Grapeshot’s Deputy Editor, Jackson Robb, explores the MACQU Love Letters Facebook page, highlighting its vitality in representing the authentic university student experience.
University students are often left out of the stories that regularly appear in the news cycle. Young adults are usually represented by ideas of frat houses and binge drinking that are depicted through movies and television, many of which derive from America. When these ideas of the university student are present, the expectation is that students meet it, or reject it. However, the media is constantly failing to depict the social pressures attached to the period after leaving high school where over two million Australians, aged 18-25, are endeavouring to find their path in life. During this time, if unaccompanied by peers, loneliness can heavily influence the experience students have throughout university, as contextual challenges over the last three years have resulted in a loss of community amongst young people in this demographic. Which brings students to a community that won’t let them down and fosters being open and honest without ever having to reveal your identity, the Macquarie Love Letters page on Facebook.
For those who are unaware, the MACQU Love Letters page is a space where students can anonymously post comments about people or experiences they’ve had on campus, allowing members to view and comment without knowing the individual’s identity. From love confessions for a classmate to feelings of frustrations of not having a relationship, the MQ Love Letters page is a space where students can express their dissatisfaction with their university experience. The page is a time capsule for post-Covid university life at Macquarie, but make no mistake, Macquarie is not the pioneer in the university love letter sector. Most universities across Australia participate in a love letters page, usually accumulating upwards of twenty thousand followers. A report from News.com showed that The University of Melbourne’s love letters have the most activity with over 170 love letters posted per week. 
Whilst the love letter Facebook pages for Australian University students are a fun and light-hearted way to express the strong emotions associated with having a crush, the pages are also are a valuable indicator of the social relationships forming during this period of development for young adults, with some confessions being very telling of how a new generation is learning to expresses themselves. Gen Z have become one of the biggest generations to be affected by mental health, with a report from 2017 indicating that only 45% of Gen Z individuals considered their mental health to be good or excellent, and that social media use is a high contributing factor.  Put into context, a generation that is known to be more connected and more informed, often have to grapple with their identity, rejecting traditional labels and forging a new path of self-expression.  The MACQU Love Letters page can be an accurate representation of a generation finding their way, as mental health is coincided with phone usage, with 46% saying they can’t go more than an hour without checking it, to produce an online space to share the growing pains of young adulthood in Australia. 
Many students treat the page as an opportunity to advertise themselves to potential partners, listing age, height and degree specialisation as selling points. Others use the page to get advice from the wider community. In doing so, these confessions reveal a consistent pattern of problems many students at Macquarie are facing and are likely being felt across all Australian universities. Issues such as dealing with the fallout of relationships and friendships to meeting and talking to new people, the love letters Facebook pages can be a staple to bigger issues being left unaddressed by Australian universities. The transitionary period between high school and university can be extremely complicated for many young adults, as they are separated from the peers and respective support systems they access on a regular basis, with one article reporting “41% of school friendships become more distant during the first semester of university life”.  This article also indicates that a failure to develop bonds can lead to negative repercussions on not only a student’s mental health but also their academic performance. This only accounts for the foundational experiences of being a student, as added pressure from family, moving out, part time work, internships, commuting and sickness can all add to the complexity of attending uni and making friends in 2023.
An assessment of the issues raised in the MACQU Love Letters corroborate the mental health concerns of uni students and why many feel lost and seek validation from strangers on Facebook. There is much benefit to an anonymous forum as it allows students to express themselves authentically, without the anxiety of feeling directly judged or belittled for their emotions. Students write about their struggles to meet people after graduating, the hardships of hook-up culture, the online dating world and the “objectively terrifying” experience of starting a conversation with someone. This becomes evidence on how the ‘mediatization’ of relationships is leading to social interaction becoming more challenging to a new generation.  Rising social media concerns provide context to this story as students jet to technology to distract from uncomfortable situations, hoping that an anonymous saviour will provide some truth to why their life isn’t similar to a poorly written coming-of-age story. The love letters page being accessible via Facebook is a prime example of how social media is both contributing to and relieving the social pressure of young adults in Australia.
The regulations behind running a page that deals so intimately with students’ emotions can come with dangerous consequences if not handled correctly. One such letter that was submitted to the Macquarie page involved a student getting defensive of a woman he was interested in, suggesting she needed to be saved from her friends that encourage her to go out on the weekends. The comments under this post were tinged with Gen Z satire and sarcasm, but none seemed to address the underlying misogynistic problems with this comment. The duality of the MACQU Love Letters page to help students understand their loneliness whilst also being a place for fun expression is a difficult balance to maintain, but it can become a useful resource for understanding young adults and how their opinions and views are sculpted. One article cites that the classroom setting, where students are encouraged to split their attention between their instructor and taking notes, maintaining conversations or conducting research, could be contributing to high phone usage amongst young adults.  This permanently online behaviour can be accredited to the success of the Love Letters pages, as students confide in the resource that has proven to be effective, though not always beneficial.
Representations matter, and the more media that authentically depict the reality for so many young people, the easier it will be for students to find truth and meaning about their relationships, without a university Love Letter page. Whilst the pages serve as a timepiece for a generation, the MACQU Love Letters page is a place for students to voice their attraction and interaction for other students, anonymously and unapologetically. It has become a place to air grievances, get advice or try and figure out if someone has feelings for you. But most importantly, the MACQU Love Letters page is a representation of an authentic student experience, one that everyone should continue watching.
We contacted the admin of the MACQU Love Letters page for comment but received no reply at the time of publishing.
 Yim, Noah. “Rise in Facebook Love Letters Tracks Return to University. News.com, 8 Mar 2022, https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/relationships/dating/risein-facebook-love-letters-tracks-return-to-university/news-story/6a6e7198dbda9c3efcb8cf85111b8381
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