It is true: we all suffer a little from a case of FOMO, otherwise known as “fear of missing out.” Fortunately, to satisfy our undeniable addiction to keeping up with constant updates, pictures, and BuzzFeed quizzes, we can always rely on our trusty smartphones to deliver the latest and greatest. Sure, we may have subsequently developed chronic neck pain from constantly looking downwards, but at least we will always know who went to that date party with whom and what tattoo that girl you haven’t talked to since freshman year just got. But in case we just haven’t satiated our appetites, a new kid on the social media block just moved in.
“UCSByak” is the username of a Snapchat account that conquered the university scene with its different approach to networking. In short, this mystery account allows anyone who added it as a “friend” to send pictures that will be reposted to a public story for an alleged 38,000+ audience. In a matter of only a few days, the unidentified creator gained an impressive following by presenting an array of amateur pornography, beach views, explicit drug use, and adorable puppies to the public. The content can be shocking, but that doesn’t prevent students from indulging between passing periods and during lectures.
Basic math makes it clear that the number of people following UCSByak far outnumbers the student population who attends UCSB. Not only can anyone with a Snapchat account see these photos and videos, but they can also send whatever uncensored material they like to be reposted under the persona of UCSByak. This poses a serious problem for the image of a university that already struggles with an undeserved reputation for excessive partying and lack of academic focus.
UCSB proudly boasts six Nobel Prize winners, placed third on a list of the Online School Center’s “Top 50 Green Schools,” and is number two in terms of impact in the field of sciences, according to the Netherland’s Leiden University. This overly sexualized and drug-related content, however, does not reflect any of these points of pride. UCSByak creates an unfavorable impression for university outsiders that doesn’t represent the balanced lifestyle that is a reality on campus. It becomes difficult to be taken seriously as a prestigious university if what is being projecting to the external world only confirms others’ inaccurate perceptions.
We must consider the type of people who post such graphic pictures and videos. Despite the flood of content, a minority of people are actually comfortable with embracing a harmful form of exhibitionism. Yet it’s those few who have the most influence. It’s the extreme contributions that gain the most attention and distinguish UCSByak from any other account. People won’t necessarily remember a sunset portrait but do remember a full-frontal nude. That is what will get people talking. Society is obsessed with scandal, meaning that monotony and normalcy are most often ignored. We remember Britney Spears and Madonna sharing a sensuous kiss during the VMA’s, and we remember Chris Brown beating Rihanna, but we hardly focus on positive publicity because it simply isn’t as interesting. Perhaps we seek out the outrageous because it appeals to personas that we don’t personally fulfill ourselves.
This type of social media follows the anonymous trend; the name UCSByak originated from another popular social network, YikYak, where people publish text posts with no trace of their name. Similarly, this lack of ownership on UCSByak encourages people to contribute without the repercussions they would face if their identity were attached. This allows people to be detached from typical social conventions and lean towards more obscene behavior that they couldn’t entertain before.
As students, we have the choice of whether or not to fuel this kind of sensationalized broadcasting. We decide what content we would like to represent UCSB. It’s obvious that we won’t be abandoning social media any time soon, and since no one ever complained about the puppy posts, maybe we should stick to something closer to that.