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Heard It Through The Grapevine

Monday, 26 May, 2014

Words by Simon Farley
Illustration by Jennifer Choat 

Last May, Overheard at the University of Melbourne appeared on Facebook with this post:

#1:
Location: Arts West

Girl A: “I’m writing about Bosnia-Herzegovina”
Girl B: “What’s that?”
Girl A: “A country.”
Girl B: “Oh. It sounded like a condition. Like, I’ve got Bosnia or something.”

At the time of writing, the page has over 5,700 likes and a total of 103 tidbits and snippets of inadvertently listened-to conversation.

‘Overheard’ joined the ever-growing ranks of Facebook pages created by members of the University of Melbourne community but not associated with UMSU or the institution itself. Such pages range from hilarious and/or whimsical repositories of vital information (‘Unimelb Adventures’ and the perfectly named ‘The University of Melbourne Sausage Hunter’) to online cesspools (‘The University of Melbourne Confessions‘). ‘Overheard’ is easily one of the least revolting and most consistently entertaining of the bunch. We interviewed its anonymous creator to get an idea of where these pages come from and what purpose they serve.

What was the impetus for creating this page?

I was sitting in Arts West, trying to study. I overheard the content of post #1, and found it so hilarious that I stopped working and concentrated on eavesdropping. I sent a few messages to a friend conveying the conversation, and she replied, “You should be tweeting this live or something.” So I made this page.

I’ve always enjoyed observing people, and I love to be amazed, touched, inspired, or simply amused by passing humanity. The first few posts were all conversations that I had personally overheard.

What’s the strangest/greatest thing you personally have ever overheard? 

I’m sorry for my indecisiveness, but I couldn’t choose a single best quote. Out of the posts on the page that come from my personal eavesdropping efforts, I’m very fond of #63, which was adorable and nostalgic, and of #96, which was a marvel to behold.

#63
Location: Alan Gilbert Building

First year boy: “I didn’t know what to bring today, so I packed a notepad and a pen. Then my bag felt empty, so I put an apple in there as well.”

#96

Location: Babel

“I am the assignment queen! I am queen of the assignments! Bow down before me, subjects! Boom! Submitted! I AM YOUR QUEEN!”

What do you see as the primary goal/s of the page? 

The primary goal of this page is to create a space in which people can share with each other the gems that they overhear, for amusement, instruction, and enjoyment. It means that these wonderful utterances bring joy not only to immediate bystanders, but to other members of the University of Melbourne community who might enjoy them.

You’ve posted several humourous videos by a YouTuber named Josh Cake—are you Josh or just a friend/well-wisher? 

I wish my name could have some kind of food in it, but sadly it does not… I’m happy to share the work of any University of Melbourne students if I think it will entertain the audience of the page.

Do you think pages like this help create a sense of community? 

I believe that they can contribute to a sense of community. These pages, in a way, belong to the University of Melbourne community, and provide an online shared space and common experience. Almost every student I’ve met is aware of them, not to mention a number of the staff. As with interactions in real life, it is the actions of every member of a community [that] determine the path it takes. For example, an interaction in the comments can build a sense of solidarity through shared experience, or can cause disharmony through bigotry, depending on what people choose to say. I’ve felt that most of what happens on my page is very positive, though, and probably does help build a sense of community.

Why does Monash suck so bad? 

They don’t have an Overheard page. On Facebook, there is a closed group called ‘Overheard at Monash’, and an open group called ‘Monash Overheard’. Tragically, the ongoing conflict between these rival factions holds back Monash University from creating a united Overheard page, rising in university rankings, and proofreading their ads.

Do you adhere to a particular code or set of standards regarding what you’ll post? 

The page description states, “…don’t submit something super private or hurtful, and be generally nice to each other”, and consequently I do occasionally decide not to post content that I feel would breach this. However, most submissions are harmless, entertaining, and strangely beautiful, and I publish the vast majority of them. I like to think that this is partly due to the nature of this page. It’s not about spying on people in order to gossip or bully them. It’s about observing the words uttered by other human beings, in a spirit of mirth and openness. Ultimately, we’re here to appreciate each other.