Running a pro-war, grass-themed Instagram

Janet Song/The Miscellany News.

It happens. You assign someone to cover Vassar’s three main animal Instagram accounts. The article comes in, and your heart suddenly freezes as you read the line, “@skunksofvassar hopes to continue inspiring intrepid nature photographers to document their work (the newest iteration of the trend is @grassofvassar).” There is a problem, you realize. You’ve forgotten something terribly important. And so at the next Miscellany News meeting, you confess that you have been running that very grass-themed Instagram account that was mentioned in last week’s issue.

@grassofvassar, with only 21 posts and 90 followers, is the budding child of yours truly. It’s much like your popular skunks, squirrels or deer account, except that it’s pictures of grass. (Sometimes with my shadow.) These posts are often captionless, with a few exceptions, such as the witty, “dirt (good for grass)” or “salad,” the latter of which features yellow leaves mingled with green—much like those awful yellow peppers in your standard Deece salad. 

The origin of the Instagram account is mere pettiness. Long after I assigned the article about Vassar’s woodland-themed social media, I received a follow request on my personal account from @mushroomsatvc, which seemed to be the newest of the trend at the time. I had already indulged myself with letting the three main animal accounts follow me, so much like the relative at Thanksgiving who says no to the fifth slice of pie, I declined. I figured too many Vassar accounts were already following me. Within minutes after declining, however, a new request showed up. I declined. They sent another follow request. I denied. They sent it again. And it kept going and going and going—

And on one fateful day, @mushroomsatvc interrupted a lunch I was having with friends in Noyes Circle. We were sitting out in the sun, on the grass, when I saw that cursed notification: “@mushroomsatvc has requested to follow you.” Irritated, I complained about this to my friends. One of them suggested that I could just ignore them, but unfortunately my quest for vengeance had already taken root. With just an email at my disposal, I created @grassofvassar. I took a picture of the grass we were sitting on—no caption—and sent a bunch of follow requests to Vassar students. Including @mushroomsatvc.

After a few days, you would think that running an account dedicated to grass would be easy—just take a picture of the ground, post it, and wait for a few likes. But I underestimated one critical flaw in maintaining my public presence: I am incredibly lazy. Sometimes I would have three posts in a day. Sometimes I went a week without posts, while my fellow Vassar nature accounts continued to post on a consistent schedule. In my most recent post, I was so lazy that instead of making the effort to go outside, I covered my camera lens and took a photo, then captioned the dark image as “grass at night.”

I also started to question if people knew my account was parody. There were some people who must’ve caught on, such as the two people who caused a fake political debate on my post, “grass! (moves fast).” But then there were the people who sent me direct messages commemorating me for my contributions to Vassar. And one person who submitted a photo to be posted on the account. And when accounts such as @accountsofvassar and @mulletsofvassar started following me, often I found myself caught in a liminal space between truth and irony: which accounts were genuine, and which accounts were like mine? Soon, however, I grew to realize that these accounts—ironic or not—represent how specialized Vassar humor is, and how it’s ingrained in the particularities of our campus culture.

Not too long after @grassofvassar celebrated its first week, I realized that I had grown incredibly bored of the account. My vendetta towards @mushroomsatvc had died rather quickly, and not many Vassar students knew of my presence. But one evening as I walked home from the Deece, I took a photo of grass and noticed that a squirrel had butted in. I thought of @squirrelsofvassar, watched the squirrel hop in its jittery, squirrel-like manner, and decided: I’m going to cause havoc. I’m going to send @grassofvassar off on a high note. I’m going to harass the squirrel account.

And so the war began. I captioned the photo, “Ew” (stylized as “ew,” though, for the aesthetic). The squirrels called me out for my disrespect. I moved our fight to Instagram stories where I established the strange narrative that squirrels are murderous grass eaters, and that grass is superior—which I also knew would be a futile fight because there’s not much to defend to argue about something green and unmoving. As @squirrelsofvassar put it, I was literally “grass-ping at straws.” You can still see some parts of the Instagram stories saved on the @grassofvassar account, in which I make cruel statements such as, “BEEP BEEP CAN’T HEAR YOU OVER THE SOUND OF CARS COMING YOUR WAY” as I use emojis to depict a squirrel about to be run over by a car, or @squirrelsofvassar’s exasperated words, “PEOPLE LITERALLY STEP ON YOU ALL DAY” as they proceeded to continue their Instagram story with lawn mower stickers.

The problem with our feud, however, is that the other woodland accounts are lovers, not fighters. I thought I could take the momentum of the war between squirrels and grass and declare war on mushrooms, only for @squirrelsofvassar to shoot that idea down as they declared their love for those pesky fungi. When @skunksofvassar forced squirrels and grass to make peace with each other, I tried to declare war on @forksofvassar. I had sent them a direct message prior stating, “I would like to start a war with you the next time I see a fork [on] the ground,” but instead of following our agreement to start war, @forksofvassar supported my condemnation of littering. I soon realized a terrible reality: I am the only pro-war Vassar account.

I think that when the article about my fellow animal accounts came out, I greatly underestimated the recognition @grassofvassar received, to the point that I didn’t think it would be even mentioned when it was written. I also had forgotten I was the one running it, until I got thrown the awkward question, “Should we interview @grassofvassar?” At times it feels that “grassar” is an alternate persona of mine, something that takes over me the minute I log onto the account. I forget that I am Janet, a student, a Misc editor. Instead I am “grassar:” the anonymous, dry-humored aficionado of grass, who takes pictures of the ground for a natural aesthetic.

I had a short, good run with the account, but now that my identity is out, I think it’s time to “retire.” What I’ve learned to appreciate from my experience is the uniqueness of Vassar humor, even if I still don’t know exactly how to define it. Annoying as they may seem at times, these Instagram accounts at least are giving life to those of us with online classes and distanced learning, connecting us to a digital form of the Vassar bubble.

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