“Confessions of a Facebook Celebrity: Daniel Knight”
This was the title of an article posted by a hall mate in the first few months of my Freshman year. I had barely arrived at Tufts, unpacked my belongings, memorized my class schedule, and understood the Tufts campus when I was branded a “celebrity” of Tufts.
*I want to clarify that I never appreciated the term “facebook celebrity.” It’s a common culture within colleges like Tufts, where the class pages are small enough that people engage in conversational manners and sometimes post way more than others, branding them a celebrity because of how much their posts appeared in the notifications of all members of the facebook group. In my opinion its a heavily damaging culture, a culture that benefits all except those it targets. To be a “facebook celebrity” is to be constantly talked about and criticized by your classmates, without even knowing its happening. anyway, back to our regular programming.
But…why? Why was I this so-called “celebrity”, and how did everyone know my name?
I signed up to do FOCUS pre-orientation (the program running 5 days with 2 leaders and some fellow first-years, which focused on Community Service in the Boston Area). I finally met my group, and we were relaxing on the lawn, talking and having a good time, when one of them exclaimed “Oh-em-gee! Danny, you are a celebrity! Like, everyone knows who you are!”
I laughed and shrugged instinctually because, at first, I thought of it as a compliment; but then I realized what I had done. I had branded myself based on the excruciatingly embarrassing posts I made on the class pages. To the rest of the Class of 2019, my posts and I were one and the same. This was how my Tufts identity started and maintained for quite some time.
No one prepared me for that kind of reputation going into college. I had no idea that I was going to be known by the entire Tufts population as being “The Facebook celebrity,” the one who was overeager and didn’t keep his cool. The kid who didn’t grasp the right way to post on social media and therefore became infamous on a Facebook group.
For the next couple weeks, the common icebreaker when meeting others was that the other student commented about my celebrity status, and how they had seen me around or had some friends discuss my posts earlier on that day. This was my first time having everyone blatantly tell me to my face that conversations were had about me behind my back.
I was petrified. What were they saying? How did they say it? Was it all nice? Was it bombarded with snide remarks about how weird or obnoxious I was? There was the curious side of me that wanted to hear all of it, but the other side of me held back, knowing nothing good could come of it. I let it slide and continued the conversations hoping to get a sliver of an actual relationship out of this interaction and possibly a friendship.
I began to loathe this part of my interactions with people. I knew it would come sooner or later, so I was always prepared to talk about it, but I never lost hope that they would set it aside in the knowledge that I probably had heard it 10000x already.
Flash-forward to the week before Christmas break: My entire floor and I had befriended one another. I had just spent a good three hours goofing off in the common room when I said goodnight and went to my friend’s room. I relaxed with a book while most of my other friends remained outside. I could hear their conversation and would absentmindedly listen in as they started to talk about random things, like school politics, their latest crushes, how hard Bio 13 is, and how annoying my posts were.
It had been 4 months since we got back and we were still having this conversation? I didn’t know how to react. Should I close the door and not listen in, or let it run its course? I ultimately chose the latter, although I often regret not speaking up.
Truth be told, I don’t know why this hurt so badly, why I started to wipe tears from my book as I listened to people I loved berate this distant activity. It wasn’t a conversation I’d never heard before. People have told me left and right the same complaints about my posts. The problem was that these were my friends. I expected them to know who I really was.
That’s what hurt: the knowledge that no one was going to look past my previous blunders and see me for me.
I didn’t, and still don’t, understand why everyone was so focused on my social media posts. I was just another first year at Tufts, who just happened to use the Facebook group more than others. Everything I posted was either an excited statement about a custom at Tufts or a helpful hint to my classmates about upcoming deadlines. I know that other students were just as obsessed with Tufts as I was; they just knew how to play cool better than I did. They knew that you had to keep a low profile if you wanted to start fresh and build your identity around your experiences at Tufts.
It sucks. It really, absolutely sucks to have the fresh start ripped away from you. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was a senior in high school who had been dreaming about college for 10 years, and finally I was almost there, about to be a college student! I wanted to know everyone, understand everything there was to know about my college, and really get pumped for the next four years of my life. I didn’t stop and think that others would create their own opinion on my entire person.
My perception of myself was clouded with self-doubt and anxiety. Doubt that I could be an impact on this campus beyond Facebook. Anxiety to ever post in the group page again and about whether my friends actually knew me.
My thought process was that if I kept up a positive attitude, I would be ok. I put on a happy face and a can-do attitude, never barked at anyone who informed me about being a celebrity and just brushed it off, as I knew I couldn’t harbor these feelings of anxiety for too long or they would eat me up. I didn’t even mention this to my parents and friends back home. I didn’t want this to follow me back to where I was just the nerdy theatre kid who was super into Beyoncé and Disney World.
Ok. This is super depressing.
I want to end on a high note.
Update: I’ve had almost no instances of random strangers coming up to me about my “celebrity” status for quite a while. Multiple friends have told me that they forgot that this was a part of who I was, and only know me now as “Danny.” Some of the friendships I made because of my Facebook engagements are my strongest ever and give me a lot of comfort and security. I even landed my current job at the Office of Campus Life because of my “passion for Tufts!”
Being Facebook famous is nothing I would wish on anyone. It’s not something you can control, and no matter how you twist it, even though it has its superficial benefits, it’s still going to suck. People are going to treat you differently, assume you are a certain type of person without ever talking to you, and honestly be quite creepy (asking me to promote you, a random stranger, on facebook isn’t the most comfortable conversation).
Besides all of that, I am thankful for my experience. It taught me that social media is a tricky thing. It can really screw you up and cause you to think the worst of yourself, even when you’re trying to think the best. Social media can define who you are, it’s a channel for self-expression, but most of the time a large section of you is left out, and an image of you—one that you had no idea was being created—is circulated amongst the masses.
Posting, liking, commenting: it’s all fun and games. Until you get burned.