A member of Facebook group ‘Overheard @ University of Auckland’ who frequently shares religious content said she was at the receiving end of “verbal abuse” but hopes more people “would discuss religion in public”.
Phoebe Sun started to share Facebook posts by evangelical organizations located in the United States to Overheard in June. Most of these posts consisted of Bible verses or religious inspirational quotes.
Critics said these posts were unrelated to things seen or heard on campus and were spamming the group. Memes and other jokes have been made out of them.
While her Facebook profile shows she is living in San Diego, California, Sun told Craccum that she was a student at the University of Auckland while joining Overheard, but had left since and is currently not based in the city.
However, she has refused to disclose more details about her time at the university. Craccum cannot verify Sun had indeed studied at Auckland University or whether she had mistaken Auckland for Oakland, California.
Sun said her intention to share religious posts to Overheard was to encourage more people to publicly discuss religion.
“America has a background on Christian faith so it should be normal for people to share their religious thoughts.”
“I originally shared that content to see if anyone likes it, and if no one does I would stop. But when I haven’t posted in a while, someone from the group messaged me and said I should continue to share more of these messages.”
She claimed that the posts got more likes than negative comments, and she had received private messages from students that they liked what she shared. Craccum has not been able to confirm this.
Sun also called the criticism “verbal abuse”, and said she has the freedom to post what she wants, even if it differs from what other people think.
“If you have a look at the group, you can see a lot of people verbally abusing those who have different voices.”
“That’s why I have kept on posting, to encourage others to speak their own minds and not be afraid of the abuse.”
Craccum has reached out to the moderators of Overheard for a comment.
Some students have already started up a ‘true’ Overheard page.
A moderator told Craccum the primary reason for a replacement was the original page now does not have any moderation, because the only administrator has not been active on Facebook since 2016.
“When people post really harmful material, or spread disinformation about COVID, there’s nobody to really police that other than community moderation, which can be very easily thwarted by the poster.”
As of Saturday, the group now has more than 1000 members.