I look left and then right, convinced that the eyes of all the bustling people around me are watching. I get closer to my subject and again pause to check that I’m not being observed. Act casual I repeat in my head, no one is looking, just do it quickly. When I feel that the moment is right, I reach out my hand and remove from the plastic container both the apple and the orange for which I have been pining. I congratulate myself on another successful pick and return to my seat in the cafeteria, where my friends, wholly unaware of what I have just done, are waiting. My alter ego disappears and I am myself again, chatting and laughing with my companions. When we have all reached the point of fullness that lies beyond satiation, we accept that it is time to return to the library.
While my five friends rise to clear their plates, I lag behind and pull out the fruits that I had earlier stashed in my pockets. One by one I place them on the table and snap a photo, making sure to capture the mold and bruises that prominently adorn the fruits. As possible captions and hashtags for the pictures soon to be Instagrammed assail my mind, it becomes clear to me that I’ve entered into my all too comforting, but entirely anonymous secret self.
I entered Foco a single student. I leave with 372 followers and a new identity—Fruit of the Foco.
It all started when I bit into a banana and was met by a pool of brown mush. How could they possibly offer something like this and expect us to eat it? The following day I returned to the plastic fruit container and blindly grabbed for fruit, only to be greeted by a strange white ball oozing with putrid juices that I still hesitate to call an orange. Immediately, as is customary for a young adult in the twenty-first century, I grabbed my phone and took a Snapchat of the orange to send to my friends. The responses were overwhelming. Fueled by the genuine amusement my picture seemed to bring to people, I resolved to start documenting my discoveries—and what better way to do it than an anonymous Instagram account?
Since that fateful day in mid-January I have been posting roughly a fruit a day to reveal the atrocities of Dartmouth Dining Service produce. Though admittedly it all began as something mainly aimed to serve my own personal enjoyment, after discovering a particularly foul apple I decided it was time to go public, and so the following spree commenced. At first I only followed the people I knew: other members of my year, people I had met through classes, and those whom I had befriended on random Saturday nights in frat basements. Alas, I came across the Instagram of an upperclassman I had never met, but was eager to get to know; behind my masked identity, I clicked the button that would be so difficult and socially unacceptable to press under my normal Instagram alias—follow.
As I gained more followers and my follower requests were accepted I had access and insight to the lives of strangers I had only known from afar. At first I felt relatively creepy and convinced myself that I had essentially become a stalker. I would pass students in the hall who had no idea whom I was, and yet I would know intimate details about where they had spent their spring break, that it was their two-year anniversary with their boyfriend, or that today was their mother’s birthday. On a few occasions I almost spoke out—longing to make an awkward introduction less awkward by bringing up some small talk about their recent family trip to Turkey. And yet, I caught myself, realizing I would either be perceived as a huge stalker or I would be forced to reveal my secret identity as Fruit of the Foco (still unclear which option would be preferred).
During winter term, I began closely following one girl’s especially interesting off term in India. Through following her to the Taj Mahal, Indian markets, Humayan’s Tomb, and her weekend excursions to Mumbai, I forged my own connection with her. And although I continued to build relationships with people who were completely ignorant of my true identity, I felt as though we were friends. Upon meeting the girl I had been tracking in India, I asked what I already knew—whether she had studied abroad yet at Dartmouth. She responded that she had been in India the past term and proceeded to explain her favorite parts of the trip. Though I had a developed what I had considered to be a fairly accurate idea of what her trip was like from my thorough Instagram stalking, I was shocked by how her words completely changed the opinions I had formed from tracking her photos. A seemingly pleasant trip to the Taj Mahal, in fact, proved to be a chaotic tourist trap; as she continued to talk, my assumptions about her trip shattered before me. I first hand observed the false ideas that social media can imprint onto viewers.
I pass one of my followers regularly—a boy on the track team who is particularly fond of posting pictures from weekend races. As I walk by him on my way to class we make the classic awkward eye contact and mutter hello to one another under our breaths. I almost slip and ask him how his race was, but catch myself before making that fatal mistake.
In the library, I sit next to a group of girls and give them a death stare as they laugh and talk loudly in an area that is meant to be quiet. They know I’m annoyed but do not stop their joking or talking. I sit there in frustration and finally resolve to move seats, making sure that they know they are the reason for my move. As they look at me disapprovingly as I stand up to leave, I simultaneously receive a notification that one of them has liked a Fruit of the Foco picture. I laugh to myself knowing that while they may dislike me, they certainly do not dislike my account which is in many ways, the rawest form of myself—able to do whatever I want, with no fear of social norms. Under the guise of Fruit of the Foco, I am able to try out all the awkward jokes that could be a success or a failure, knowing I can’t be directly judged based on anything I write.
One day, after arriving at a meeting for an extracurricular, I notice two rotten bananas on the table. As I approach them, primed to photograph, I hear a fellow co-leader notice the bananas, and ask the group if they have seen Fruit of the Foco. I freeze and slowly step away from the bananas. Someone remarks that they think it is hilarious and a few question if anyone knows who it is. I smile to myself and listen as someone says it must be a girl because the hands have rings and nail polish; terrified, I pull off my rings and stuff my hands in my pockets—hiding the bright pink nail polish that perfectly match the Fruit of the Foco pictures. I’ve tried to be more discreet since then.
I log onto Instagram on a particularly sunny day in Hanover, only to be greeted by anywhere from 20-30 identical pictures of Baker tower, all posted by students who believe they have captured the best shot of the Dartmouth icon. I scroll through my newsfeed, bored of the same pictures from Derby, Mother’s Day posts from randos, and photos of the New Hampshire sky. Everyone, thinking they are original, simply posts subtle variations on the same picture I have seen on numerous accounts. I too fall victim to this on my traditional alias—I know this is a mainstream photo, but it’s so nice, I’m sure people will think it’s different. I am one of the hundreds of students to upload a picture form the green. Sometimes when feeling unfulfilled with the umber of likes on my normal Instagram account, I log into Fruit of the Foco and change the 99 likes to 100, knowing I’m cheating myself, but desperate for the three digit number.
At lunch, when people tell me about their weekends and ask about mine we fall into the normal talk about frats and I realize that I gauge which places are popular based on photos I’ve seen upperclassman post. “Oh yeah, I heard x frat was really fun on Saturday” I say—solely rooted in a few pictures posted from there, that looked crowded. A few of my friends respond asking where I heard that, as they remark the frat was dead all night and no one had that great of a time. Again, I realize how I’ve misjudged a situation only grounded on the Instagram accounts of people I’ve never met.
Today, as I log in and out between my normal Instagram and Fruit of the Foco, I am plagued by the fear of posting something onto the wrong account—that I will accidentally upload a picture of myself with my family as Fruit of the Foco, or that I will haphazardly post a photo of a rotting banana to my named account. I find both potential pitfalls equally terrifying for fear that I will be found out, or judged for posting a picture of rotten fruit. As of now however, the account remains mostly anonymous—aside from the few people who now about my other identity. Now as I approach the fruit container again, Hannah Montana’s “Best of Both Worlds” replays in my head, “Yeah when you’re Famous it can be kinda fun, it’s really you but no one ever discovers…who would have thought that a girl like me, would double as a superstar.” And perhaps I build up my mystery identity a bit, although I still think “superstar” is an appropriate title…
So who am I? That’s one secret I’ll never tell. You know you love me.
Fruit of the Foco