By Connie Matthiessen, Associate Editor
Check out this new social media trend: “confessions pages,” where students anonymously post their deepest secrets — for all the world to see.
Many colleges now have such pages, which are started by students and have no official college affiliation, and they’ve become hugely popular. Now, they’re popping up for high schools, too. Students anonymously reveal crushes, vent frustrations, and share random musings. Some of the posts are spill-it-all gossip; many are raunchy and in bad taste. Others are personal and, ultimately, a little boring. Here are a few PG-rated examples:
“Chem major guy that works at the Junction, stop being so cute! You make me want to spend all of my money on smoothies just so I can see your face all the time!” -San Francisco State University Confessions
“Before college, I had no idea what I was doing with my life. Now, I'm for certain that I have no idea what I'm doing with my life.” - Yale University Confessions
"I don't really want to live anymore. I don't see the point. We're all dying. What does life have to offer to entice me to extend my relationship with it?" - UC Berkeley Confessions
Seen in the best possible light, confessions pages give kids a chance to express themselves and get support. A Colorado University student who posted on his school’s page told the Huffington Post: "The fact is, whether big or small, every single one of us has or is currently facing some kind of hardship, and we don't always have someone or know who to talk to.” Posting, he said, helped relieve some of his stress, and he told HuffPo he hoped the pages would encourage “more people to open up about their problems in real life.”
Seen in less favorable light, confessions pages can quickly become forums for bullying.
In her book, Sticks and Stones, journalist Emily Bazelon calls out a new type of bully that she calls the “Facebook thug.” These kids are quiet and meek in person, but adopt brash, threatening online personas. As one student told Bazelon, “Everything starts on Facebook because it’s easier to talk junk to someone. People get keyboard happy.”
Confessions pages are the perfect environment for Facebook thugs because they can be as cruel as they like under cover of anonymity. Bullying is common on high school confessions pages from El Paso, TX, to Newton, MA.
According to one Montana news report, posts on several high school confessions pages included sexually explicit comments about other students, as well as nasty remarks about kids’ weight, appearance, and the sexual orientation of various teachers.
The trend has gone global: Facebook confessions pages have surfaced in Mumbai, India and at top high schools in Karachi, Pakistan. One student told the Express Tribune (a Pakistani newspaper affiliated with the International Herald Tribune), “[The Confessions pages] degrade people and make them feel unnecessarily bad about themselves.”
"Ms. Liberatore is ridiculously horrible”
Kids aren’t the only target. California teacher Alison Liberatore felt the sting when a student described her as “ridiculously horrible,” on a teacher rating site, as she relates in a recent KQED Perspectives commentary. The put down rattled her for weeks, Liberatore says, and made her wonder about the long-term damage that confessions page comments have on the fragile teen psyche: “Adolescents by nature are cloaked in uncertainty and insecurity, and these kinds of public comments can easily lead to anxiety, depression, isolation and suicide… There is a time and a place for anonymity, but public, permanent, anonymous forums that give people license to be mean-spirited just for the sake of it have no place where teenagers are the likely targets.”
Liberatore pleads to Facebook: “Please hear me…”
I just hope someone there is listening.Follow @CMMatthiessen