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These are my confessions

Anonymous sites, apps offer veil for student secrets

Published: Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Updated: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 22:02

Computer

William Guerra

Stories of nightlong partying escapades, declarations of love for classmates and tales of the bizarre ironies and hypocrisies of one’s personal life are subjects that many college students would never think to admit to their friends and classmates — until recently.

A trend of anonymous confession pages on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and even through smartphones apps has sparked a change in the way people interact with one another behind social media.

With the rise of this trend in confession pages, users are able to admit their secrets to an audience of thousands, even millions, of viewers and still maintain their anonymity. These confession pages have entered the social media community at Texas A&M, sparking both the interest and criticism of students in the Aggie community.

One such page is Texas A&M Crushes. With more than 2,000 followers on Facebook and almost 3,000 on Twitter, the page is rising in popularity among students across campus. Sunny Goklani, Class of 2013, is an administrator for the page.

Goklani said he was not a founding member of the page, but just a follower on the Facebook page. He became an administrator for the page after messaging the page asking to join and work. Goklani said the page can be a valuable source for those who want to muster up some courage to talk to a crush.

“More than half of the undergrads are teens, and by nature teens want to get together and meet others, but can also be by nature very shy,” Goklani said. “If I am sitting next to a girl in class and I only know her first name and am nervous to talk to her, I can submit a post anonymously through the page and tell her that I like her. Many times we’ve seen this be successful and people mentioned have encouraged the poster to contact them and it has worked out well.”

Rather than submitting anonymous posts, Luis Fayad, senior history major, said he prefers to comment on the anonymous posts.

“I’ve been a pretty frequent commenter on the A&M confessions page and have gotten a somewhat infamous reputation of being a ‘wise aleck,’” Fayad said.

Fayad said he was a bit skeptical of the effectiveness of the page.

“If people were actually interested in getting with the person they had a crush on, they wouldn’t do it anonymously, they would tell them face-to-face,” Fayad said. “Although I guess it is a good way for more shy people to figure out if a certain person is single or not.”

Ty Jimerson, junior animal science major, said he has seen other users of the site encourage posters to pursue their crush and views the site as a positive influence.

“I think it’s especially good for people who are shy to express their feelings and then maybe if they are given enough courage by peers for them to approach their crush,” Jimerson said.

Ayesha Varshney, sophomore business major, said she feels the site is a good place to start if someone has a crush. She said, however, that like any webpage, the Facebook page had its fair share of “trolls.”

“With all Internet pages, there will be a certain amount of trolling,” Varshney said. “Some of the crushes that have been posted in the past do have a ridiculous quality to them and some of them in the past were just so downright creepy and weird that you can’t help but just laugh at it.”

Goklani said the administrators now more closely monitor the posts, though the poster still maintains anonymity.

“We make sure to not post anything that would be racist, very immodest or embarrassing,” Goklani said. “Additionally, if a person mentioned in a crush post is ever uncomfortable with being in the post for any reason, they may message us and we have always immediately taken it down.”

Another site that gained national attention is Whisper, a social mobile app that allows users to publicize a confession or secret with total anonymity. Whisper reached out to university students across the nation, including students at Texas A&M. Laura Lucart, freshman communication major and Texas A&M campus rep for Whisper, said localization is a unique feature of the app.

“Users can also go to the ‘nearby’ tab in the app and see Whispers created on their college campuses which causes many users to form positive, meaningful connections with other users and take their relationships offline,” Lucart said.

The app also has a Facebook page for Aggies titled “Whisper on Texas A&M.”

Lucart said the purpose of Whisper was to take away the ego-based focus that networks such as Facebook and Twitter share.

“[The founder] wondered what would happen if personal identity were removed from the equation and people were allowed to engage in an anonymous visual community on mobile devices,” Lucart said.

She said the site can enable those who want to share a secret to do so without encountering judgment from peers.

“Sharing a secret is pretty risky business,” Lucart said. “Sharing anonymously makes it less risky, first of all, and also makes the teller more comfortable with getting something out that may be tearing them apart inside, without all the judgment from their friends.”

Tori Kloeppel, freshman business major, pointed out her areas of concern with the app.

“Confessing things over the Internet can lead to people promoting negative things,” Kloeppel said. “If, for example, a person says something like, ‘I’m in a relationship with my professor’ — if this person wants to get real advice on whether or not their choice is morally wrong or right, then they should talk to actual people face-to-face rather than admitting it on the Internet.”

Kloeppel said she feels anonymous confessions can be a way to hide from reality, rather than help the confessor.

“Our society is so consumed with technology and this is just another way to hide from our decisions in real life,” Kloeppel said. “We should face our decisions in real life rather than the Internet.”

 

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