Whether it’s trouble finding a parking spot or construction irritations, students at Montclair State always seem to be at war with the university. In turn, @MontclairProbs, an account on Twitter, has become the hub for collecting these issues and displaying them for the campus community to see.
However, despite a massive following and considerable influence on the social media discourse on campus, the individual behind the Montclair Probs Twitter has remained anonymous until now.
On a chilly fall night, the individual behind the handle agreed to meet at a Starbucks in Montclair. There, she lent a behind-the-scenes view as she revealed the back-story of the infamous @MontclairProbs on Twitter. The only condition: guaranteed anonymity. This is what was learned:
@Montclairprobs is a Twitter account run by a current female graduate student at Montclair State. In the past, she attended the university for the first two years of her college career and then transferred to complete her undergrad at another university. Today, she is back at Montclair State studying in a considerably small program in a field related to health sciences.
The woman behind the account said she chooses to remain anonymous because, “I feel that Montclair [State] unfairly punishes students sometimes and, even though this account is within my rights as a student, I don’t feel safe releasing my identity while I’m still a student. I’d hate to jeopardize my academic career.”
According to the handle holder, the Twitter account was started in November 2011 after she realized that other schools had social media accounts where students could freely voice their opinions about things happening on campus. With a fellow male student, who graduated from Montclair State in 2014, as her partner, she thought they could start one for Montclair State. In the beginning, she posted a few tweets herself as a way to vent and followers caught on from the use of hashtags within weeks.
When the Twitter account was first started, followers came mostly through word of mouth. The handle holder would follow random students in hopes that they’d follow back and participate in voicing their opinions. “We’ve been gaining upwards of 1,000 followers per year for the past two years and hope to reach 6,000 by the beginning of next semester,” she said.
Today, the Twitter account has just over 5,500 followers. While students tweet at the handle, tweets can often become repetitive and so she has to be careful how many she actually retweets about each topic. According to the handle holder, tweets about parking on campus are probably the most common and not many get retweeted for fear of cluttering her followers’ timelines with the same complaints. However, other tweets that don’t get retweeted are tweets with professors’ names, spam, advertisements for various accounts or anything with personal information.
The number of tweets @MontclairProbs receives per day truly depends on as well as reflects what’s happening on campus. Issues with online interfaces such as Canvas or WESS, lack of parking at the beginning of the semester and inclement weather are a few of the popular problems mentioned on the account.
“On a slow day, like in the summer or on a break, we may get zero to ten tweets,” the owner of the popular account said. “The majority of its publicity comes from retweets and favorites. I sometimes get hundreds on a good day.”
In the digital age, social media has a huge impact on students’ lives. The main purpose of the Twitter account, according to the handle holder, is to voice the opinions students have on campus and inform as well as connect other students through these issues.
“It’s great to see that our voices are being heard via Montclair Problems,” said the handle-owner. “The university itself, Dining Services and Parking Services have all responded to various tweets in the past to try to correct any issues brought up by students. I love to see that my account can make such a difference.”
In the past, the Twitter account has played a vital role in bringing various issues across campus to light. Earlier this semester, @MontclairProbs helped The Montclarion break the story of a female student who had been sexually assaulted when the account retweeted a tweet from the student revealing information regarding her case in the form of a text image attached to her tweet. The student also encouraged other victims of sexual violence to be strong and report their own cases as well.
Students Lauren Rossi and Brianne Pullen, both Family and Child Studies majors, are very active on Twitter. “I noticed the Twitter [account] this year by [seeing] someone tweet out to it,” said Rossi. “I decided to follow it and now I feel like I know a lot happening on campus.”
Similarly, Pullen noticed the Twitter account last winter when people were tweeting about how they thought it was unfair that classes weren’t cancelled on a snowy day. “It’s funny because you really get to know how [similarly] a lot of us students are thinking,” said Pullen.
Suzanne Bronski, Director of Public Relations at Montclair State, agreed that social media is a very valuable part of everyone’s lives today and very big in students’ lives. “Oftentimes, students will say or ask something on social media because they don’t know where to take their concerns or questions,” said Bronski. “Being a part of the media stream often allows us to help not only the student but others who have the same interest or question.”
She said the Twitter handle is seen by the university as just another way to help students, but would love to see more students reaching out for help directly from the department they may be tweeting about.
Though her time at the university is limited, the woman behind @MontclairProbs does not want the page to become inactive. “I may stop after I graduate or I may keep running it until I absolutely don’t have the time for it anymore.” When she finds herself unable to continue with @MontclairProbs, she plans to pass the handle down to another student so that it can continue as a a go-to place for students at Montclair State.