UWE SpottedBy Shonagh Poynter.

As UWE students, we have all been subjected to the crazes that spread like wildfire across universities, some more short term than others. Only those living under a rock haven’t lately speculated over the ‘harlem shake’ or indeed attempted to create their very own 30 second claim to fame; essentially, the glorified art of dressing up in a Griffindor uniform or neon morph suit or alternative other ‘hilarious’ attire and shaking your pelvis around aggressively to said song, primarily in and around other’s faces as they sit pretending to be oblivious to your groovy shape throwing.

Previous to this was ‘the plank’. And such was that it was super cool to lie motionless on top of mundane objects and have others take photos of you, be it a moving vehicle, a park bench or a nightclub dance floor for the more daring and outrageous rascals amongst you. Regardless of the opinion of prehistoric generations, we really are inventive and original, us children of the future!

A craze that has perhaps lasted slightly longer than expected is that of the university ‘Spotted’ pages in which lurk around so ominously on Facebook. There was once a time where you could go to the library with greasy hair bunched up in an unattractive bun, trackie bottoms and last night’s Mbargos sticker still imprinted on your forehead …. BUT, ALAS, NO MORE!

Now you must carefully calculate an appealing outfit the night before and take an extra five minutes to perfect that mascara in the likelihood that you will probably end up the laughing stock of the entire library for something anyway. And it isn’t just the library that seems like an ongoing ‘Big Brother’-esque environment, watchful eyes everywhere to record any potential shame you may endure that particular day. The gym, the university accommodation and the U–Link buses are also now victimised. Is there anywhere I can reside without feeling so vulnerable?! No doubt a ‘Spotted: Shonagh’s Shower’ page will soon emerge.

Just to clarify, for all those that have been hermits or actually doing something useful with their time, Facebook users private message the page and the Spotted page posts that message anonymously for others to respond to. People can also publicly name and shame the person mentioned by tagging them into the feed of posts. The messages vary in topic but some prime examples are:

The post addressed to the gym obsessive guys in the corner all dressed in matching V neck Topman tops and laughing like hyenas (“Brad downed a pint of urine followed by a pint of neat acid last night. Banter! Unreal tekkers! What a lad!” Shut up and be reasonable please; some of us actually want to write up our coursework), the post to the leggy girl with the low cut top (Censored) and the post about the poor lass that just toppled off her chair (To the girl that stacked it off her seat, find yourself on YouTube in 3, 2, 1 ….).

Entertaining? Yes. So long as it isn’t you. I myself have had the pleasure of somebody writing vulgarities about me. Sitting lonesome at a table, munching on a bag of mixed nuts and minding my own business, a post pops up on my Facebook mobile and I suddenly feel very watched. “To the small, blonde girl eating nuts ….” Well, we all know the exceedingly witty pun that followed. And who said romance was dead?

My point however being that, amusing as it is, have we perhaps taken it a step too far? Is it comical value or a true invasion of privacy? The university itself has issued warnings regarding the Spotted page, claiming that it is a clear violation of UWE’s Internet policy and furthermore a form of harassment and bullying. Indeed, the page has gone from innocent post – making to the recent uploading of pictures. That’s funny. I don’t remember agreeing to my ‘sleep face’ floating around cyber space? You can certainly see why there’s been uproar about the situation.

My verdict personally is that really it is only a bit of light hearted fun (most of the time). For the times that it isn’t, the mystery creator of the page ought to be better at filtering what he or she uploads. But ultimately perhaps the university needn’t take action or worry about it if it inevitably dies down like all the other crazes. Till then though, for god’s sake study at home!