Your Stories – Meet Jackson

Name: Jackson, original creator of ‘UON Love Letters Revived’

Degree: Bachelor of Arts (Hons)

Did you create the Love Letters platform? If so, why?

Yes and no, but mostly no. I created the current Love Letters Revived page in October 2020, probably a day or two after the original page got deleted. I only got onto it so quickly because I was a huge fan of the original page and even though they hadn’t posted in ages I was checking every single day to see if they’d posted the letter I’d submitted. One day there just wasn’t a page anymore. I started joking around with my friends about setting up a new page, then I realised it would be simple and there was nothing stopping me. If I hadn’t done it, I’m sure someone else would have, but I just couldn’t imagine a version of UON without a Love Letters page so out of a very genuine concern for my fellow students I acted quickly and here we are. 

Have you taken anything from the page, has it inspired you in any way?

Broadly it gave me a lot of faith in the collective of UON students to do and say the right things most of the time, probably just because the Love Letters community is a very upbeat reflection of student life (especially compared to Hate Letters or the average Zoom class). Personally, it also taught me a lot about balancing entertainment and ethics in a way that almost can’t be explained. If I had to put it simply, I learnt the difference between “censorship” (which I often got accused of in the DMs) and “not posting trash” (which is a very wide net) and I got more confident in my decisions every week. Hopefully I get to apply that to real life at some point. 

Why did you decide to pass the page on?

There were two main reasons, both of which relate to one big change in my life this year. Firstly, I just couldn’t keep posting at the same rate anymore. When I first started the page I was posting up to three times a day, but it got less and less frequent as time went on and I got busier and more jaded. The killing blow to my posting schedule was the semester in which I wrote my Honours thesis—the combination of stress and a total lack of schedule was just too much. In January this year I found out that I got into a PhD program/scholarship, which would mean four more years of the same chaotic posting schedule but also leads nicely into the second reason. In less than a year, I’m meant to be teaching classes. On paper, I’ll still be a student but I think I’d rather die than be the lecturer that secretly runs a student page—it’d just make the fun aspects of the admin job very creepy in my opinion. 

Have any letters stuck with you?

All of the very sincere early letters have stuck with me because I was so excited to help people find love back then. The letter that always comes to mind when I get asked this though, is this one: 

Screenshot of a UON Love Letters post where a student describes crying in the library due to a personal tragedy and receiving a post-it note from the person sitting next to them saying "I hope your day gets better".

Not only is it devastating in its own right but getting this letter so early on absolutely affirmed that I was doing something important with the page. I may not have kept running it for as long as I did without this particular letter. 

How do you believe Love Letters benefits students at the University of Newcastle?

Aside from anything to do with love itself, the old page always motivated me to actually turn up to class every day in the hopes of getting a letter. Not out of a genuine hope of finding love or anything—I’m in a very happy relationship but every time I’m on campus or turn my camera on in a Zoom, I just think “today might be the day I finally get a love letter.” Maybe that’s just me, but I really do think it inspires people to turn up, dress up and be more confident in the hopes of getting some recognition because, on the other side of the coin, it’s a lot easier to give compliments (yes, even genuine, non-creepy, non-threatening ones) when you’re anonymous. 

What is your process for accepting and declining letters?

The rules are a good place to start but it’s much more complex than that. A lot of people seemed to think I had a bot doing it for me and that they could get around it by spelling sex “seggs” or saying things like “ I LOVE what a stupid piece of sh*t _____ is”, as if I’m just going to let them say anything with the right words. No, the vibes are way more important than the words, regardless of whether it’s a matter of hate speech or just boring content. Obviously there are some things I’d never post (hate letters, sexual harassment, buy/swap/sells, etc.) but during the breaks when there were lower volumes of letters I posted some lower quality content (e.g. very vague letters, general UON gossip, questions about enrolment) just to keep the page going. Generally though, I had a presumption that I would post everything and only deleted things that weren’t up to standard, even though that sometimes meant deleting 50% of submissions. It sounds like a lot but the page is defined as much by what isn’t posted than what is, so I’m ok with that. 

Photo of Jackson holding a phone in front of his face, with the words "UON Love Letters" written on the screen

Do you miss being an admin of the Love Letters page?

Yes and no, but mostly no. Running it was a great way to get a sense of the hive mind and some of the things I couldn’t post were absolutely hilarious but it’s more stressful and time consuming than it looks. In the end it’s pretty thankless, especially considering the anonymity, so any time I have regrets about handing it off I just remember that. 

Aside from the page, how do you spend your spare time?

When I’m not working on my thesis (which is still fun, for now), I train in powerlifting most days. That being said, I’m out injured at the moment so my spare time is mostly reading and Netflix, unfortunately.

Have you got any words of wisdom for other students?

Don’t try to be everything at once. If you spread yourself between too many goals, you’ll either burn out or end up half-assing most of them anyway. Uni is all about figuring out who you are, so I recommend doing that as fast as you can and then committing to it as hard as you can, even if it means finding new friends, dropping out, disappointing your parents or anything else. It doesn’t mean you can never go back or change paths but it’s a good way to minimise regrets, even though it’s impossible to always avoid them completely. 

Leave a Reply