Olivia Anderson and Anna Ledbetter never expected their photoshopped picture of celebrity Harry Styles exiting the Chapman University COVID-19 testing center to go viral on campus.
What started as a joke in April 2021 became much more.
Their @HarryStylesAtChapmanU Instagram account was born in April 2021, where the two women broadcasted altered photos of Styles on campus and amassed nearly 650 fans.
Chapman’s unaffiliated social media accounts have created their own culture between students.
“I think it’s like another college tradition, a running joke between college kids,” said Chapman upperclassman senator Riya Belani.
Chapman was not the first university to blend campus life with fan culture. Anderson had seen an Instagram account at Samford University in Birmingham, AL where students pretended to be Harry Styles taking pictures on campus. She decided that Chapman needed the same community.
“As someone who didn’t see campus before COVID-19 hit, watching people bond over this account helped me see the community I was missing,” said sophomore animation major Chloe Capes.
Anderson and Ledbetter began following their friends on the account, while still keeping the mystery of the owner’s identity.
The duo found that silly captions paired with their photoshopped pictures of Styles of campus were gaining traction. More and more students were engaging. On their first post of Styles leaving the testing center, they captioned, “Before returning to campus, Harry made the responsible decision to a COVID test.”
Sophomore broadcast journalism & documentary major Silvia Miranda commented:
“Stop, I love that this page exists.”
Another Miranda comment, “Whoever runs this please be my friend now.”
The anonymity of the owners added to the popularity of the account.
Students were wondering: who could these masterminds be?
“I thought it was funny that random people I didn’t know started following and asking to be our friend or guess who we were,” Anderson said.
Anderson cites the star’s widespread cult following to the popularity of @HarryStylesAtChapmanU.
“Harry Styles solidarity,” Anderson said.
The account’s conception also spawned other celebrity Chapman Instagram accounts, such as @TaylorSwiftAtChapmanU.
Although this account was short-lived, it still joined students together laughing and commenting on edited pictures of Swift taking on campus life.
Sophomore business major Richard Rodriguez began Chapman’s class of 2024 Instagram account, where newly admitted students could post biographies for themselves to meet others.
At least for the members of the class of 2024, this account was their first exposure to campus. The account started in early 2020 right before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I thought that it would be a great opportunity to try to connect people given the virtual platform we were in,” Rodriguez said.
@Chapman_U_2024 posted for the last time in September 2020 after posting 774 student biographies. Many used it to find roommates or new friends with similar interests.
In the months following, less serious accounts began to pop up.
“Other accounts brought the campus together in a different way,” Rodriguez said.
As campus transferred from Zoom to real life later in 2021, new Chapman Instagram accounts emerged that focused on physical student life.
@ChapFits gained roughly 500 followers within a few months, and became known for stopping people on campus to take photos of their outfits.
The account allows for individuals to be showcased on the account, contributing to the account’s popularity.
Sophomore creative producing major Ariana DeLeon was so excited to be featured.
She was walking across Glassell Street from main campus to Dodge College when she was stopped by Liv Janicek, an owner of @ChapFits. Janicek took a picture of her outfit and DeLeon said it gave her a confidence boost.
“When I saw that I was posted, I felt famous. It was cool to see people hyping me up in the comments, some being friends and some being people I didn’t know,” she said.
The owners similarly said it had unexpectedly brought together a fashion community at Chapman.
“I’ve met people by just going up to them for an outfit picture,” said ChapFits co-owner Liv Janicek.
Regardless of the tone of these accounts, they have proved that in some ways, virtual communities can bring people together in ways that real ones can’t.
When accounts begin to lose popularity, new ones emerge in their place. Olivia Anderson says that @HarryStylesAtChapmanU reached its peak last spring.
“We haven’t been posting on it as much this school year but whenever we do, we get a lot of likes,” Anderson said.
Anderson recently made a post on the account of Harry Styles in Cabo San Lucas, making a joke about how many Chapman students went to Mexico for spring break.
One of the comments on the post was, “wondering where he went.”
It is clear that moving forward, Instagram will always be a part of Chapman’s student life.
Vivienne Ayres is a sophomore Broadcast Journalism & Documentary major from Nashville, TN. She loves thrifting and going to concerts.