On Feb. 4, VCU announced via Twitter they created an official Snapchat account with the username “vcu” They plan to have their own “My Story” in the future.
— VCU (@VCU) February 4, 2015
This official account was created just days after a novelty account on the mobile application Snapchat began posting images and videos of VCU students, only to be taken down days later.
The unofficial account showed a variety of activities taking place. Posts ranged widely from harmless studying in the school’s library, to consumption of illicit substances and sexual acts.
The content is provided by a user, the content is then added to a snapchat “story” and this story can be viewed by anyone following the account. The images and videos posted onto a user’s story are only visible for 24 hours after they’ve been posted. However, it isn’t difficult for someone viewing the story to screenshot an image and save it on their own device.
The account worked by students sending their pictures to the account, as if they were sending it to a friend. An app on the account creator’s phone takes the snap, downloads it, and then puts it on their story after a few minutes. Students took advantage of this to remain anonymous, often censoring their faces in images of them naked or performing sexual acts.
The title of the account was spread through the social media application Yik Yak the night of its creation. Anonymous students at VCU began to snap pictures of themselves around and off-campus, and the content expanded. After only two days, there was nearly a thousand seconds of images and videos to view.
With over 16 minutes of constant pictures and videos being posted within the span of 24 hours, the story was at the same length as some of Snapchat’s official live streams.
Accounts like vcu-snaps, or the one that succeeded it, doitforvcu, aren’t affiliated officially with the University. The popularity of them comes from the communal aspect of it, with people often placing text such as “Go Rams!” across images of their naked bodies. To submit to the account and view it, one has to find out about the account either through word-of-mouth or another social media site, like Yik Yak.
The University announced in a tweet last week that they have an official Snapchat account titled simply “vcu.” It’s unknown if it’s going to operate under the same principles of the unofficial accounts.
This is not exclusive to Virginia Commonwealth University, but this is the first time that an account has come to this level of popularity. Accounts for the majority of large campuses across the U.S. have risen in followers, only to be reported and removed shortly after. At the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, a public statement was released on the website condemning an account, wosh_snaps, claiming it reflected poorly on the university’s image.
VCU PD had no information to give, and claimed that they were handling no cases involving an account by the name vcu-snaps. It is unknown, then, who is continuing to report the accounts.
It is also unknown whether the account owners are aware that what they’re doing is offending somebody, however the accounts will often post a message to their story alerting the followers that its about to be banned. Sometimes, this closing message will contain the name of the account which will be taking its place. Following the report of vcu-snaps, a message was posted to the story, which had nearly approximately 600 seconds of content, telling students to instead follow doitforvcu.
This account has since be taken down as well. Apparent replacement accounts are still up-and-running under variations of the name, including diditforvcu and doit4vcu.