Anonymously run Instagram pages spread
laughter and concern among VHS
By Savannah Butcher, Social Media Editor
Although student-run Instagram pages have been around since Instagram’s founding 11 years ago, new accounts created in the beginning of the 2020-21 school by anonymous Vashon High School students have gained the attention of not only the student body but also the administration. The most popular of these pages include Mr. Tilden Quotes (@mrtildenquotes), VHS Affirmations (@vhsaffrim), VHS Parking (@vhsparking), and VHS Bathroom Shoes (@vhs_bathroomshoes). If these accounts are discussed frequently among students and have an impressive 804 followers combined, why are all of them run by anonymous administrators?
Matt Tilden, a Human Geography teacher at VHS, has been the center of attention of multiple anonymous Instagram accounts featuring quotes from Tilden during his classes. Since 2016, five separate accounts have been created dedicated solely to posting phrases Tilden says during class. These Tilden Quote accounts have a combined total of approximately 650 followers and 227 posts. The admins of the new quote account intend to continue the tradition.
“[I am] definitely aware of [the quote accounts]– there has been some version of them going [on] for a while,” Tilden said.
The current Tilden quote account was started in early November of 2021 and is run by four different admins, each using a different emoji as a pseudonym.
“In the case [we come across problematic content] we normally block [the user], delete it, and warn others if needed,” The Duck Admin of Mr. Tilden Quotes said.
Tilden has his reservations about the accounts.
“I find [the Tilden quote accounts] strange and mostly try to avoid [them] as much as possible,” Tilden said.
Another anonymously run page started in early November and is dedicated to posting affirmations sent in by VHS students. Affirmations are statements that someone is trying to speak into existence, and they have been used for centuries for religious reasons. Recently they have become a meme format and a way to anonymously confess something. VHS Affirmations (@vhsaffrim) has already collected 275 followers with 277 posts.
“I started this account simply because I felt like it at the moment; I thought it would be really funny,” the admin of VHS Affirmations said.
VHS affirmation submissions often include things that happened on school grounds. Although this page started with comedic intentions, some submissions have serious undertones.
“I haven’t received [many] bad suggestions, [but] I did have to put a rule saying to not send me anything offensive [or] violent,” the admin of VHS Affirmations said.
Another anonymously run Instagram page has also had to deal with some problematic submissions. The account features photos of poor parking jobs by students in the VHS parking lots.
“The 3rd day after we started [the account] people were parking so badly on purpose that it was almost dangerous. We actually thought about closing the account which is why we went quiet for a while,” the admins of VHS Parking said. “We want this page to be a positive experience and so if students’ safety becomes a concern then it’s no longer a good experience, especially when we’re the vehicle of encouragement.”
VHS Parking (@vhsparking) was started in late October and has 265 followers, including a few VHS alumni.
“We feel that as long as these accounts are positively impacting students and not violating anyone’s trust, safety or security then the administration has no place in disrupting student culture. It’s when these accounts are having a negative impact that it’s the administration’s job to step in,” VHS Parking admins said.
VHS administrative action was taken after the VHS Bathroom Shoes (@vhs_bathroomshoes) account first posted in late November. This account posts pictures of students’ shoes taken underneath bathroom stalls. The account has 108 followers and 20 posts.
“I received a [direct message] from the school saying [VHS Bathroom Shoes] was ‘inappropriate’ and if they found out who was behind it, [they] would be punished to the full extent –suspension till the end of the year,” the admin of VHS Bathroom Shoes said.
The admin of this account challenges the administration’s concern.
“I feel like [a yearly suspension is] a bit unfair as everyone seems to be enjoying it and there have been no photos revealing who the person in the bathroom was [and included] nothing else [other] than their ankles,” the admin of VHS Bathroom Shoes said.
Some captions on this account discuss eavesdropping on students’ conversations in the bathroom.
“…[the person in] the second [picture] said ‘girls are just ugly it’s a natural instinct,” the admin of VHS Bathroom Shoes said in a post published November 22, 2021.
VHS administrators aren’t the only ones concerned about this account.
“I feel like [VHS Bathroom Shoes] is super creepy and disturbing. I get how someone might think it’s funny but it’s just kind of weird. Once I saw my feet [on the account], I felt like I couldn’t go to the bathroom at school anymore without being watched,” an anonymous VHS student said.
“It’s also weird that they are trying to expose people skipping class even though they are taking the pictures during lunch and break most of the time and are also sitting there skipping class waiting for people to come in.”
Preventing these accounts through discipline can be extremely difficult when the students running them are anonymous.
“Students can just block the school admin from seeing [the page] entirely if [they] reach out to try and censor [them]. The [threat of] punishment while anonymous is null.” said the admin of VHS affirmations.
Some believe censoring these accounts is not necessary.
“I believe that as long as the pages aren’t explicitly harming people or disrespecting their privacy, they shouldn’t be being shut down, and the admins shouldn’t be punished,” The Duck Admin of Mr. Tilden Quotes said. “Spreading hate about teachers or students is one thing, but when it’s just pictures of people sleeping or a quote account, censorship is unnecessary and controlling.”
Tilden pays more attention to in-person conversations than online ones.
“I try to not worry about [anonymously run Instagram accounts] too much I guess. I worry more about similar interactions between students and the potential for inappropriate or harmful interactions,” Tilden said. “I think healthy boundaries between real life and social media are important.”