Sonya Sorich: College life includes Facebook confession pages

April 2, 2013 

Sometimes, reality shatters my flannel-clad dreams of returning to college.

My newest obsession fits that description. I've become a regular visitor to a "confessions" Facebook page that centers on the college I attended.

Apparently, not much has changed since I graduated in 2004. Someone hates the campus email system. Someone still has feelings for an ex. And someone thinks more men on campus should wear dress shirts and ties. The only difference between those sentiments and my college days? We didn't have a digital confession booth.

The national trend apparently extends beyond my Wisconsin campus. A recent Mashable post notes, "Hundreds of high schools and universities have unofficial Facebook confession pages dedicated to sharing anonymous admissions." It compares the concept to PostSecret, a campaign "where users can divulge anything without fear of recognition."

Posters anonymously submit their confessions through an outside site like SurveyMonkey. The comments carry no byline, even when viewed by the administrator of the confessions Facebook page.

Page administrators "must use their real names under Facebook policy, but can conceal their identity when managing posts," according to the aforementioned Mashable piece.

The pages' followings vary. While writing this column, I found an Auburn University Confessions page with eight "likes" and a single confession -- something about meeting a girl in Kmart and making out in the bathroom. A University of Alabama Confessions page has 350 "likes" and boasts anonymous confessions like this: "I like to spray myself with Febreze because it's a lot cheaper than perfume and it's never too strong."

Entertaining? Sure. But for those more directly involved in campus life, the pages aren't as clear-cut.

Some campuses reportedly fear the Facebook confessions will be regarded as university-sanctioned pages. Plus, the potential for anonymous commenting inevitably leads to discussions about bullying -- especially if the pages gain prominence at the high school level.

I imagine the trend carries some ethical concerns for student administrators as well. It's one thing to post a confession about bad cafeteria food. It's another thing to receive an admission that suggests a peer needs professional intervention.

If the Facebook confession trend was popular during my college days, would I have participated? It certainly could've calmed the anxiety of choosing a major and making post-graduation plans. Without an anonymous digital space, I threw myself into the public sphere, pursuing a writing career that turned my confessions into columns.

I gladly reveal I wouldn't have done it any other way.

Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at ssorich@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8516. Visit ledger-enquirer.com/sonya to read her columns.

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