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By Maria Scanga, Staff Writer

12:33 am

For a lot of Pitt students, random trash strewn on the streets — broken mattresses, toilet seats and destroyed couches — means that they have made it home to South Oakland. 

Pitt student Warren, who asked to use a pseudonym for safety reasons, and a friend were scrolling through Instagram on a weeknight at Gene’s Place, when they came across another university’s page dedicated to capturing photos of their local neighborhood’s garbage. They started talking about the similarities between this neighborhood and South O, and South Oakland Trash was born. 

Warren said the account might be so popular — with more than 800 followers on Instagram — because Pitt students find familiarity with the content, even though it isn’t something they take pride in.

“Pitt students who live here just understand the everyday experience of walking past or even over everyone’s trash for the week,” Warren said. “While it isn’t something we can take pride in, I think it’s important to bring attention to it.” 

But the everyday experience of living in Oakland or being a Pitt student includes daily encounters not just with trash, but also squirrels. 

One of the earliest Pitt community Instagram pages, Squirrels of Pitt, posts daily images of just that — the squirrels of Pitt. Posts for their more than 5,000 followers on Instagram include pictures of squirrels eating acorns and dining hall food, scouring trash cans and even videos of students hand-feeding the squirrels. 

The page’s ownership has been passed through a few Pitt students, and the current one, Geraldine, who asked to use a pseudonym for privacy reasons, said their favorite part of running the page is receiving the insane pictures and videos that Pitt students take. 

“Someone recently sent in a video of them and their friend actually petting a squirrel, it was so cool,” Geraldine said. 

Both South Oakland Trash and Squirrels of Pitt rely on student and follower submissions for their content. According to the page owners, both pages receive a steady flow of submissions day to day. 

“When school is in session and more people are on campus, we get at least three squirrel submissions a day,” Geraldine said. 

Even during last year’s online classes, a relatively quiet campus didn’t seem to lessen the frequency of submissions for Squirrels of Pitt and South Oakland trash. Squirrels of Pitt posts pictures and daily stories every couple of days, while South Oakland Trash posts nearly every day. 

For many Pitt students, the Pitt-related social media accounts are something they look forward to each day. Pitt junior psychology major Ashley Saunders said she makes a point to visit several of the social media accounts daily, such as Pitt Disses and Pitt Missed Connections — but Squirrels of Pitt is her favorite. 

“It’s literally the first thing I do when I wake up and go on my phone,” Saunders said. “I have to check on the squirrels.” 

While a lot of the Pitt-related social media accounts are primarily for entertainment, Warren said they hope their page draws attention to the trash in South Oakland and compels people to start doing something about it. 

“I would be really happy to see this account influence people to take the initiative and be more productive in cleaning up South O,” Warren said. 

There’s a broader sense of community that these pages are able to create, a perk that goes beyond being entertaining. For Warren, they said having a sense of community through these pages is so important during the pandemic. 

“It’s so difficult for people to make connections and feel part of something right now due to all of the restrictions,” Warren said. “I think having this page helps us form a community.”

According to Geraldine, they enjoy the effort and art skills that students have in some of the pictures and videos they submit, as well as getting students directly involved in the page’s content.

“This account gives the students at Pitt a great opportunity to be included and appreciated for the pictures they submit,” Geraldine said. “I want to continue to get anyone in the area involved in this account.” 

For students who prefer to not submit anything, interacting with these pages is just as enjoyable for the owners. Geraldine said receiving feedback from followers is one of the highlights of owning the page. 

“It’s really cool to see how many people like to interact with the account,” Geraldine said. “We have some regular fans who DM us regularly and people who are always commenting on our posts.”

Saunders said she is too nervous to comment on the posts of her favorite Pitt social media accounts because so many people see the posts and like comments. 

“You see some of the comments on Pitt Disses and they have dozens of likes,” Saunders said. “It’s so funny to overhear people in the library talking about a particular post and know exactly what they’re referring to.”

Most of the social media accounts, while student-run, strive to keep their identities anonymous for privacy and safety reasons. But for Geraldine, they enjoy telling people they’ve just met that they run the account. 

“I tell everyone I meet that I run the account and they should follow up,” Geraldine said. “It’s funny when they tell me that they already follow the account.” 

Whether it’s calling out students for being obnoxious on Pitt Disses, finding romantic love on Pitt Missed Connections or checking up on the squirrels around campus on Squirrels of Pitt — there is a Pitt community page for everyone. For Saunders, the pages make campus feel more like a family. 

“Knowing that so many of us see the same posts about squirrels or trash or a cute guy getting hit by a car is almost comforting,” Saunders said. “Campus is so big but it’s really so small.”

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