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Since March of 2020 the world has transitioned online. Zoom and Microsoft Teams have been a way to connect with coworkers and classmates, but have they really? The professional atmosphere of these services makes it hard to connect with peers, let alone make friends or get involved with new activities, even when on campus groups try to organize fun virtual meetings and events.

But where Zoom lacks, Instagram has made up for it. University themed accounts have been popping up within the UH community over the last two years, and many of them have grown a large following by using humor and shared interests to connect students in ways they may not have been able to otherwise.

From @thecrookedcougar and @uh_affirmations making students laugh, to @uh_missed_connections helping students reach out to one another in a Craigslist fashion and a multitude of UH themed fan accounts helping fans of musicians link and laugh, there’s a Cougar themed account for you.

When meeting people on campus became practically impossible due to the pandemic, these accounts helped people connect in a way that doesn’t risk illness.

Each of these accounts began after COVID for similar reasons, they wanted to have fun. Whether it be they wanted to create something to help students destress during finals like @uh_missed_connections, make UH feel a little less like a commuter school like @uh_affirmations or create an army like @thecrookedcougar.

“I hope that my account has brought them enjoyment, even in the midst of the ominously quoted unprecedented times,” said @thecrookedcougar.

Forming connections
While having fun and making people laugh is a benefit of running @uh_missed_connections, the person who runs it actually once used it to find their own missed connection.

“There was one time where I was in the basement of the library and I met someone,” @uh_missed_connections said. “Even though we only had a brief two minute conversation they completely matched my humor and every part of my personality.”

They went on to post their own missed connection on the account which led to the person seeing it, finding @uh_missed_connections’s personal account because they knew their name, and the two started talking. The two have found they have a lot in common.

While some of the accounts have more experience than others, they are not afraid to share the wealth – the wealth, of course, being followers.

“A very special thing that I got to help create was when UH Swifties and UH Harries both started their accounts,” @uh_affirmations said. “I reposted them to my story and they both shot up a couple hundred followers within that 24 hours. Now they have their own communities and Group Me’s and meet ups. It makes me really happy to see that happen, for people to find a place.”

Online to on campus
Both @uh.harries and @uhswifties are accounts dedicated to musicians Harry Styles and Taylor Swift but specifically for fans at UH. Both accounts photoshop pictures of the musicians around campus with UH related captions. This had led those in charge of the accounts to become much more familiar with the campus layout.

“I view UH so differently,” @uhswifties said. “I really see it as this home base for so many different types of people from all walks of life. It’s also made me walk about different parts of campus that I’ve never been to, just so I can edit Taylor Swift onto them. It’s really so fun.”

As the account grew, @uhswifties realized that there are a lot of Taylor Swift fans at UH. When Swift dropped ‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’ the group had a listening party at Lynn Eusan Park and many met in person for the first time. Now, they’re making the account into an official organization.

“After seeing it gain a lot of traction, I realized I wanted it to be an official on campus organization,” @uhswifties said. “With any organization, you need officers. So, I asked followers to submit an application to become an officer, interviewed potential candidates over Zoom, and picked four other amazing people to join me in the endeavor. These people mean so much to me because we all share the same goal when it comes to making this club into something bigger than us. We all see a future in this, and we work together to keep that future alive.”

While @uh_harries hasn’t said they are trying to make an official organization, they have helped connect fans on campus and led to more enjoyable and exciting experiences at Styles’ concerts in 2021.

“We have a GroupMe where some people who were planning on going to the concert alone found some friends that they could go with,” @uh_harries said. “Others are going to multiple concerts together, helping each other with school, and have become close friends. I love seeing the bonds being made because of this account. We hope to have some sort of event in the future that brings all the followers together to hang out.”

Accepting submissions
While some of the accounts have more than one person behind the keyboard, coming up with posts still isn’t easy. Each of the accounts accepts submissions, especially @uh_missed_connections, which runs off of them.

@Uh_affirmations said they only come up with half the posts on their account, with the other half coming from follower direct messages.

“This creates the opportunity for posts that I may not personally relate to, but others will, and it makes my job a lot easier,” @uh_affirmations said. “Plus then they have a personal connection to the account, which makes it that much more special.”

@Thecrookedcougar does something similar, although they describe it quite differently.

“I have connected with lots of students throughout my endeavors, many of whom have already sworn their allegiance to my cause of total campus domination,” @thecrookedcougar said. “They often use my tip line to inform me about the latest news, and I welcome their cleverness and shared hatred for my goody-two-shoes twin brother (The Daily Cougar).”

Staying power
Each of these accounts has hundreds, if not thousands, of followers and none seem to be slowing down. Even between classes, finals and their own social lives there’s a new post every week. Both of the fan accounts and @uh_missed_connections are all freshmen, meaning that they have about another three years until they need to find someone else to run the account if that’s what they decide to do.

While @thecrookedcougar gives little information about their identity, just know that their presence in the online UH community will not be diminishing any time soon, and reflects many of the other accounts’ sentiments. When asked what would happen to their account when they graduate they simply responded, “oh, please, you won’t be getting rid of me that easily.”

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