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OU student rises to campus celebrity status as ‘Shadowhunter,’ reflects on ups, downs of growing popularity

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James McGaugh

"Shadowhunter" James McGaugh on Nov. 9.

“The legend of Shadowhunter” may sound like a scary campfire story, but in reality, it’s the story of an ordinary OU student who studies aerospace engineering by day and is a campus celebrity by night.

James “JT” McGaugh, better known as Shadowhunter, or simply Shadow, has stumbled upon unintentional local fame.

McGaugh’s nickname has an interesting origin. He earned it in elementary school due to the fact that he could sneak up on people and scare them without even trying.

Many may think that Shadow’s popularity began this semester, but “The legend of Shadowhunter” goes even further back, all the way to Couch Center. “People call me ‘King Shadow’ or ‘Shadow the Legend.' I hear it all the time,” Shadow said.

“It started last year on the fifth floor of Couch Center," Shadow said. "I was put in a group chat by accident at the beginning of the school year, and everyone was wondering, ‘Who the heck is Shadowhunter?’ I was like, 'Ya’ll wanna know? Come find me!'”

Shadow created a scavenger game of sorts on the fifth floor for people to come find him, and when they did, they called him a legend. Soon enough, he even had random people coming up to his door asking if he was Shadow.

“I started realizing, 'Crap, I just became a legend,'” Shadow said.

However, Snapchat is the main culprit to blame for Shadow’s recent popularity. The app has a new feature where you can log into your university email and join a community story of your class. On the “University of Oklahoma 2025” story, Shadow has made himself a prominent character, posting every day. His constant snaps caused others in the story to notice him, and people began making memes with him as the punchline.

“They really take what I say and turn it into a meme. It’s hilarious,” Shadow said.

Gracey Lewis, a pre-law psychology student, isn’t fazed in the slightest by the memes about Shadow.

“It doesn’t surprise me that Shadow has become a meme," Lewis said. "I think most people genuinely enjoy hanging out and keeping up with what he is doing, and most others think it’s a joke. Either way, he’s a pretty cool guy."

One common theme of the memes were people joking that Shadow would “run over everyone in the bike lane,” as he often vented about those who walk in the bike lane. People also began noticing Shadow on campus, taking pictures and asking if it was really him. 

“The bike lane — I hear that as a joke all the time," Shadow said. "That’s what started the trend of Shadow being spotted."

Lori Roy, another Class of 2025 student, inquires about the intentions of those making the memes. 

“I think it’s absolutely hilarious, but when I think about how it stemmed from people making fun of Shadow, I question how moral it actually is," Roy said.

Shadow has felt uplifted by his newfound fame. He’s found a sense of community and connected with so many people that he never would have before. Shadow said this year that fame grew even more because Snapchat now has community stories. The University of Oklahoma Class of 2025 story alone has over 800 members. 

“Whenever I joined the Class of ‘25 story, people were like, ‘Bro, Shadow is here!’ and I just kept on posting," Shadow said. "There's a lot of inside jokes. It's hilarious. It's been really bringing a lot of motivation for me and others because there's a lot of people who look up to me and look out for me. It makes it easier for me to live my life because of everything I've been going through.” 

Unfortunately, all fame, no matter how small, has its downsides. Shadow has been on the receiving end of cyberbullying due to his growing popularity, which takes place on the Snapchat story and other apps as well, such as Yik Yak.

Lara Mayeux, associate professor of social and developmental psychology at OU, said that social media creates such a feeling of anonymity that leads people to say things that they never would in real life.

“Another reason is that the social media environment is a massive source of social influence,” Mayeux said. “Some researchers call it a 'super peer.' There are literally thousands of other people influencing your behavior in that space. So if you're witnessing many, many other people piling on one individual, that creates a situation where you are far more likely to do the same. Over time, it can start to feel like a normal part of using social media.”

Lewis believes that the bullying, while not right, is to be expected, due to all fame bringing some form of negativity or hate.

“The cyberbullying that has come with what he likes to call fame is to be expected,” Lewis said. “Bullying is all over the internet, and some might say you can’t be famous if you don’t have haters. Either way, I think getting his name out there and getting this kind of attention, the good kind, is good. And who knows? Maybe he’ll have a legacy at OU.”

The anonymity of social media has certainly led many people to say harmful things about Shadow, but he tries his best to deal with it.

“People constantly just go back to back, saying, ‘You just need to shut up, you're annoying, you talk too much,’ things of that nature,” Shadow said. “People throw my past at me and throw out lies about me, making it worse. It hurts me deep inside personally. I know that some people are just joking, but some people really aren't. I just try so hard to blow it off even though it hurts.”

It can be extremely hard on one’s mental health to endure any form of bullying, but vast cyberbullying can be especially hard to combat. Mayeux recommends reaching out to loved ones or a professional, especially for large-scale bullying that is hard to combat simply by blocking cyberbullies.

“Friends can remind us that we are loved and that the bullies don't speak for everyone," Mayeux said. "This is something that's more common among women, but men should reach out to their friends for support, too! And honestly, experiencing cyberbullying can be just plain awful and even frightening. So, reaching out to a counselor or other professional for some support is a good option, too. OU's Goddard Health Center has counseling resources that are fantastic."

Regardless of the haters, Shadow is not letting any of the negativity stop him. 

“The cyberbullying really does have a huge impact on me, but I also have good people who support me, like the Shadow fan club group chat,” Shadow said. “They're always like, ‘Shadow you're amazing, we're all here because of you.’ So, that type of stuff brings me back up from everyone who brings me down. I had six friend groups last year and now I have 11. People are learning the type of person I truly am. I'm loyal and a good friend. If they'll be a good person and friend for me, I'll be that person for them.” 

Shadow isn’t alone in believing this about himself, as Lewis confirms the goodness of his character.

“Shadow is a very interesting person to say the least," Lewis said. "I met him in a class last semester. He is very much outgoing and caring of his friends."

Shadow has also begun to have parties and hangouts recently with people he’s met through the OU 2025 Snapchat story. 

“There was a good 18 to 20 people who showed up to the most recent one, and we all just had a lot of fun and had good conversations," Shadow said. "There's a lot of plus sides to it."

His most recent event was his Halloween party. He expected the celebration to be a blowout, and it was.

“The party was very successful," Shadow said. "About 163 people came. We’re already planning the next one to be bigger and better."

Despite all the ups and downs, Shadow is just overall grateful for the good people in his life and has no time for anyone else. It’s safe to say that “The legend of Shadowhunter” is far from over.

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