The age of social media is here and now.
As the digital realm of the internet brings the world closer together, social media takes connections a step further, giving instant updates on individuals’ lives, as well as organizations, businesses and other entities. Colleges and universities are no exception.
Schools take care to maintain quality social media presences in order to share information with students and alumni while creating an attractive image for potential new students and donors.
Taylor is no stranger to social media, boasting a Facebook account with over 25,000 followers and an Instagram account with over 9,350 followers. Different groups across campus have their own social media accounts, including sports teams and academic programs.
However, Taylor’s online presence is not limited to the accounts directly maintained by the school. In recent years several new accounts — particularly on Instagram — have gained popularity among the student body for their work satirizing and poking fun at life on campus in Upland.
These include @tayloru_memes, a meme account; @barstooltaylor, a collection of eccentric moments caught on video; and @overheard_tu, which shares anonymous quotations taken out of context.
With over 2,000 current followers, @tayloru_memes is the most successful of these accounts, dispensing wide-ranging university inside jokes integrated into well-known online meme formats.
The owners of the account are anonymous and prefer to stay that way. Some of the memes published on the page are original, while others are accepted by submission through direct messaging.
Jim Garringer, director of media relations, helps manage Taylor’s online presence and has occasionally come across these unofficial student-led accounts, many of which he finds amusing, he said.
Garringer isn’t concerned such satire might impact the image of the university, believing it would take something far more significant than a meme or a filmed prat-fall to damage Taylor’s reputation.
“By and large, I trust our students,” Garringer said. “The community tends to police itself.”
Reflecting on the role of the internet in creating an image for an entity like Taylor, he aims to create content which maximizes user engagement while presenting a picture of what life is like on campus.
According to Garringer, social media is an expression of the user, in which posts and accounts take on the personality of the person running them. The main goal, he says, is to be authentic and to honor God with the things we say or do, whether in person or online.
Last year, junior Reilly LaRose found his own actions displayed across social media, much to his surprise, when a video of him wielding a lightsaber in the dark outside of Samuel Morris Hall was posted to @barstooltaylor.
LaRose wasn’t following any of the student accounts then, so he found out about his sudden leap to fame from a friend who recognized him from the video.
“It was great,” LaRose said of the experience. “It was fun to see people enjoying what I do for fun.”
A year later, LaRose still doesn’t follow the account which featured him, or any of the others, but enjoys a good laugh from their content when it is shared by his friends.
Reflecting on his own experience and the other content he has seen, LaRose believes such accounts are a wholesome and healthy way to engage the community, quoting 2 Corinthians 10:5.
“Paul says we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ. I think we should do so for memes as well,” LaRose said.