“I thought, why not make one?” the once hidden figure behind a DCU confessions page reveals, from a place many miles from Glasnevin.
“I have- well I had- an obsession with Ireland, I guess the fantasy is a bit broken now. I saw Derry Girls, Father Ted, I didn’t really like Normal People, but they all got me interested in Ireland”, the DCU Tea creator explained.
The popular “DCU_Tea” Instagram account shocked its more than 900 followers in early January when the account owner announced that she wasn’t a DCU student at all.
In a snow-covered playpark the account’s creator, who goes by the name Jo, showed her face for the first time to announce in a thick Australian accent that she had decided to stop using the account, and that “I’ve never even been to Ireland.”
Understandably the account’s followers were taken aback that someone from the other side of the world would have any interest in Ireland’s 5th largest university – even if it was named Sunday Times University of the Year 2021.
Jo spoke to The College View about why she started this masquerade, and what an outsider’s perspective on DCU culture was like.
“In September I was really bored because of quarantine and I saw on Tiktok that a lot of teenagers were pretending to be students of a different school and making tea accounts there. So I thought, why not make one?” she said.
Jo lives several time zones away but her temporary obsession with Ireland meant that there was no doubt in her mind that she’d pick a college here to associate with.
“I learned a bit about Ireland beforehand, but not much. I thought that doing an account for Trinity College would be too well-known. If I had posted something controversial about Trinity I would have been in fear for my life.”
After briefly considering NUI Galway as a potential option, Jo settled on DCU because one of her friends will be studying here next year.
“But all I knew about DCU was that it’s on the Northside of Dublin, that was it.”
In the months from September to December that she was active on the account Jo encouraged DCU students to use a link to the app Tellonym to send her anonymous messages that she would respond to and post.
“They kept calling the lecturers rides.”
“Initially I thought students would compliment each other on it, but that’s not what happened. My very first post was about some guy not lasting long in bed. I don’t know what that says about the student body,” she speculates.
There were a few compliments, likely people flattering themselves, but the majority of the accounts 168 posts comprised of complaints about online classes, a feud between EPL and Joint Honours students, and people lusting after their lecturers.
“They kept calling the lecturers rides. I was so confused by all the Irish slang and I didn’t even try to hide it. I had no idea what culchies were and some DM I got was like ‘Gwan’ and I thought that they thought my first name was Gwan… or does that mean something in Gaelic?”
When the novelty of this culture shock began to wear off, Jo got sick of using the account and answering the “tells”, sometimes dozens each day, she’d receive. In late October she asked her friend Ashleigh to help post on the account because she felt “too lazy to run it. I stopped even trying to seem Irish in the last 2 or 3 months of the account because I didn’t have the motivation.”
Fittingly, while talking about losing the energy required to fake being Irish, Jo also lost the energy to have an Australian accent. She had been faking the accent for in her face reveal video and for almost 20 minutes of the interview at this point.
“This Aussie accent has been taking a toll, I can’t keep going. It sounded good though, I only slipped up a few times. Trust no one,” she jokes.
To explain another one of her deceptions, Jo says that safety is a concern for her.
“The internet is a scary place so I was worried someone would try find out who I was and where I was from. So I figured I’d throw people off a bit. Yeah I’m actually a Canadian and I live in Canada but I love the show Bondi Rescue, watching it made it so easy to do the accent.”
She seems to have thrown people off her true identity quite successfully; not only is Jo a Canadian pretending to be Australian that pretended to be Irish, she also posed as a man as well.
“A lot of people following the account thought I was this guy called Stephen for some reason. Every time I got a post where someone thought I was a woman, I’d be like ‘No I’m a guy,’” she says.
Her reason for all the deception?
“Men on the Internet are just so respectful,” she says sarcastically.
“I have so many stories of people being really rude to me, even on DCU_Tea there were a few sexual comments I got that were just hilarious because of how pathetic they were. That’s just how people treat women online. So I pretended to be an Irish guy with blonde hair and blue eyes. I had a whole persona, I even said that I liked to skate and I liked horses.”
“I got my attention so I’m done now. It’s time to move on.”
When asked if she would ever consider returning to this persona and bringing back the DCU_Tea account, she pauses for a long time.
“No…The reason I started it was that I was bored and I wanted attention, and I got my attention so I’m done now. It’s time to move on.”
Although Jo is sick of the time, energy and crude remarks that went hand in hand with the attention, there are certain things that she’ll miss about her time as the woman behind the DCU_Tea account.
From the narrow window that Instagram gives her into the lives of the people of DCU, her favourite thing about the students is “the audacity.”
“It’s crazy because I go through my followers’ stories sometimes and I’ll see a story of a bunch of guys drinking in a shed and then the next one would be ‘Guys my mom just got Covid.’ You guys were pretty funny. I don’t know much about the school itself though. Do you guys have a uniform? How do you pronounce the places… Glas- neevin campus? That’s what you call it right?” she wonders.
Although her grasp on Irish pronunciation isn’t perfect, she has made some observations about the country during her time as an impersonator.
“I know that nurses aren’t getting paid much and you guys have a different dating culture. I learned that people in Ireland do bits first and then go out on a date later on. In North America it’s very different. Who am I to judge? And I noticed that every guy at DCU has the same haircut, it’s like Justin Bieber at the top and then a fade.”
The vast majority of DCU_Tea followers reacted in disbelief and good humour when Jo broke the truth that she’s never been to DCU or Ireland. But she believes that her story shows how deceptive the anonymity of the Internet can be.
“I think that in a situation like this you have to be careful about what you post. I assumed that everyone in Ireland had pretty dry humour and they’d be okay with anything I posted. But that’s not true, a lot of people were very sensitive, you get offended a bit. I got so many DMs from people saying that I was gonna get expelled for different reasons, jokes on you, I don’t even go here.
“But I do think that people should be cautious and realise their words have meaning. I don’t think I took anything too far, I think for the most part I ran the account well.”
Jo intends to finish her business degree in Toronto and get an internship straight after college. She told the College View that in the meantime she will “milk the hell” out of the story of DCU Tea to get into a sorority.
“When I’m 90 years old I’ll still be telling this story.”
Jamie Mc Carron
Image Credit: @dcu_tea