The Spencer doctrine

Confessions of a moderator

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My friends and I have an inside joke about “doctrines,” which probably stems from a sarcastic reference to Luke 4:32 from the King James Version of the Bible. We call our carefully crafted opinions and hot takes our doctrines — one of us has a doctrine that an ellipsis indicating a break in a quote should be three periods, while an ellipsis indicating the end of a thought should be four. In my tenure as admin of Overheard at UC Berkeley and Confessions from UC Berkeley, I have gradually formed a doctrine of how the pages must be run — my doctrine. And according to my doctrine, I must quit my job as admin when this semester ends and I graduate UC Berkeley.

I’m very proud of the Overheard and Confessions pages. I’ve worked every day to make these pages as good as they can be. From using my own money to finance raffle prizes to creating and maintaining the Overheard Archive, to holding special events such as “UBC vs. UCB,” I have put my heart and soul into Confessions and Overheard. As much as it will be bittersweet to leave my creations for others to manage, I know that it must be this way.

My doctrine states that only a current UC Berkeley student can run the pages — only someone thoroughly entrenched in the unique culture of UC Berkeley can really understand the right way to do it. The pages aren’t meme pages, per se, but they’re meme-adjacent, and meme culture moves so quickly these days. 

As much as it can be difficult to admit, memes are a game for the young. It is just too easy to become old and out-of-touch once you’ve left college and become a “real adult.” Besides, I’d rather leave the pages now, while I still love the work, than stay forever and slowly destroy my own passion for them. Although it’s a lot of fun, it’s also a lot of work, and it wears on you. I know I would get tired of it eventually.

So, I must do what I can to tie up loose ends and pass on my knowledge about and experience with the pages. I’m bad at quick goodbyes, so I have a lot planned. I’ll be posting a presentation of statistics and charts on the history of the Confessions page — after all, math is what I first came to Berkeley to do. I’ll be conducting a virtual graduation ceremony for the people of the class of 2020, who have been robbed of their proper commencement by COVID-19. I’ll be making a short goodbye video. And perhaps most importantly, I will be preparing a transition document for my successor.

That transition document will be the crystallization of my complete doctrine. In it, I will go over in detail all the things I did over the years to maintain the pages. It will be the product of two solid years of learning through experience, and often learning the hard way. And though I hope the document will be a useful reference, I don’t expect it to be followed perfectly.

There once was some part of me that hoped that my successor would take my doctrine to heart and live by it utterly. In my fantasy, they might even message me months after I’ve left the page, desperate for my advice on some page issue. But after having thought about it very deeply, I no longer desire this outcome. 

I admit the temptation of authoritarianism is strong in me, almost as strong as my sentimental feelings toward the pages. But when I ran the page, I didn’t have to answer to any hard set of rules or procedures. My successor shouldn’t have to either. As long as their work ethic is good and they finish what they start — just as I have always tried to do — I am confident it will be OK.

Sometimes, I call the duo of pages my babies. It’s ostensibly a joke, but there is some very real emotion behind my words when I say that. Maybe when I pass them to the next admin, I will feel something like my parents felt when they sent me off to college. And like some parents do, I may have to sometimes look the other way, lest I see my babies deviating from my original intentions and plans for their futures. 

Will the Overheard Archive be maintained? Will the 10,000th confession be worthy of its placement? Will the position of admin remain in the hands of just one person? I will have to try not to care. I know it will be hard, even painful at times. But if my parents can do it for their actual child, I can do it for my pages.

When this semester ends and I retire, I will have been the admin of Overheard at UC Berkeley for two years, one month and 17 days. In the scheme of my whole life, that isn’t that long. And I hope dearly that I will eventually do something more significant with my life than running a regionally popular Facebook group.

In any case, these 779 days will always be very special to me and I will remember them forever, along with the thousands of amazing people who made it possible. Each of the 20,000 confessions I’ve received have given me new perspectives on life, and for that, I am thankful. They’ve defined my college experience, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Spencer Hill writes the Friday column on being a moderator of Overheard at UC Berkeley and Confessions from UC Berkeley. Contact him at [email protected].