Thursday, December 2, 2021

Meme account owner revealed

Aleksandra Sidorova

The identity of the owner of the popular Instagram meme account @burghys_sextape has long remained a secret, until a post appeared on the account Oct. 16, revealing the account belongs to Andrew Shelak — a senior history major.

“I know you all have been waiting for this for a while, so here y’all go. Burghy unmasked,” the post read.

The reveal was scheduled for the occasion of Shelak’s 22 birthday, which was Oct. 13. According to Shelak, it went exactly as planned. 

In the hours leading up to the reveal, he posted pictures of 10 different people, including himself, and encouraged followers to guess which one of them was him. He attributed this idea to his friend Zachary Knox, a junior English language arts major. Later that night, Shelak hosted the first ever livestream on that account, where he revealed his identity before confirming it in the reveal post.

He shared that since the reveal, people started noticing him more. Although confusing, the sudden influx of fame to his person does not bother Shelak. 

“It’s Instagram. I run a meme account for a college that, like, no one has ever heard of,” he said.

Despite being known as “Burghy” on the account, Shelak has no association with the mascot, has never worn the suit, and has no intention to.

Shelak confessed to Knox, his friend of three years, that he managed @burghys_sextape a year ago, on his 21 birthday.

“[Shelak] was like, ‘Hold on to something.’ I gripped the armrests in his truck, and he was like, ‘I’m @burghys_sextape,’” Knox recalled.

Since that moment, Knox has been contributing many ideas for memes. He also suggested a meme-making contest to determine who the next owner of @burghys_sextape would be once Shelak graduates. Shelak and Knox plan to keep the tradition of maintaining the owner’s anonymity.

Knox thinks of himself as “Burghy’s best friend.” While he admitted he enjoyed being one of the few people who knew “Burghy’s” identity, and intentionally misleading people for fun, he said that ultimately, the reveal was for the best.

“I lost my mind when I found out,” he said. “And now everybody knows.”

Madeline Taylor, a junior psychology major, had been following @burghys_sextape “probably since the beginning.” 

She likes the page for its relatable memes, the weekly interactive “Friday Tea” and Shelak’s personality. When she saw the reveal, she realized she had sat behind him in a class once — a fun fact she likes to share with her friends.

“I couldn’t have guessed it was [Shelak] at all,” Taylor said. “I just thought it was some rando living on campus.”

Taylor had expected the reveal to fall on the account owner’s graduation. Shelak himself had anticipated revealing himself after spring break. However, he made the decision to host the reveal now both in his own interests and the interest of his followers.

“People were just figuring [the mystery] out, and I didn’t want it to get ruined by other people, so I figured I’ll just say it myself,” he said.

According to Shelak, there had been attempts to blackmail him.

“I did not want [the blackmailers] to win,” he said. “I did not want them to be the ones who would tell everyone, so I wanted to do it first. I did not want them to have that power over me.”

Knox said the first attempts at blackmail succeeded and “extorted” Shelak out of $100.

The reveal was met with the audience “losing their minds,” as Knox said. 

However, there has also been criticism, claiming that the account was no longer as fun as it was before the reveal.

“[Shelak] is so funny, just let him be,” Taylor said. “It’s his account, y’all are the ones that are following it. He’s still going to post [stuff], but now you just know what his face is.”

Shelak started @burghys_sextape in March 2020, his sophomore year, when students were sent home due to the initial COVID-19 outbreak.

“I had been home for, like, three days, and I started the account,” he said. “I don’t really know why, specifically, I just thought it would be funny.”

He started by posting his own memes about life at SUNY Plattsburgh, and the account quickly grew: within a month, @burghys_sextape had accumulated 100 followers. By the end of the summer of that year, it had 1,000. By May of this year, the account reached 2,000 and currently stands at over 2,700.

“For a campus with about 4,000 students, that’s like way more than half,” Shelak said.

Initially, Shelak had no intention of concealing his identity.

“I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t have anyone to tell: I was home during quarantine,” he said. “When [the account] was getting really big, I thought it would be really funny if I kept it a secret.”

Shelak enjoys running the account, but mentioned he can feel burned out with it during the summer, when he’s back home in Maryland.

“Over summer I would have people message me or leave comments and be like, ‘Why aren’t you posting as much?’ he said. “Guys, I have a life. I’m a person.”

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