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In an age when thoughts and ideas are compressed into six-second videos on the Vine app and 140-character posts on Twitter, some UCF students are using social media to share their life stories and thoughts on religion.

“#UCFBackstory” is a social-media movement aimed to inspire intimate conversations about religion and spirituality. Students are posting videos of themselves on Facebook, sharing personal stories of the role religion played in their lives and encouraging others to do the same. Each video ends with the words, “That’s my backstory. What’s yours?”

Directed by UCF student Brianna Ordenes, #UCFBackstory was developed by UCF's chapter of Cru, an on-campus Christian ministry. Cru was inspired by the success of other campus chapters, including the chapters at Florida State University and the University of Florida. More than 60 videos were uploaded to the Facebook page in the span of two days, gathering more than 50,000 views combined.

Participating students said sharing a life’s worth of backstory in a single video was no easy task.

“It took me around 20 tries to record,” said Nella Shope, a sophomore event management major. “I had my story written down on paper and referred back to that from time to time. But I wanted to make it sound real and authentic rather than me reading off of a screen.”

Hayley Mason, a sophomore hospitality major, said she was initially nervous and did not want her friends and family back home to see it.

“... After I logged on Facebook and saw all the videos, I decided to step up and make my own,” Mason said.

Vulnerability is a major deterrent for students when deciding whether or not to upload their video. It is also a predominant theme in many of the videos uploaded. Among the 63 videos posted on Facebook, there are stories on alcoholism, contemplation of suicide and personal loss.

Shope told the story of losing her father to lung cancer in high school, and Mason told the story of losing her mother as a young girl.

“It’s hard to share the fact that you’re a broken person,” said Rebekah Frisbee, a sophomore elementary education major.

Feedback on Facebook has been mainly positive as friends and family comment on the videos to share their love and support.

“I realized that there isn’t any shame in sharing your story,” said Jenna Baaske, a sophomore elementary education major. “I got a lot of comments that I wasn’t expecting at all. A lot of them said, ‘thanks for being vulnerable.’”

Unlike most social-media movements, #UCFBackstory is focused on quality rather than quantity. The movement places more emphasis on the impact students made on themselves and those around them, rather than a campus-wide outreach.

“I feel that this was a catalyst for deeper conversations and deeper friendships between people that you already know and people that you don’t know,” Baaske said.

Mason agreed, adding that every single person has their own struggles and story to share.

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Nicole Garcia is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.

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