The Person Behind UCI Feels: a Q&A

Have you ever seen those posts where people anonymously rant or express their joy? Did you know UCI has a page dedicated to that?

The UCI Feels Facebook page is full of colorful squares containing our students’ ambitions, struggles, and humanity in them. Varying from struggles over depression to encouragements to keep moving forward, the page has been garnering popularity for quite some time. The person behind this entire project is fifth year Sociology major Naser Dashti, who also happens to be the current president of the peer support group, No Strings Attached. I took him through a Q&A session to see how he started all of this.

Q: UCI Feels is still something pretty new. It’s only been up for about a year, right? How did you come up with such an idea?

A: It was actually inspired by the anonymous posts that already existed. I always had friends reblogging and posting these types of posts on Facebook, and occasionally you would see some really good ones. But I wouldn’t like the pages the posts came from because too often I felt they were very negative, and that part I didn’t like.

Still. the whole idea of having a page like that inspired me. I thought, “What if we made a page which would allow people to just post about how they’re feeling?” I couldn’t imagine that it would take off the way it has, and that’s really exciting to me.

I see how much it benefits people. It gives a lot of people a chance to express how they’re feeling, but also gives other people a chance to see what goes on inside each other’s heads.

I mean, it started off with The Feels; that was the original name. But then I decided to change it to UCI Feels, because it sounded so much more real. UCI has feelings—you walk around on campus and you see each other, but we’re not always aware about what’s going on in our friends’ lives.

I remember we got a post recently from someone who said that because of the page now, whenever they see strangers they wonder how they’re feeling—whether they’ve posted on the page, and if they’re going through difficulties or struggles.

For me personally, I always wondered if someone was going through what I was going through. I know that there’s this feeling of comfort for people who find out they’re not alone in their struggles, and I wanted to share that with others.

Q: So you’re the one that reads all these posts. Do they always involve going through hardships, or has there been a wide range of emotions throughout every submission?

A: There have been times where I feel like UCI Feels goes through these different periods of joy and sadness, and I’m not sure if it shows how we as a community go through these emotions together or whether the page kind of prompts this type of thing.

There have been times where the page has been very happy, and that brings joy to me when I post things. But there have been other times where it’s gone incredibly sad. There have been times where I’ve been so hesitant to just go on the page, because I would need to post things which are extremely personal. Sometimes I would stay up just thinking about it.

When you’re posting about someone’s feelings of depression to the point that they’re thinking of ending their life…there’s such a responsibility in that. There’s such a fear for them and a wish to help them, but it’s such a real thing that you’re doing when putting that up for others to see. Those posts are the ones I remember the most, because it’s very big for a person to reach out like that. You hope the support that people send them will be helpful.

Q: What is it you hope that most people get out of the page? I’ve seen people reach out to these anonymous posters through comments.  How do you feel about what’s happened so far, especially with those people willing to put themselves out there like that?

A: I think it’s so beautiful to see that. A lot of the people who are commenting and liking—I don’t know them! There are people within the UCI community who see the posts, and feel they can help that person. We get some very long, genuine, and heartfelt comments. It’s just incredible to see these people have taken the time to write these very personal and honest replies, sometimes even including their own struggles.

Q: Do you know of any anonymous who’ve contacted you or anyone else who have commented on their posts?

A: No, but that makes sense since it’s the nature of the page. I honestly wish they would, but I’m sure they do it in different ways that don’t connect them to the post.

I think it does help just letting them know that they can talk to you even if it’s not through admitting that they were the person that posted it. When you reach out genuinely, there’s something very real in that. That’s something that I feel goes beyond the words. It has an impact when people post, or write a comment, or say, “You can talk to me,” because it shows that they care.

Q: How would you say UCI Feels is different from similar pages like Humans of New York?

A:  It was definitely inspired by that too! I think it’s just all about taking away that façade of, “Everything’s ok” and “Everything’s fine.” We all have these real experiences, and acknowledging them I think brings them into our reality—brings them into our lives, our cultures, and into our relationships a little more where we feel comfortable talking about that. It’s an area where we understand that we all have these interesting stories and narratives of struggle.

I think it was the spirit of Humans of New York that made me wonder if I could do something like that—bringing that spark of people’s emotions that lets them connect. When people read HONY, and when they connect, it’s a beautiful thing. It transforms the way you look at a person—it transforms the way you look at people in general! That’s something I wanted to do too.