“Sending Duo push cleanses my energy.”
“I will romance someone at the pillars.”
“Poop of geese evades my shoes.”
UB students have almost certainly seen these quotes from Instagram sensation @ubaffirmations in the past few weeks. The page, which launched in May, seeks to capture the student experience by making memes about the often-overlooked curiosities of college life, from campus fire scares to aggressive geese to spotty internet connections prospective students won’t find on any official UB website.
The account, which has already amassed more than 1,700 followers in five short months, has quickly become a mainstay on campus.
“If someone who doesn’t go to UB looks at this page, they would get such a clear idea of what it’s like to go here,” Jen Brady*, the student behind the Instagram page said in an interview with The Spectrum. “And in that way it’s sort of an odd time-capsule of the student experience in a really pedestrian way.”
With 38 posts and 1,746 followers, the account follows the format of other affirmations pages, which promote a style of humor that marries the absurd and unsettling with the wholesome and comforting through jarring photos and captions alongside positive adages. Earlier in the semester, when a dumpster caught on fire in the Wilkeson tunnel, @ubaffirmations was quick to post a photo of an inferno with top and bottom text over the image stating, “Flames of Wilkeson ignite my spirit,” along with the caption “Wilkeson garbage fire today renews my sense of student purpose. I will boss forever forward with inspiration of Wilkeson ablaze. [Horns up emoji]”
Brady says they enjoy the secrecy around their identity because it maintains the integrity of the page, which was created for comedy — not internet clout. It also keeps them from seeing the page as a chore or assignment; instead, they get to see it for what it is, an Internet meme page.
“That’s why I like remaining anonymous because then the page doesn’t feel like my project,” Brady said. “It’s just for the student experience. It’s just a way for all of us to b— about things in a space that transcends just talking to your friends, which I think can be really fun.”
The anonymity also gives Brady the feeling that they are an unconventional voice for the UB community, and the secrecy around their identity makes them feel akin to a folk hero.
“There is a certain Robin Hood-esque good feeling about running this page and not having everyone know,” Brady said.
The Instagram account @affirmations has been credited with popularizing the affirmation meme format, and the style has been adopted by college students across the nation to describe experiences unique to their campuses. The original @affirmations account inspired @ubaffirmations to try their hand at it as well.
“I was like, Buffalo has so many students and no one is going to do this the way that I would want them to. So I should just do it,” they said.
Brady draws inspiration from everyday happenings at the university, from the bees that invade students’ personal space to the sometimes questionable food service found at dining halls. But Brady explains that despite its zany nature, each meme is made thoughtfully. Referencing one of their previous posts, Brady recounts how they toe the line between satirical and whiny.
“Like the, ‘I did not cry during academic advising’ post. Like, that happened to me. But the difference between me running the page and somebody else running the page is that I’m not going to be like ‘F— Academic Advising! They’re terrible and I’m going to make a post about it!’ Like, that’s not comedy,” they said.
Brady explains their understanding of satire is what keeps the posts authentic, not hurtful.
“Satire is never meant to be insidious,” they said. “It’s just meant to bring light to the things people are thinking about; and then they have a place for it and to take it at the intersections of who they are.”
Brady didn’t expect the page to garner as much attention as it has. They thought the follower count would max out at around 200 followers.
“For a while, it was in the couple 100 followers range,” they said. “I was like, this is what it’s going to be… it’s going to be this little thing that I run and it’s kind of going to be a very secret society. And if you follow @ubaffirmations, then you get to feast upon this content.”
But Brady knew the account was more than just an underground meme page when the page’s follower count surpassed that of their personal Instagram account.
“It was a weird moment when the meme page reached more followers than my rinsta [real Instagram]. That’s when I knew I had made it,” they said.
And as the page’s following continued to grow, Brady’s belief in the account’s potential grew as well.
“Once I hit 1,000 [followers] I was like, ah, now the delusions of grandeur can set in. Now I can just genuinely believe that we’re going to have 5,000,” they said.
Today, Brady says they are confident students will enjoy the page’s satirical and unsettling content for semesters to come. They imagine the page may even become a hallmark of UB’s subculture.
“I do believe that this will grow into a virtual campus staple,” they explained. “Like, I want RAs to talk about it at their floor meetings or whatever. Like you know you’ve made it when it gets put into the annual presentation for the next couple years.”
But despite the page’s increasing popularity, Brady admits they enjoy when the followers trickle in a little slower.
“I like being in periods where it’s just the people who follow the page… and posts aren’t getting a lot of new followers because then it feels like a well-kept secret,” they said.
New York colleges and universities are home to a number of affirmation pages, at schools like RIT, SUNY New Paltz, Ithaca and Cornell. But Brady says that their page stands out from the rest because they stay true to the affirmations format.
“I do like that there’s a structural integrity to the posts,” they said. “Upon looking at other college affirmations posts, a lot of the captions just sound like they’re written by another member of the student body. And I just really like that the voice used in the @ubaffirmations posts makes no god-damn sense.”
Brady says that after five months of running the account, the page has taken on a personality of its own. And it’s that creative success that inspires them to keep posting.
“It’s almost like the page itself is a character. It clearly has its own speech pattern and way that it runs itself…” they said. “I feel like sometimes the less it [the caption] makes sense, the better. No human person writes like that. Like is Victor writing them? Is a Buffalo AI writing them?”
The page is ultimately about unity, Brady explains, which is the driving factor behind their work.
“We give up so much to go here,” they said. “We might as well relish in these really strange and specific common experiences.”
*The page’s admin requested anonymity to preserve their secret identity.
Natalie Doller is an assistant news/features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org