Popular student-led Instagrams influence campus culture, strive to bring students together


The profile picture of Bored Cougars Unite (@boredatchathamu).

Gena Carter

Chatham University’s social media culture is largely dominated by student-created Instagram accounts. Some of these include Free food at Chatham U( @freefoodchathamu), Chatham Missed Connections (@chatham.missed.connections), Bored Cougars Unite (@boredatchathamu) and Chatham U Affirmations (@chathamaffirmations).

These accounts are, for the most part, loved by the student body. Combined, they have a follower count nearing 2,000. However, it’s largely unknown who their creators are and what it’s like to run these meme accounts.

While these accounts’ creators requested to remain anonymous, they agreed to share their experience with the Communiqué via Instagram direct messages. Many of them described feeling that students’ perceptions of their respective accounts have changed over time or that their account has evolved.

The creator of Free food at Chatham, at the time of the interview, was contemplating turning the account over to another student after getting “disturbing images in [their] dms.”

“I started this account just as … kind of a satire on how we are a sustainable school, but there’s trash all over the place,” Free Food at Chatham wrote via direct messages. “It was nice to have a community at first who understood the humor and played into the joke by submitting pictures.”

“But,” they continued, “some people started sending pictures of things like dead animals … I don’t think it is OK to show someone’s pictures of dead animals without their consent.”

The creator of Free Food said that, most of the time when they would decline submissions, people were generally receptive and nice. However, there was one instance when a student submitted a gory, mutilated animal photo to the account. After the creator declined it, the student still posted it on their Instagram Story and tagged the account.

“It was just a turning point that made me realize how fast satire can lose its meaning and turn into something else entirely,” they wrote.

A post made by Chatham U Affirmations (@chathamaffirmations).

Other creators have also experienced a shift in the perceived meanings of their accounts, though their experiences were less intense.

“In the beginning,” the creator of Chatham Missed Connections wrote, “the submissions were really hateful and serious. I had to make a whole announcement about proper etiquette and other resources … rather than have everyone rant to a meme page.”

Bored Cougars Unite was originally created to be “a space where students could DM us weird ideas … and we’d do them,” they wrote. “So far, it’s mostly been memes and making lighthearted fun of each other and Chatham.”

The accounts were made for a variety of different reasons. 

“We were just really bored last year, stuck in our dorm rooms with no way to meet or connect with people, and in desperate need of a good laugh,” Bored Cougars Unite wrote.

Missed Connections started after the creator noticed that most other schools in the Pittsburgh region had a “missed connections” social media account except for Chatham.

Similarly, Chatham Affirmations was inspired after the creator saw affirmation accounts from their friends at other colleges. 

“I love editing photos, so I made a few pictures as a joke just to send to my friends, and they encouraged me to make the account,” they explained.

None of these creators know each other personally or run multiple Chatham-based accounts. However, all expressed admiration for each other.

“It would be really cool to have a secret society of folks who run funny Chatham accounts,” Chatham affirmations wrote, “but nope.”

“I think we have an unspoken bond. I really respect them all,” Free Food at Chatham wrote, “and [I] appreciate what they bring to Chatham.”

Chatham Parkhurst follows Bored Cougars Unite on Instagram and periodically responds to its Instagram Stories. Photo Credit: Bored Cougars Unite.

While the University has not interacted with any of the accounts to date, Parkhurst’s Instagram account has responded to Bored Cougars Unite’s Instagram Stories, and some ex-Chatham employees follow Free Food at Chatham.

“[Parkhurst] likes to joke as much as we do,” Bored Cougars Unite wrote.

Ultimately, the goal of these accounts is to connect the campus, not cause division.

“College is such a rough, scary time of your life,” Chatham Affirmations wrote, “and joking about it and having people to joke about it with can really ease any stresses you may have.”

“I would love it if this account helps people make friends and connect with new people on campus at a deeper level than just saying ‘hi’ in the hallway,” Missed Connections wrote.

Now, micro, more niche Chatham accounts have started to be created. Free Masks at Chatham (@freemasquechathamu) appears to parody Free Food by targeting discarded masks across campus. Chatham Gossip (@chathamgossip) appears to address the rumor or confrontation that Chatham Affirmations is trying to avoid.  

“We are all finding new ways to connect and create community through technology at a time when we’ve been socially stunted and deprived for a long time,” Free Food wrote. 

Internet humor, social media platforms and technology are constantly evolving. When Chatham students interact with Instagram accounts like these ones, they are contributing to a sense of community on campus. What accounts will stay relevant will depend on what Chatham students want their community to represent.