It seems like students are constantly staying connected with one another these days. Between Facebook, e-mail, and texting, students can stay in-the-know about the activities of not only their friends, but also other students that they know less well or may not know at all. This has especially proven to be true with the use of the social networking site Twitter. Twitter allows people to read 140 character blurbs that their friends write, but it also allows them to follow accounts of people that they may not know. Many students follow Hinsdale Twitter accounts – accounts run anonymously by former and current students of Hinsdale Central. This recent craze of anonymous Twitters has caused the administration to evaluate their level of involvement in online accounts of students due to the inaporopriate nature of the tweets.
@HinsdaleTownLife “#IGoToASchool full of wicks and morts”
@TheHinsdaleLife: “3-day weekend challenge: increase your shot intake by 3 every night”
@MackinDLs “F this assembly jit, I’m just tryna get lushed #oull”
The number of Hinsdale-related Twitter accounts have risen rapidly recently, but what is even more concerning is the content of the Tweets. In fact, such Twitter updates have fallen under the public eye of Central students, resulting in an increase in followers over the past months.
The original idea for an anonymous account about Hinsdale Central was thought up and started by the creator of the Twitter account @FriendFromHCHS. “I started this account because a few friends and myself really enjoyed the @FriendFromHS Twitter and I thought that @FriendFromHCHS provided the opportunity for some hilarious Tweets as well,” said @FriendFromHCHS, who is now a 2008 graduate from Central. The Tweets from the account often involve drinking and other prohibited activities. For @FriendFromHCHS, the motivation behind beginning the Twitter account can be traced to a disagreement with Hinsdale’s reputation. “In my day, HCHS prided itself publicly on being a school of remarkable character and friendship and love, and I always thought that claim was absolute nonsense,” @FriendFromHCHS said.
@TheHinsdaleLife, an account created shortly after the creation of the first account, similarly posts Tweets about risky behavior on the weekends. However, in regards to the accuracy of the Tweets, @TheHinsdaleLife said, “Most things I tweet have happened to me and, I assume, a lot of other people.”
Although both Twitter accounts acknowledge that their posts are done mockingly, the messages have been seen as borderline illegal at times. On Feb. 27, @TheHinsdaleLife posted, “Someone write another bomb threat in the girls bathroom #trynagetoutofschool.”
Although the bomb threat turned out to be false and a joke, the role school administration should have in regulating or even stopping these accounts is very controversial. According to information from Kim Dever, director of dean’s, grounds for disciplinary action are justified if student conduct “interferes with, disrupts, or adversely affects the school environment.” Students lose some of their First Amendment rights if their language disrupts the learning enviornment.
Mr. Michael McGrory, principal, said that the line between what is allowed and what is prohibited is hard to decipher with online situations. “In a general sense, this has been one of the more difficult things for school officials to monitor and control,” McGrory said.
Other schools have also found difficulty in setting the line between what is allowed and what is prohibited.
In 2007, Tennessee senior Taylor Cummings was expelled from his high school one semester before graduating because of a posting on Facebook that threatened the school’s student body. Last fall, two seniors from Dallas were suspended for posting hateful comments on Facebook concerning a teacher. The role school faculty and administrators should have in dealing with threatening activity outside of school property is a controversial topic. Currently, Central has made no attempt to find out the authors of these Twitter accounts. “I think it is very unclear. Some schools would enforce rules on it,” McGrory said, “and others would say, ‘We don’t want to foray into it.’”
However, McGrory did recognize that although it is difficult to determine when punishment is necessary, it is much less taboo to keep track of each case. McGrory said, “You can still follow up on [the situations.] For example, if somebody alludes to drinking, we would still follow up on that, and make sure that wasn’t happening. But we probably would not impose school consequences unless it continued.” McGrory also said that in such cases, the consequences would have to be more legal than school-related.
While these Twitter accounts have used anonymous names for their accounts, they disagree in the nature of keeping their identities anonymous. @FriendFromHCHS said that the account initially wasn’t anonymous.
“However, as more and more people started following the account, I saw no reason to identify myself as I don’t know most people following it and I imagine vice-versa,” @FriendFromHCHS said.
@TheHinsdaleLife said that the reason to be anonymous was to keep the image more “mysterious.”
However, alongside the hype about the anonymity of the Twitter accounts, some students have fallen under accusations of beginning the Twitters. One such student, Rachel Krauss, senior, said that she had joked about making a Twitter with her friends, but had never actually made one. When the Twitters became common knowledge, many were quick to assume it was Krauss.
Krauss said that she felt both positive and negative impacts from the accusation. “At first it was kind of positive because a lot of people think they’re really funny,” Krauss said. “But then it turned negative because some of the tweets are things I would never say.”
According to senior Safa Arfeen, the Twitter accounts shouldn’t be taken too seriously. “I think people on Twitter are just like, ‘Oh hey, another funny account,’ especially because there are so many accounts out there that are kind of funny. I think that it’s just another account that’s funny,” Arfeen said.
Arfeen feels one reason the Tweets should not be taken too seriously is because they have not specifically threatened to harm anyone. “As long as they don’t say anything in terms of bullying or if they don’t say something derogatory or hurtful, I think its fine. I think it’s just all in good fun,” Arfeen said.
Alex Van Dorn, senior, agreed with Arfeen. “Personally, I don’t really mind the Tweets. They’re not specifically attacking any individuals, so I don’t quite see any harm in what they’re doing,” Van Dorn said.
Some others believe the accounts to be more borderline offensive than funny. “The Twitter accounts really stereotype Central students as being really rich, not caring about anything, partying on the weekends, being drunk every weekend, and being hung over every Saturday and Sunday morning,” said Megha Aggarwal, senior. “Not all Central students are like that.”