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Dating as a BNOC

Is the St Andrews dating scene worse for campus celebrities?

The small-town feel of St Andrews creates a unique experience many students refer to as a ‘bubble’ in which the real world disappears and all that is left are our three streets. In the dating scene, that means there are endless opportunities to meet potential matches. Whether it be in the queue for an event or in a tutorial group, there is no shortage of places to meet people. Issues arise, however, when you have to see your past prospects in every market, restaurant, and event until you graduate. This fear of seeing an ex-hookup is so deeply ingrained in St Andrews culture that few people use dating apps for fear of seeing a match on the street.

This awkward dance in the St Andrews dating scene is uncomfortable enough for regular students, but one subgroup of St Andrews students debatably has it worse. The bubble of our town and the rise of online content creation amongst students has created a plethora of BNOCs, or “big names on campus.” 

Of course, we aren’t unique in having our share of minor campus celebrities, as many universities do. However, the picturesque landscape of our town and the countless exclusive societies and traditions draw students to create content depicting life as a university student here. When they go ‘viral’ enough to start getting recognized, the confined streets of St Andrews make it difficult to hide from the spotlight.

Usually, these campus celebrities have done something tangible to get in the spotlight, like post TikToks filming what they do on a normal day in St Andrews or even DJ at every Vic event. Everyone knows them for a reason, and seeing them in person instead of on your TikTok or Instagram feed feels a bit bizarre. Of course, they’re normal people that you could hypothetically be friends with, but it feels like playing Where’s Wally in real life when you see them at the library. You may even approach them on a night out and ask where you know them from whilst knowing exactly who they are and how you know them. 

Mauricio, who runs the popular meme account @mauricioatstandrews, has avoided dating apps completely for this reason. While “having a meme account is the perfect ice breaker, I tend to date people that I met before I started a meme account.” There is an increasing sentiment that dating apps in St Andrews are useless since everyone is too scared to message or go on dates for fear of seeing their matches in person if things go wrong. This is exacerbated for those who are widely recognised. An entire group of girls I interviewed at the library admitted to having swiped right on “big names” to say they did, because getting a match with a campus celebrity would be a great story. It can create a sense of inauthenticity for people looking for genuine connections.

Since dating is based on getting to know the other person, the dynamic changes if one’s date already knows who you are. Vic Priestner, a student who makes TikToks and content for popular St Andrews Instagram page OutnAbout, says that “it’s definitely a weird situation when you go into a first date where they know your sleep routine and you don’t even know what they study.” Social media can get personal, especially for content creators who share their personal lives, so the already vulnerable act of going on dates is worsened when the person sitting across from you already knows intimate aspects of your life. 

Sam McKnight, a student who has amassed 100k followers on Instagram for his history-centred content creation, says that it can be isolating when people make “preconceived notions about you and who you are as a person. It creates a sense of constantly being perceived”. Many of the BNOCs I reached out to declined to comment for this reason — one’s dating life is intimate already, and being in the public eye makes you even more vulnerable. While there are certainly upsides to being well known around campus and on social media, the dating scene is undoubtedly harder for students whose dating pool is people they already know or the edgy folk who don’t have social media. 

Image from Wikimedia Commons

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