By Phoebe Doscher, Magazine Editor
The advent of social media catalyzed a new era of digital platform usage as a tool to inform and inspire. For the Gettysburg community this summer, Instagram accounts became a unifying source of awareness and visibility. These accounts provide a safe environment to share stories anonymously, allowing participants and followers to feel heard, find resources, and take part in movements to enact change.
Three such accounts are designed to amplify community voices in a safe environment on a platform that provides validation and resources. @DearGettysburg was created to uplift and raise awareness of those in the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community; @GburgSurvivors shares stories of those who have experienced sexual assault, misconduct, and harassment; and @MindsofGettysburg is designed to educate and raise awareness of those with mental illness. The accounts include anonymous submissions of first-person stories, and ultimately challenge the community to engage in conversations that will incite positive changes.
The @deargettysburg Instagram account took form in early July alongside this summer’s protests for racial justice. The account aims to involve the Gettysburg community in conversations surrounding race. In order to engage with the community in a productive way, the account creators turned to storytelling to amplify the BIPOC experience.
“While the campus does its best to have conversations surrounding race and carve out spaces for us, it is still difficult for us to feel 100% safe, accepted and valued. In order for this to manifest, exposure and awareness need to happen,” a representative for the @deargettysburg account said.
The account has garnered a following of more than 1,000 and contains around fifty first-person accounts of experiences from current students and alumni. The account creators intended to not only amplify the voices of those in the BIPOC community, but also hold the white community at Gettysburg accountable for their actions, which, according to @deargettysburg, stems from recognizing and speaking out against systemic racism and injustices.
“Followers are beginning to realize Gettysburg is flawed when it comes to how they support the BIPOC community. Some followers are even beginning to take accountability for their own implicit biases and for their own actions or inactions when they did not speak up for their friends in the face of injustice,” @deargettysburg said.
Labeled in their bio “From Gettysburg College’s BIPOC students, parents, alumn [sic], faculty and staff. To Gettysburgs [sic] Community that should listen,” the page also highlighted a petition over the summer created by the Black and Brown Alumni in support of BIPOC students, with a number of recommendations and action items for the Gettysburg College administration. The account creators intend on remaining active in this conversation to uplift voices in the BIPOC community.
“We remain committed to using this platform to teach our Gettysburg Community, that we love and are a part of, as we push for change.”
Survivors of Gettysburg
The Instagram account dedicated to survivors of sexual assault, misconduct, and harassment at Gettysburg emerged shortly after @deargettysburg in late July. Under the username @gburgsurvivors, the account’s creators are survivors themselves who are striving to build a community on campus to empower those impacted and acknowledge the existence of sexual misconduct in the community.
“People who have experienced sexual violence often feel isolated and misunderstood by their community. They often feel abandoned or betrayed by a school that, more often than not, fails to hold perpetrators accountable,” an account spokesperson said.
Most of the posts in the account contain trigger warnings advising reader discretion on various topics discussed in firsthand accounts, including sexual assault, catcalling, intoxication, coercion, and systemic failure. The account also posts resources to educate their followers—survivors and allies alike—as well as hotlines for those who seek assistance.
“It’s not just Gettysburg; it’s a societal problem. It’s up to us to address it.” – @gburgsurvivors
“Not only do we personally feel empowered, but we have received messages from other survivors thanking us for creating a space for them to share their stories freely, showing us how truly empowering it has been for others. We have also received messages from other students, asking questions about things they didn’t know and actively trying to learn more, and asking what they can do to help,” @gburgsurvivors said.
The Office of Sexual Respect and Title IX at Gettysburg voiced awareness and support of the Instagram account, “We are aware. We do see it,” Director Amanda Blaugher said. “I am 100% supportive of people sharing their stories.” Blaugher hopes that students feel comfortable approaching the Office with their concerns as well.
In speaking with owners of similar accounts at other institutions, @gburgsurvivors noticed the widespread impact of sexual violence, and the universal rally to incite change on college campuses through platforms such as Instagram.
“We have been in contact with similar accounts at other colleges and universities who are all working towards the same goals: striving to create change on their campuses,” @gburgsurvivors said. “This demonstrates how sexual violence spans campuses across the country and our society at large.”
Minds of Gettysburg
It’s been seven weeks since the more recent unifying Gettysburg Instagram platform @MindsofGettysburg began. The newest of the three, this account is designed to raise awareness of mental illnesses and provide mental health resources.
“I struggle with anxiety and depression, more so anxiety day to day,” the account creator said. “Now that I’m more educated about mental health and illness just from my own learning, I’m able to recognize it in others, be more conscientious, and help others.”
This account was created with the intention of raising awareness of those who experience mental illnesses and drawing attention to various diagnoses, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and panic disorders.
“This account is somewhat an extension but also a platform to normalize the discussion of mental health [and to] work to break stigmas surrounding treatment for mental health,” @mindsofgettysburg said.
Those who interact with the account will notice first-person accounts of experiences with mental illness, trigger warnings, and resources to promote maintaining mental health. Ultimately, the platform was created to provide a comfortable setting for individuals to share stories on a platform where others can listen and relate.
“I know personally I have comfort knowing I have close friends who are also in the same storm as I am,” @mindsofgettysburg said. “We’re not all in the same boat, and I think that’s important to acknowledge, but we’re all in the same storm of mental struggle.”
Storytelling, Conversations, Action
All three Instagram accounts agree on priorities of increasing visibility around these experiences and providing resources to move forward effectively, whether that be overcoming stigmas, being held accountable, or becoming more informed. The account creators voiced the importance of bettering the Gettysburg community—a matter that extends beyond campus: “It’s not just Gettysburg; it’s a societal problem,” @gburgsurvivors said. “It’s up to us to address it.”