By Celine Tran and Elly Niedzviecki
Have you received a random Instagram follow request from accounts with “hci” or “harbord” in the username that clearly isn’t a club? If you’ve been active in Harbord’s Instagram circle, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. This specific type of ‘school’ account has been popping up at a fast rate on social media and students all across the TDSB have been re-creating them for their own schools. But what’s the purpose of these accounts? Are these accounts safe? In this article, we’ll be going over those questions and how these accounts started in the first place.
In early November of 2021, TikTok users started posting about these school accounts students made for their schools. They’re not affiliated with the school and are made purely for entertainment. The accounts vary, but they’re always based on a particular theme. For example, a school account that’s about sleeping will post pictures of students from said school sleeping. Although these accounts have been created from time to time in the past few years, they’ve just recently spiked in popularity because of the app. So far, the most popular accounts have been calling out students for their postures, students caught sleeping, and students’ shoes. Many people have joined in and have created accounts like these for their own schools.
Harbord is no different, and students have created their own versions of these accounts. There are currently nine known and active accounts as of writing. These accounts are widely known around Harbord and normally gain many followers within the span of a few days. The follower count ranges from 100-300 followers. The ones mentioned are the more popular ones but there are plenty of other variations of these created.
Although TikTok may have started the trend, there’s another source where the concept of these online school communities may have stemmed from. Sharing about student activities (not necessarily associated with school) online or at least in writing has been happening for a while. We see plenty of examples of this in the 90’s/early 2000’s high school dramas. For instance, In 2004’s cult classic, Mean Girls, the ‘burn book’ also contains drama that ends up being photocopied and distributed around school. But a better example would be the 2007 series Gossip Girl that features school drama being sent out in a mass text from an unidentified sender. There are also plenty more examples of movies and shows out there portraying this type of activity. Obviously, these movies are highly dramatized and unrealistic. Still, it’s interesting to see the similarities between these and the current accounts as well as how these plot points could have easily been part of the inspiration behind the initial creation of these accounts.
Unlike Gossip Girl, most of these accounts do claim that consent is given to the photos posted, and the option to request removing a post is available by messaging the account. Some students even purposely take their own photos and submit them to the accounts in hopes that they’ll get included. However, the way consent is being defined in this context is…equivocal. There are factors like peer pressure, that make the integrity of the ‘consent’ questionable. In addition, cases have happened where photos and content have been shared without the knowledge or permission from the person/people in the photo. While these accounts are not intentionally causing issues, it makes sense that people may (and do) feel uncomfortable or anxious about a photo being taken of them at school with the purpose of calling out certain behaviours, clothes etc and that being made into a post. These accounts do seem to bring the Harbord community together in a unique way. We just have to make sure it’s not at the expense of other students.