Two Instagram accounts run anonymously by University of La Verne students, Benny the Bear and ULV’s Best Bathrooms, integrate social media with campus life and have become popular conversation topics as their followers anticipate their next post.
Benny the Bear is a stuffed bear that is hidden around campus with clues on the page. Their followers are encouraged to post a selfie with it when found and hide it in a new spot.
ULV’s Best Bathrooms posts photos of bathrooms in the various buildings on campus and describes their amenities, rating them out of five stars in categories like cleanliness, practicality, efficiency, aesthetic, foot traffic and state of repair.
“With the bear page being anonymous… interacting with both an account and the bear itself in person is really fun and playful,” Michael Rodriguez, senior information technology major, said. “The bathroom account is fun too, but in a different way. It’s kind of mysterious. Everyone’s looking forward to the next post to find out what they’re gonna rate. In that way it’s playful as well.”
Jashelle Ranson, sophomore photography major, said she heard about both accounts from friends on campus and was featured on Benny the Bear after finding Benny in Woody Hall.
“I think it’s really interesting that we all follow one account, so when you say ‘Benny the Bear,’ we all know what we’re talking about because it is popular,” Ranson said.
Cori Navarro, freshman psychology major, said with COVID safety still in mind, she and her roommate used Lysol to sanitize the bear before hiding it in the Ludwick Center.
“I think it’s really inspirational because you have an activity that’s running 24/7 so you can always get involved if you want to,” Navarro said. “I’ve met some people around campus because my roommate and I will go find Benny and will meet other people also looking for him so that’s pretty cool.”
Students said that ULV’s Best Bathrooms helped them discover new bathrooms and spots on campus, urging them to visit buildings they are not familiar with.
“I think it helps a lot of first years, transfers, commuter students to walk around and get to know the campus a little bit more. Especially because of the pandemic, no one really knows where certain places are so I think that’s really cool as well,” Chasey Santos, senior kinesiology major, said.
“Also, it gives a sense of a safe space for those who need gender neutral bathrooms so when they talk about that or post about that, it could help other students on campus as well,” Santos added.
Students agreed that with returning to campus after being online last year, this is a time where students are looking to make friends.
“I’ve followed people through their accounts seeing who’s tagged and everything. I would definitely say it helps you reach out to other people and get to know new people,” Denise Perez, freshman music major, said.
The creator of Benny the Bear said they made the stuffed teddy bear at a Campus Activities Board event on National Teddy Bear Day, but wanted to get rid of it due to lack of space. Instead of throwing it away, they decided to create an activity where both on-campus residents and commuters could participate.
They made the account and hid Benny with a tag attached in its very first spot at night when no one was around and began following as many La Verne students as possible.
They urge students to be respectful of campus staff and buildings when searching for Benny.
The co-creators of ULV’s Best Bathrooms said the idea came when one noticed how nice the bathrooms are at ULV after eating at The Spot.
They said they began discussing what features they liked and joked about making an Instagram account to rate the bathrooms all over campus.
The creators said they went on with their night, but found themselves bored a few hours later and decided to actually make the account.
Since then, their team of two has extended to four, two of which are their creative directors.
Benny the Bear has grown to 314 followers, ULV’s Best Bathrooms with 172 followers.
All creators agreed that although their accounts started as a funny idea, it truly brings them joy.
They have wished to remain anonymous as the accounts are not about them, but for the benefit of the people at ULV.
“I’m happy they created the accounts,” Ranson said. “I think it’s nice too, (regardless of) everything that we went through last year, still have some type of thing that can bond us together. I think that’s pretty cool.”
Anabel Martinez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.