Crushing power! How participation in universities’ crushes pages in Ecuador challenges anonymity and hegemonic power


The 21st century has witnessed the blossom of crushes/confessions pages targeting specific online communities. A subjective turn overflows communication channels where facts and data seem of less importance than feelings, introspection and action. It is thought-provoking that in a Spanish-speaking country as Ecuador, the English term “crush” –defined by the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as “the object of an intense and usually passing infatuation” – is been assimilated, without translation, into the youngsters’ jargon.

This paper goes beyond the phenomena of the (romantic) “crush” and the linguistics loanword, to analyse how participation in these pages actually “crushes” institutional and hegemonic power. First, they challenge the hegemonic understanding of anonymity that characterise them, claiming about the impossibility of “networked anonymity”. Then, they crack the system and the formal communication channels inside universities through the rise of alternative and legitimised student-oriented media that leaves aside conventions, linguistic norms, ruling and dominant institutional power.

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (1987) in their seminal work “A Thousand Plateaus” postulate the metaphor of the rhizome as a model of thought, which has been applied to analyse different networked spaces. Through a qualitative content analysis of the crushes pages of four universities in Ecuador, during two months in 2020, this study applies the principles of the rhizome –breaking down dichotomies into multiplicities– to understand a trend of participatory communication.

Crushes pages were born to disclose romantic confessions; however, soon they turned rhizomatic sharing and disseminating spaces for multiple topics that are diverse and apparently unconnected, some of them holding various entrances or even reiterating them but in different ways (decalcomania).

The outcomes suggest that in this informal user-ended media, the subjectivity in topics about crushes mingle with posts seeking supportive communication or fostering causes that call for connective action, which defies slacktivism broadly claimed as the mindset of online communities.

While crushes pages do not demand legitimacy at an institutional level –as they hold their own-right provided by their audiences that produce, reproduce and assign time and effort to keep them active–, they are antagonist voices to the established power. In that way, they are alternative spaces claiming for visibility and further involvement in university life.