UNCA ANON sheds mask


Jemima Malote, [email protected], Editor-in-Cheif

Scrolling through the Instagram page of @unca.anon, one can find screenshot after screenshot of direct messages. 

Some posts have tags for people and others are left anonymous with only an emoji for reference.

“I’ve used it a few times because I lost things and I was begging for help. I lost my OneCard and my water bottle,” Theo Crawford said.  

Crawford, an on again off again follower of the account, said he finds the account interesting due to the occurrence of different kinds of drama, but said it is also toxic to keep up with it all.

“It was very interesting and a little dangerous at times, sometimes just because of how much drama could come from it. It’s kind of like a dog fenced in, but it’s one of those little yappy dogs, so you don’t know quite how dangerous it is, but you still want to look at it,” he said.

When it comes to the anonymity aspect of the account, Crawford said providing an anonymous space proves beneficial.

“Being able to not share every part of or have every part of yourself figured out by people is important,” he said. 

Ava Wolchesky, a visitor of the page, said anonymity emboldens people to act immaturely.

“You don’t really handle things out in person like you used to. I mean that in a civil way, like talking like adults,” she said. “They think they are anonymous and think they can get away with anything and be immature and cyberbully, which isn’t good.” 

After seeing the cancellation of an event due to an artist’s controversial history, Wolchesky responded to comments defending the artist. 

“A lot of people were like, ‘You should have brought him in any way, fuck these people’s feelings and whatever,’ and I got reported for cyberbullying, and now I have a strike on my Instagram account permanently,” she said. 

For those who still follow or frequent the page, one question remains: who is the titular anon?

Recent UNCA graduate Ashlyn Travis has the answer to that question. 

During her first semester, Travis and her roommate were avid fans of the Instagram page @uncaanon, the predecessor of her account, and although the account posted, it did so sporadically. 

“We were like, I really wonder who said this on the other page, but they haven’t posted in two weeks,” she said.

Taking matters into her own hands, Travis decided to create her own anonymous page with the intention of posting more frequently than her predecessor. 

“They didn’t have that many followers, but it was the first of its kind and when I made my page, they coexisted for like two weeks and then they stopped posting,” Travis said.

Travis never met the person who started the original anon page, but they reached out and called her a copycat.

“They’re right, but I was posting every, it was an everyday posting and then I got to be a senior and it became too much,” she said.

Throughout the page’s two-year existence, it transformed from being solely a gossip page into a forum-like mixture where students asked about housing, different professors and even placed art commissions. Due to the page’s transformation, Travis plans to keep the page open.  

“People use it a lot and I don’t want to take that away. But damn, it’s hard running it,” she said.

Originally Travis planned on passing the page on to a friend, but the workload proved too much and they could not keep up. 

“It’s about like 45 minutes to do it. To take all the screenshots, edit, it’s not that hard. I feel like I’m whining but it does take a while,” Travis said. 

One of those steps involves filtering through the comments and picking out things to post. 

“Even if I don’t agree with it, like disagree with it wholeheartedly, I still post it because I don’t want to seem biased and everyone has the right to say what they want,” Travis said. “The whole point is that it’s not supposed to be censored but there’s a line between keeping people safe and gossipping essentially.”

Sometimes, Travis gets more than a light hearted request or a petty call out and someone makes an allegation. 

“I feel like that needs to be said. It’s a really hard line to straddle. I feel like people should look out for this person, but also I have no proof, so I have to tell them I really can’t say that even though it is a tea page, a gossip page,” she said. 

Despite Travis’s neutrality, she has received some blackmail from people threatening to expose her identity and telling her to watch her back. 

“There’s a lot of hostility when people are being talked about and they don’t necessarily blame the person talking about it. They blame the enabling of participants on the anon page. I mean I get it, but I just don’t want to get shot or something,” she said. 

At first, Travis decided to keep her identity a secret, but eventually, she told those close to her.  

“I was scared because I still had a lot of time here. I didn’t want to screw up anything like, ‘You’ve been suspended for x, y, z,’ so I just told my roommate first and then my suitemate and I think the amount of people that know is like up to maybe 10,” Travis said.

In some of her posts, Travis left hints as to where she lived. 

“I’ll say something happened around Founders, or people are outside and I hear them shouting something, and I post about it or the small comment. I’ve always wondered if someone could figure it out themselves, and one girl did,” she said. 

Using some of the clues Travis left on the page, her coworker figured out her identity. 

“She just deduced that I was someone in higher ed, possibly an RA, and I was graduating. And we had an RA meeting and I was the only one graduating this semester and I mentioned several times on the page how I’m graduating and she just put two and two together,” she said. “It was scary at first because I’ve got, I didn’t even know if I was going to do this, because I’ve got threats and I didn’t want to compromise any opportunities that might come from my career.” 

Travis said when people find out she runs the page they are surprised and expect that she knows so many secrets.

“I don’t remember anything. I delete everything after I screenshot it. I’ll be passing someone on the sidewalk and they could have posted the most out of pocket thing and be completely horrible on the page or something like that or sent 30 submissions in and I won’t remember and I’m being serious. I might remember someone but I don’t pay that much attention,” she said. 

Although the page runs on anonymity, Travis said there are some things that should be said non-anonymously, especially when it comes to sensitive issues and hot topics. 

 “I think that if they want anonymity it should be there but when you’re talking about that kind of stuff I feel like if you’re going to be so brazen you probably should say it with a face to it.”

Occasionally, Travis joins in on the chats with her personal account or submits something anonymously.

“I was the one that wanted to know how to build a PC, but I didn’t want to ask because if I actually went through with someone trying to do it, they would know who I was. I’ve done it multiple times, not like an overwhelming amount but I definitely have a lot of submissions from myself because I’m just like everyone else. I want to know certain things,” she said. “But it’s funny because they have no idea that I wanted to make a PC to play the sims.”

Despite receiving threats, Travis said she enjoyed running the account and the interactions she’s had with people. 

“I really, really appreciate the comments, people or the DM’s people send me like, ‘thank you anon, you’ve really helped with x, y, z, we appreciate everything you’re doing,’ because it is draining keeping up the page and I feel bad when I miss several days because the original intent was me doing it every single day and I just don’t want to let people down but I do appreciate them,” Travis said.

Although Travis graduated she said she misses her friends as she graduated a year earlier than them. 

“When you get here, try to be out of your comfort zone and just suffer through being a little bit extroverted if you can, because you’ll want friends when there’s fun stuff to do here especially if a pandemic hits and you don’t have anyone at home to talk to,” she said.