By Riana Odin
As the influence of social media swells, more and more aspects of our lives are pulled into its grasp, digitalized, and broadcast for a global audience. We pass around each other’s thoughts, ideas, and memories, all stamped with our names, on invisible wifi streams. But what happens when we share our most intimate of experiences and desires, to a broader audience than before, under the guise of anonymity? A new breed of Facebook page, the anonymous confessional, is popping up on college students’ newsfeeds nationwide.
If you are an Emerson student with a Facebook page, chances are you’ve seen the accounts: Emerson Hookups, Emerson Compliments, Emerson PassiveAggressive Compliments… the list goes on. The most recent in the phenomenon, Emerson Confessional, has become arguably the most talked about of the group due to the dramatic content and our innate sense of curiosity. It is an ongoing topic of conversation throughout the Emerson community and receives hundreds of likes and comments for each post. The page describes itself as “an ongoing community art project that fosters an understanding of the meaning of secrets,” encouraging you to “free yourself and spill your inner demons.” The creator, who, if the page is truthful, is a female sophomore, and ‘her’ “elite team” offer promises of ultimate secrecy and refuge for your heaviest of confessions. What was started only weeks ago, February 20, 2013, has commanded out interest. Its influence is a multidimensional issue.
The entire premise alone is conflicted. It entices you with the freedom of anonymity, and the relief of releasing the burden of holding onto a secret alone. But the execution is flawed. The only real person shielded in the transaction is the site operator. Because students can’t post their confessions independently and instead are asked to message Emerson Confessional from their personal account, I can’t accept this as anonymous. There is a group of students, perhaps people in your classes or dormitories, that are greedily accepting our most guarded secrets with only flimsy promises of confidentiality in return. Sure, they give you the virtual mic with which to command the attention of your peers, but at a price that seems all too high. Trust is a very hard bond to forge. Many of us have personal, face to face relationships with other people and still don’t trust them, let alone with our darkest experiences. It is perplexing then, to see hundreds of voluntary confessions of taboo sexual interests, alcoholism, and personal insecurities. But out of a questionable format comes a serious evolution in our community.
The appeal of this page is the excitement of reading the details of other people’s lives. It capitalizes on the same universal human trait that tabloid magazines do, our curiosity and interest in those around us. But while many people might initially scroll through the hundred-plus postings just as entertainment, that is certainly not all they get out of it. After reading through the devastating recollections of rape, for example, you start to look at the world differently. Confession #79 talks about a date rape, and how hard it is to even say the word let alone have others around them joke about it. After reading that, there will be people who stop making such insensitive comments. The author says they were inspired to post because of confession #67. Scrolling up, another person reveals the destruction of their rape experience in post #95. They ask for a way to contact the other rape victims, writing “I think we can help and support each other.” Within a week of the page’s creation, change is occurring. People who once felt outcast by their tragedies are now seeking to come together and find comfort in an understanding voice. Each heartfelt comment, with offers of friendship and coffee dates, a shred of humanity. Even the less tragic stories, the ones about others not holding the door or our treatment of the dining hall staff, make you reconsider even the smallest parts of your day. They are thought provoking at the very least, with the potential of bringing our small community closer together.
The page might have a faulty design, but it is definitely making headway in the community. From an outsider’s opinion, it seems that members of the student body are truly benefitting from the exposure of their secrets. Because of that, I can only endorse the page and hope that people continue to reach out to one another in solidarity. I also hope that the Emerson Confessional founders recognize the magnitude of their endeavor and stand by their promise of confidentiality. We’ve got our eye on you, whoever you are.