching for meaning, it’s good to step back and remember that it just a student-run crushes page. We get tagged in stupid posts, and are able to secretly stir up drama in a town so small where a Facebook group can actually have ripple effects. Let’s enjoy it while we can – happy posting!