Overheard at Villanova

Lauren McCarthy

“Sixty-six of your friends have joined the group Overheard at Villanova.” This little phrase has been popping up on many Villanova students’ Facebook NewsFeeds every day, with the number of friends increasing with each click of the refresh button. Pictures have been left comment-less, and Farmville farms neglected, as Villanova students flock to the newest Facebook craze. Over the past week, Overheard at Villanova has gained a huge deal of popularity, with thousands of students joining and posting to the group.

It is easy to see why Overheard at Villanova has become the most popular way to avoid your statistics homework. The premise of the group is very basic; students can join the Facebook group and from there, post their favorite tidbits of conversation that they have overheard on campus. Posts on the group range from people on the stairs of Bartley confused about the location of Washington, D.C., (no, it’s not actually in Washington state) to football players discussing the pros and cons of “Twilight” vs. “The O.C.” while walking past the Oreo. Students are encouraged to simply post whatever they hear that will make members of the group laugh. All posts are left nameless, with only the campus location giving hint to the true identity of the speaker.

This simple, yet rewarding form of entertainment has kept the number of members rapidly increasing. However, many students do not realize that their new favorite pastime is not new to the Facebook world. Senior Kevin Hackbarth created the group over a year ago, during the summer of 2008. While visiting a friend at Elon University in North Carolina, Hackbarth was introduced to the group “Overheard at Elon.” Hackbarth saw how well-received the group was at Elon and knew that it would also resonate with Villanova students.

“I hear people say dumb things all the time,” Hackbarth says. “I thought it would be hilarious if we did it here.”

Hackbarth kept the group small initially, only inviting his friends to join the group. The activity of the group was limited, with just 12 posts from the group’s first post on May 13, 2008 until November of that year. The group remained silent for almost an entire year, without an update until a sudden resurgence on Oct. 25 of this year. Since then, hundreds of posts have been made chronicling the overheard conversations around campus.

Hackbarth is perhaps the most dumbfounded by this abrupt, and seemingly random, amount of attention that his formerly little-known group is receiving.

“I was impressed,” he says “I have no idea what sparked it.”

Still, as with most trends, it only took a few people to take notice, and pass it on to all their friends for it to generate a buzz. Sophomore Niamh Cloughley was one of these first few people who took an interest in the defunct group.

“I saw on my NewsFeed that a few of my friends had joined it,” she says. “When I clicked on it, there was only one post in the past six months, and about 20 or so from before that. I was kind of disappointed because I felt like it would be something hilarious, and fantastically distracting from schoolwork.”

Cloughley saw potential in the group due to the popularity of sites like textsfromlastnight.com and fmylife.com and figured that Villanova students would find the group equally amusing. However, she never expected the group to become so widely accepted.

“I invited about 100 people that I thought shared my sense of humor and would think the site was funny,” she says. “I checked back a few days later, and not only had many of my friends joined, but a few of them had contributed funny stories to the wall. Hundreds of people joined over the following days. I guess other people recognized the potential too.”

With new posts being added to the wall every few minutes, the group’s status as Villanova’s latest obsession does not appear to be fading. However, the content of some of these posts has raised a few eyebrows. Many of the overheard conversations posted concern topics such as sex and alcohol. With posts being linked to very specific campus locations, and sometimes even exact times of the conversation, some students are beginning to fear that their real identity may be linked to their overheard conversation.

“Villanova is not a terribly huge campus, and we all are pretty routine about where we walk,” says sophomore Megan DePippo. “I feel like if the quote is from girl sitting outside of Sheehan, it’s going to be me. We all get a good laugh from the group, but we all know we’ve said stupid things or things out of context that just don’t sound right. I’m always worried that I’m going to read my own quote one day.”

Still, for the time being, students are ignoring their fear of being exposed and just accepting the group for being an easy, guaranteed laugh. While Hackbarth may still not know where the surge in interest in his group came from, he is optimistic about the future of it.

“I would love it if it remained a Villanova thing, if it became a tradition,” he says. “It’s a gift that keeps on giving. You never run out of things to write.”