If you search Vassar on Instagram, there are three main types of accounts you’ll find: student organizations, official institution pages and humor accounts. These accounts together reflect and reproduce a microcosm of Vassar and its culture.
Almost all big student organizations on campus have Instagram accounts. After all, social media is a great way of promoting what you have to offer to other students.
Stephanie Madonna ’21 runs the page @vassarcontrast in her position as the media director for the fashion and lifestyle magazine, Contrast. Their posts may spark interest in students and get them involved.
“I hope that a lot more Vassar students will feel inspired by the page,” Madonna said. “I feel like Vassar has a homogeneous [fashion] style, and maybe it will inspire some creativity.”
To do that, Madonna keeps the scope of the page’s content broad, including a range of topics from student fashion styles to trends in pop culture.
And, of course, there are links to the Contrast website. “[The page] is very eclectic,” Madonna explained. “It’s different. I don’t really like structure at all, so I try to keep the feed as eclectic as possible. It’s what I’m feeling.” On their page, you’ll find a range of topics from student fashion styles to trends in pop culture. Since taking over the account earlier this year, Madonna has tried to make it more relatable for all students. This is important for student organizations that use social media for outreach.
“I wanted to… find a way to incorporate more of the student body into the Contrast Instagram because previously it was a lot of mood pictures or photos from the shoots that we had. It wasn’t really representative of Vassar as a whole,” Madonna said. “I think the only way to gain followers is to have content that people want.”
The Institution’s Accounts
Besides student organizations, Vassar itself also maintains accounts like @vassarcollege and @vassaradmissions. These pages are similar to student organization pages but operate on a larger scale. Instead of promoting one specific subgroup of the school, they promote the entire school.
To achieve this, Vassar enlists students, known as social media ambassadors, to generate content. For Owen Murray ’20, one of these ambassadors, posting is pretty straightforward.
“We come up with content by attending events, interviewing students and staff, and also by just capturing an authentic image of what we see around us,” Murray said. “The primary goal of the Vassar social media accounts is to portray a realistic image of Vassar College.”
Since its creation in 2015, the official Vassar Instagram page has seen steady growth. In March 2016, the page had 700 followers. By March 2018, when the social media ambassadors program started, it had reached 4,700 followers. Today, over 10,000 people follow @vassarcollege.
In Murray’s view, as long as Vassar keeps being the place it is, people will keep following.
“Vassar is so interesting, and we have so many talented people here, so the potential content is endless,” Murray said.
There’s a third category of Vassar accounts that doesn’t seek to promote anything: humor pages.
One of these is @overheardvassar, which, as the name suggests, posts snippets of overheard conversations around campus. The account was inspired by @overheardnewyork.
“I noticed that a lot of colleges and universities started to have these overheard accounts and thought that it would be interesting for Vassar to have one,” the student behind OverheardVassar said. “I think the most important thing about the account is that what is submitted is genuinely ‘overheard’ and it’s fun to not necessarily know who said it but look at it and be like, ‘Hey, I really do relate with that.’”
All of the content for this page is submitted via direct message. Its crowd-sourced appeal is something OverheardVassar tries to maintain.
“I don’t post anything that I overhear myself just to maintain the integrity of the account and leave my own being out of it,” OverheardVassar explained. “In the end, everything overheard was sincerely overheard. Because the account is trusted with posting what is submitted, we, in turn, trust that the submissions are truthful and were overheard.”
It’s for those same reasons that OverheardVassar tries to remain anonymous.
“I don’t want my identity to be tied to the account because the account is essentially made by Vassar students; I am simply the one who spends time taking the submissions to post them on the page. I also wouldn’t want submissions to be changed based on my identity; the account should be viewed as identity-less,” OverheardVassar said. “Admittedly, there is a joy in running the page in anonymity, and it’s interesting to see who is submitting what, even when you know them in real life. Sometimes people who have no idea I run the account have made jokes around me like, ‘That should go on @overheardvassar.’ If only you knew.”
While the school’s and student organizations’ accounts present a polished, above-ground image of Vassar, meme accounts show a different side of campus culture. One of OverheardVassar’s goals is to be, in their words, “authentic.”
“Any prospective student can look at Vassar’s website or go on a tour, but this account offers them an insight into the campus climate that isn’t necessarily accessible elsewhere,” OverheardVassar said.
OverheardVassar thinks that meme accounts have a valuable place in the Vassar social media universe. They add humor, which can be a powerful unifier.
“Seeing people interact with the posts is awesome; after all, that’s why I run the account,” OverheardVassar said. “It’s also enjoyable for people to call out who they think/ know said something I posted, and it’s even funnier when multiple people tag numerous people saying it was them. Because Vassar is very eclectic, it’s enjoyable to see something have the ability to unite us all.”