‘You’re the pizza guy’: Inside the class of 2022’s GroupMe boom

Hannah Hoffmann | Freshman Press Writer

While a thousand students in one room is seen as a mob, a thousand students in one group chat is seen as a bonding opportunity.

From the December founding of the now-abandoned “WASH U 2022 ESKEETIT” GroupMe chat, there came a boom of exclusive first-year chats that encouraged those freshmen who found the link to join and talk with their future classmates before the academic year had even begun.

“I know very little about them, except that there are like a million of them,” First Year Center Director Katharine Pei said. “That’s an exaggeration, but I think at last count there were a little over 50 GroupMes from the Class [of 2022] for different subsets of students. They became pretty popular about two or three years ago from a class-wide standpoint. They’re created and managed by incoming students on their own.”

Commonly referred to as “the eskeetit group,”, the original chat peaked at over a thousand members and primarily served as a talking space for accepted early decision freshmen.

“I got involved approximately one day after I got accepted into [Washington University],” freshman Gabriella Cooperman said. “My now-roommate got in early decision, I got in regular decision, and she added me into basically all of the chats that she was in [from early decision].”

Both regular and early decision students later moved into “WashU ’22 Committed” (called “the committed group” by involved first years), a chat of just under 600 students. From both original groups budded dozens of spinoff chats with focuses as vague or specific as students chose.

“They range from the most particular things, such as liking Logic or puns about bears, to colleges, information about majors, and very, very extensive communities for memes,” freshman and committed group owner Rylee Fitzgerald said. “Some of them come in and out, some of them were used for a while and then stopped, but every one of them had a purpose, had a reason, and…even if they aren’t used all the time, they have a community.”

Since all GroupMe chats were accessible through the smartphone app or any web browser, freshmen were able to talk as little or as much as they liked. For some students, their frequent involvement in the groups resulted in recognition once they reached campus.

“You get a profile picture. Mine is me holding a heart-shaped pizza. It’s always been my profile picture, so it’s always been kind of a joke [in the groups] that I’m very single but I have this little heart-shaped pizza,” freshman Ben Nahass said. “It’s a little weird, honestly…others come up to [me] and go, “yYou’re the pizza guy.’”

Freshman Jordan Coley talked often in several main groups over the course of summer break.

“Someone introduced themself to me at Target,” Coley said. “They said, ‘Excuse me, you’re Jordan, right?’ I said yeah, and they said they recognized me from GroupMe. I kinda thought I was in too deep. People would say hi to me and I didn’t know who they were.”

Volatile in nature, the communities served as an open space to share outlandish stories typically not told face-to-face. The odder the story, the bigger the chance that the event would snowball into a horde of students all eager to create and share memes based upon it.

“One day, out of the blue, [a friend from high school] just sends me a picture of a deer carcass, and I didn’t know how to respond to that. So I thought it would be funny if I just asked the meme chat,” freshman Pryce Yebesi said. “I just said, ‘Ladies, I have a question’. Then I passed out, came back, and there were so many memes about it. [Chat members] had taken the time to Photoshop my face onto all sorts of stuff. I really enjoyed it. When I actually told the story…and asked ‘What does it mean if you send a guy deer carcass pics?’, everyone flipped out.”

Anonymity was an option, allowing the group to serve as a breeding ground for made-up characters and falsified personas. On Apr. 10, an individual posing as a freshman with a fake name entered the pre-medicine chat and claimed to be quadruple majoring.

“Looking back on it, it’s pretty funny,” Nahass said. “He was obviously joking, whoever it was. He was talking down every person who wasn’t quadruple majoring, which was everyone, because that’s impossible. He was being really rude and calling everyone stupid.”

Freshman-organized superlatives even made their way through the groups: All categories and voting were conducted within a GroupMe-created spreadsheet.

“Yeah, I’ve been group mom twice. In 2015, when it was my first freshman year, I didn’t even know any of the Facebook groups existed, and I’m not sure if there were GroupMes being joined back then. I didn’t join anything until August. I had an injury and had to leave, so that next year when I was at home, I joined the GroupMes in December when early decision came out,” returning student Alanna Bader said. “GroupMe played a big role in making me feel less alone. I was voted class mom, alongside several other things, like meme queen. It was cute and really fun. It helped me feel way more welcome in the Class of 2022.”

It was not just admitted students that joined the groups; “attacks” organized by GroupMe chats from other universities frequently brought in anywhere from five to 50 new group members until volunteer administrators went through to remove the trespassers.

“Other schools found it entertaining to routinely attack other schools, which would mean just joining the chats, spamming, disrupting conversation, disrupting communities, sending inappropriate pictures and messages, and generally even kicking people out of groups that were involved in the community,” Fitzgerald said.

Beyond the chaos, pre-academic year chatter within the chats provided an opportunity for anxious students to bond while thousands of miles apart.

“The fact that everyone kind of knows who you are already is kind of a downside, too. It’s hard to introduce yourself when everyone knows who you are because of how you used to talk in a group chat and had a pizza avatar,” Nahass said. “But it was easier to get friends, because people just know who I am off of that. I would’ve been completely terrified meeting new people if it weren’t for [the groups], honestly.”

Coley and freshman Daniel Schefer became close friends after meeting on GroupMe.

“Others were talking, and I was like ‘Welp, I gotta get used to the people.’ I went to three different high schools, so I’d make friends, then move away, and they’d stop talking to me. So vibing with the people of the college I went to was a really big thing for me,” Coley said. “I slid into [Daniel’s] GroupMe [direct messages] and asked if he liked theatre, and the most iconic duo in our class was born.”

GroupMe offers no voice or video chatting options, leaving all discussion purely text-based without any method of signifying tone or message intention.

“The way people talk in GroupMe kinda influences the way that you see them,” Coley said. “[One student] talked about how much she wanted to party, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, is this girl an alcoholic? Is she addicted to alcohol?’ We started talking one day and I realized, ‘Wow, you’re a bro.’ The way people talk in there forms your opinion of them.”

Leaving the chats alone for an extended period of time often meant coming back to several hundred missed messages. With no ability to filter whose messages within a group would be seen or sort through discussed topics, the massive groups clog with conversation.

“I muted some of them, but I don’t have most of them muted, so I’ll be watching something and I just keep getting constant notifications. It’s annoying, especially when I go onto the app and I have a message from someone that asks ‘Why won’t you open the app?’” Schefer said. “It’s because I have a thousand notifications.”

As freshmen finally begin to reach the starting line of school, chat activity has begun to dwindle. Only a fraction of the original groups remain active.

“I’ve only been on campus for four days, but I haven’t been reading [the chats] as much. I don’t really want to. Before, I wasn’t on campus with anyone else,” Coley said. “Now it’s like, ‘Yeah, you’ll be here soon, if we’re just going to hang out then we’ll do it in person.’ My plan was to stop using GroupMe once I got to campus, but now I need it for extracurriculars. We used it as a way to connect when we were far away. On campus, we’re going to figure out who within the class we want to actually maintain relationships with.”

With the Class of 2023 still four months away from learning of early decision acceptances, the existence of another generation of GroupMe chats will come with time, or not at all.

“The Class of 2021 definitely had [GroupMe]. I would say that the Class of 2020 had some, but not nearly as many,” Pei said. “All social media and technology ebbs and flows…I think [GroupMe] is maybe at its peak, though, so I’m interested to see what the next thing will be.”

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