Dear Blueno was unpublished by Facebook last week, according to a Nov. 2 post on the Blueno Bears Admirers Facebook page. Dear Blueno, a Facebook page that allowed Brown students to share anonymous questions and comments with one another, served as a forum for campus discourse since its 2018 creation.
According to the post, Dear Blueno moderators are “currently working on recovering the Dear Blueno page or setting up an alternative one.” No Dear Blueno moderators could be reached for comment on this story.
The Herald spoke with a BBA moderator who has been in recent contact with the Dear Blueno moderators regarding the status of the page and what its recovery process might look like. BBA, created in 2017, is a separate Facebook page where students anonymously post compliments and positive messages. The moderator spoke to The Herald on the condition of anonymity, as BBA requires its moderators to remain anonymous to the campus community in order to uphold user privacy.
Based on their conversation with the Dear Blueno moderators, the BBA moderator suggested that the page was unpublished “indefinitely” by Facebook without any prior notice. The moderator suspects that the page was flagged and unpublished for hate speech or misinformation automatically by the app.
Isabella Steidley ’23 MPH ’24, a Dear Blueno top fan, has used the page since her freshman year as “a resource for navigating Brown and a place for connection, especially during the pandemic,” she wrote in an email to The Herald. “At times, it has definitely helped me navigate being at Brown when I was too embarrassed to ask a question I felt everyone knew the answer to.”
Despite this, Steidley noted that Dear Blueno has a “negative side” where students air “frustrations, rants, complaints and general negativity,” which raised concerns over page’s use as a tool for supporting the Brown community.
All posts submitted to Dear Blueno must fit within its established community guidelines to be published by the page’s moderators. Still, in the past, Dear Blueno has garnered attention for posts engaging in controversial discussions, which some critics have said promote hate in the campus community.
Nick Young ’23, a Dear Blueno top fan, noted that he is not surprised that the page may have been unpublished due to hate speech concerns. He said that, despite the efforts of the page’s moderators, some “really questionable, really problematic” posts “slip through the cracks” and ultimately harm the community. As a teaching assistant, Young said that he has witnessed a level of criticism toward courses and course staff that can be harmful for student workers simply trying to do their jobs.
The BBA moderator noted Dear Blueno serves as an important community resource for student communication and communal support. They said they hope the page will be recovered to ensure students have access to the resources it can provide.
“From what we’ve communicated, the Dear Blueno mods are trying to appeal this and get the page back up. There is a chance they might not be successful and they might have to start a new version of Dear Blueno,” the moderator said.
But the process of recreating Dear Blueno is not as simple as publishing a new Facebook page. For years, Dear Blueno has played a role in shaping campus culture and reflecting campus discourse, building a community of thousands who follow and interact with the page. Recreating Dear Blueno would require rebuilding this community and regaining the support and following of Brown’s student body, the moderator noted.
In addition, many years worth of posts on Dear Blueno have created a database of frequently asked questions and community dialogue for future generations of Brown students to refer to. If the page cannot be recovered, its archived content might remain somewhere on the servers of Facebook, but all of the anonymous posts made since the page’s origin will be rendered inaccessible to the Brown community.
The BBA moderator emphasized that this affects student academics, too, since questions about courses, professors and grading metrics have become commonplace on the page. If a student has a question about a class, they will often search “it up to see if someone has already asked that without starting a new dialogue.”
Noting that BBA serves a different, more “interpersonal” purpose than Dear Blueno, the moderator added that, without Dear Blueno, the campus community is missing something that has become central to the student experience at Brown.
Since the closure of the page, the moderator said that some students have started to submit content more suited for Dear Blueno in BBA’s anonymous comment form, at times even explicitly mentioning it was meant to be submitted as a Dear Blueno post. But the moderator said BBA has no intention of changing the restrictions it places on the content of posts accepted by the page, and does not want to replace Dear Blueno’s role in the campus community.
“Dear Blueno is, in a lot of ways, the only kind of anonymous message board the community has,” the moderator said. “People are very much feeling the loss of that space and that resource.”
“The page being unpublished is a real loss in terms of being probably the largest peer resource created by students, but maybe we can move beyond the negativity it sometimes fostered and focus on the connections it created,” Steidley wrote.
Young noted that, without Dear Blueno, he will be able to use the time he typically spends commenting on posts on more productive things.
“I’m not super mad that it’s taken down,” he said. “There’s a void, but given enough time, the void will be filled by other things.”