Snapchat is dead. Facebook is for old people. Half of Instagram is just pictures of people breaking COVID-19 guidelines. In 2021, one social media app seems to reign supreme among Wesleyan students, and it’s not TikTok. In the past couple years, Twitter has become the platform of choice for many students across campus. As a subculture, the Wesleyan Twitter presence has become its own phenomenon, known by its users as WesTwitter.
When asked about what makes Twitter more popular than other social media apps, students had many different explanations. Bodhi Small ’22 finds that especially compared to TikTok, Twitter is more user friendly.
“When you’re scrolling through Twitter, you start to see things you’ve already seen, and it’s like, ‘Time to get off Twitter I’ve already seen all of this,’ whereas with TikTok, it will just show you endless void of things you’ve never seen that you don’t really want to see, but will see,” Small said. “I think Twitter is the right amount of usable, but not too usable. It doesn’t fully suck you in.”
Some students also said that Twitter is less performative than other social media platforms, which makes it more appealing.
“Instagram can be really stressful,” Hadassa Garfein ’24. “Especially being a first-year, it can seem like people are trying to show off their friends, and how cool they are, and all these cool things they can do to boost their status at the school. Twitter seems like it doesn’t require any of that. It completely goes against all of those things, because it’s random and fun and no one really cares about the social hierarchy of school and how you present yourself and how you look.”
Becca Baron ’23 also highlighted her frustrations with Instagram.
“I think Instagram is so visually aggressive in the sense that you have to look at people all the time,” Baron said. “I like that Twitter was more about ideas.”
Because Twitter is more about sharing text instead of pictures, students said that it allows them to develop a different side of their personalities.
“I would describe Wesleyan Twitter as witty, political, quirky—pretty much words I’d use to describe Wesleyan [students] in general,” Baron said. “I would say it’s this really strange, intimate community.”
Garfein echoed Baron’s sentiments, highlighting WesTwitter’s quirkiness.
“[It’s] very quirky and funny, lots of self-deprecation, lots of people seeking significant others,” Garfein explained. “Just very fun and kind of freeing. It reminds me a lot of the ‘make Instagram casual again’ trend, but instead it’s just people sharing their random thoughts and stories throughout the day.”
Students felt that the pandemic could have been the origin of the WesTwitter revival.
“I can’t totally speak to before the pandemic, but I feel like that might have something to do with [the fact that] we’re all on our phones so much more than usual,” Fana Schoen ’24 said. “So I feel like part of it maybe has to do with that. I know some of my friends probably wouldn’t be on Twitter if we weren’t so bored all the time.”
While the pandemic has provided students with extra time to scroll, it has also left students feeling separated from campus life and the connections that are typically formed in-person. Because of this, Twitter has been an alternative way for students to stay in touch.
“I have found it a really nice way to stay connected to Wes people while we were away from campus, especially because there are a lot of people that I’m friendly with, but not necessarily close enough to text, you know?” Abby Nicholson ’23 wrote in a message to The Argus.
Twitter has also been helpful in disseminating information. Heather Cassell ’23, who was one of the leaders of the #reformreslife movement, felt that Twitter was a great way to get the word out about their experiences with Residential Life.
“We definitely used WesTwitter—a sort of makeshift campus to socialize during the pandemic—to our advantage when we needed help earlier this month,” Cassell said.
Some students have even used the apps to deepen friendships.
“It’s kind of nice to connect with Wesleyan in this different way and share jokes and laugh together, even with people you might not know as well in person,” Schoen said. “Steph [Monard ‘24], one of my best friends, who writes for the Argus and about whom I tweet all the time—I didn’t meet her on Twitter, we met a bunch of different ways and our paths crossed over and over again—we definitely grew closer over Twitter, which was very nice and I don’t know if we would have been as close without Twitter [and] without the pandemic.”
However, not all of these Twitter friendships translate to the real world.
“I mean, that’s the funny thing about WesTwitter. I feel like there are people who I follow on Twitter [whose tweets I like], and they follow me and they like my tweet[s], and I’ll even comment on their tweets, but if I saw them in person we would both look away,” Baron said. “So, I don’t know about making friends, although I will say it’s a little bit easier to connect with people because you really feel like you’re getting a window into who they are.”
Small also emphasized the sentiment that on Twitter, he interacts with many people whom he doesn’t know personally.
“I will respond to people’s tweets who I’ve never met but I know they go to Wesleyan,” Small said. “The other day I responded to a tweet of a person I had never heard of in my entire life, but I was following them, I guess. It’s good for having some sense of community on campus, but it’s weird, because it’s not like everyone is there, it’s just a handful of people.”
Whether or not students choose to address their Twitter friends when they cross paths in person, WesTwitter has truly become an extension of the Wesleyan community due to the shared experiences of WesTwitter’s users.
“I think that Wesleyan students are such a specific niche group of people and there’s so many things we experience on a day-to-day basis that we all share,” Garfein said. “There’s just so many jokes you can make about those little things….It’s a very relatable situation, and I think Wesleyan students really take to the format in some ways.”