Gossip Squirrel: Where do you draw the line?

by Ein Huie

You all know the name. @whitworth_gossip_squirrel has about 1,100 followers on Instagram and has been a point of humor and contention over the past year. This anonymous account posts pictures a few times a week and has a wide range of locations and people throughout Whitworth’s campus they post about. There are many mysterious things involved in this account, but one of the biggest questions that has come up with this account is in relation to its owner. Though we may never answer the question of who it is, I would ask the question, “Should someone have that much power?”

For many of the early posts, Gossip Squirrel commented on any interaction on campus that they thought was appealing and could be appealing to others on campus. Oftentimes, actual names of the people in the photos were used. For example, two people casually having a conversation and laughing about it starts out as an innocent, platonic conversation, but once a photo is taken and a caption is thrown on, now the two people seem to be flirting with each other or they are in an argument. This twist on an innocent interaction can lead to rumors that cycle back to these people and assumptions get made. This is too much power for one person to wield.

A few months ago, the account was forced to remove one of its photos. At Midnight Madness, Gossip Squirrel took a photo of one of our leading basketball scorers and added a caption to it that ran something along the lines of the unnamed basketball player being in the spotlight “where he belongs” and that he seeks attention etc. This player commented back saying, “I don’t know what I did to deserve this, but okay…” and the post got taken down within a day or two. There were many other comments that supported the basketball player and put down gossip squirrel instead. The person behind this account was using their dislike of the basketball player to fuel their post and attacked a Whitworth student directly as an attention-seeking and prideful athlete. This is not the only offensive post this anonymous student account has posted. Earlier in February, a photo of a Whitworth professor in her convocation robes was posted with the caption, “Spotted: Someone who paid thousands of dollars to look like a bumble bee.”

Many of these posts have dark or sarcastic captions directed at a certain person or group. These captions often seem to assume the worst of people as a joke, and yet oftentimes it is not taken that way by its followers and can just come across hurtful or simply confusing. Again, I ask, where do you draw the line as someone who has enough power to tear down a student or start unwanted rumors for one or more people? Is it okay if we as followers just flag what we can after the post has been made? The difference between this account and other accounts on Instagram is the fact that this person remains anonymous and cannot be held personally responsible for anything they write or post. Sure, this happens on the public web, but the fact that this account is only seen by Whitworth students makes it much more of a relevant attack on the person being posted about because many people at Whitworth will know them or quickly figure out who it is.

So what do we do? An anonymous account at Whitworth University cannot abuse its power by calling out individual students and making fun of them or tearing them down. If they do so, the account needs to be taken away from them. If the person behind the gossip squirrel account can’t be respectful of the Whitworth community, someone else can and will. And many other anonymous accounts have been created as well since then that are very amusing to follow. Some of these include, and I would encourage you to check these out: @becktaylormemes, @whitworth_exposed, @whitworthmeninscarves, @whitworth_history, @whitworthcelebs, @feetofwhitworth, @whitworth_university_official, and @whitworth_secrets.

Contact Ein Huie at dhuie19@my.whitworth.edu