Nostalgia, camaraderie lead to popularity of SFA Facebook group
Story by Christine Broussard '10 & '20
Honest Mango playing at Crossroads, Nacho Mamas on Tuesday or Jitterbugs on Saturday night — if you know, you know. And if you're willing to share with the more than 19,000 members of the You Know You Went to SFA Facebook group, they can join you in reminiscing.
"The page name is intentional and beloved because truly, if you know, you know," said Stephanie Tippie '99, who is one of approximately 10 YKYW2SFA group administrators. "You can bore people to death who didn't go to SFA with your endless stories about Nac, SFA, the weather, Jitterbugs, Crossroads, Sports Shack, Steen Library, the Units, Ag Pond, zoo dorm and everything else. Or you can post your memories on YKYW2SFA and see the amazing response."
The once obscure social media group created in August 2011 has exploded in followers and page posts during the past year.
"The page is more than 10 years old but only had about 100 members until fall 2020," said group administrator Marcie (Moore) Brain '91. "The page grows every week."
Group administrators have various theories for this quick popularization, including the results of an intentional algorithmic shift by Facebook in 2016 away from news feeds and toward an emphasis on the platform's plethora of content-specific groups.
Perhaps most influential to YKYW2SFA's explosive following, however, were the conditions that arose from the pandemic's most isolated months. Faced with the mental rigors of enforced quarantines, work-from-home requirements and rising worldwide COVID-19 case numbers, group administrators believe SFA alumni increasingly sought out the virtual connection and camaraderie YKYW2SFA provided.
"The pandemic and everything else that happened in 2020 really made people look around for something to consume other than the news of the day," said Paul Scherr '99, a group administrator. "We've heard from hundreds of members who said this page is the only reason they open Facebook anymore."
Craig Turnage, SFA executive director of alumni relations, said the organic engagement on the site is absolutely inspirational.
"Any time alumni get together to talk about SFA, it's a good thing for the university," he said. "We need our alums spreading the word about the Lumberjack experience in every way possible, especially to prospective students."
You Know You Went to SFA if
You Can Grow a Massive Following
Administration of YKYW2SFA has shifted hands a number of times during the past decade, handed down from generations of alumni to other purple-pride enthusiasts. With varying levels of experience in such a role, the current administrators took over and quickly learned how to capitalize on Facebook's revamped algorithms in ways that made the most sense for their vision of the group.
"The intent of the page now is to visit and see something you won't see in your regular news feed and to feel good about being an SFA Lumberjack," said admin Lindsay Russell Marchiori '03. "We don't have ads. We also want to know what year(s) you attended SFA when you post because that's what people relate to. We like original content. We don't like forwards or reposts. It's in the rules you agree to when you ask to join the group."
Each of the thousands of members has personal reasons for following the group's posts, but general consensus is nostalgia plays one of the more powerful roles in eliciting participation.
"The hope was to ensure we have shared bonds with other alumni while learning about their time at SFA," said admin Cord Schuck '02. "We all shared a lot of the same buildings, but different trends and cultures happened during our time at the university. Through YKYW2SFA, we now share in others' experiences and can find common ground."
Every day group members bond over old photos, recollections of faculty and staff, and campus events from way back when.
"What's cool is whether you graduated in 1968 or 2018, that dorm room pic from 1988 resonates with you," Scherr said. "It takes you back and gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling from your time on campus. That's the purpose of the page and what makes it so special — connecting generations of Lumberjacks based on shared memories and experiences."
YKYW2SFA has served to unify generations of Lumberjacks, unearth long-forgotten memorabilia and exist as a virtual respite from bleak and uncertain times.
"Friends have been reunited, love interests found, and Jacks have rekindled their love for the purple and white," said Jessica Russell '03, group admin. "This page was a saving grace for so many of us. Its follower base really skyrocketed in the middle of a very polarizing election, as well as one of the most bizarre years any of us has experienced. This page provided shelter from all of that and kept us coming back for more."
You Know You Went to SFA if
You Can Solve Decades-old Mysteries
Never underestimate the power of social sleuthing — especially when it involves the mobilization of thousands of armchair detectives.
While YKYW2SFA has undoubtedly thrived on widespread nostalgia, its virtual connection of thousands of alumni also has led Lumberjacks to solve more than one mystery of a long-lost Lumberjack item.
"Near the beginning of 2021, someone posted on the page about finding an SFA class ring in a drawer while cleaning out a house, and the post went bananas," said group admin Scot Krueger '00. "The ring had an Alpha Tau Omega insignia on it. Fairly quickly, the niece of its original owner saw and identified it as her uncle's. She gave the holder of the ring the Lufkin address, and within days, Charles Poland was reunited with his missing SFA ring. Our members are passionate, and that keeps people engaged and proud to be a Lumberjack."
As the Facebook group steadily grows, page administrators feel confident that their own contributions and those of so many followers have curated a truly indelible virtual space.
"The possibilities of the page are very bright not only for members but also for the university community and the power of its Alumni Association and alumni base," said admin Rocky Sanders '96. "The YKYW2SFA page is organic and fun, and that's the direction we'll keep it going."
If you're interested in joining the YKYW2SFA Facebook group, visit facebook.com/groups/ykyw2sfa.
Top images, clockwise from left:
David Annen: I seriously feel like I struck gold cleaning out the garage.
Marcie Moore Brain: Found agenda book from 1986-87. Huey Lewis concert, The Dishes, so many movies... wish I could remember what the abbreviations mean. Seriously not that many days that don’t have anything written.
Kristi Marissa Alfaro: Welllllll, about that parking...