Students bare souls, and more, on Facebook "confession" pages

Mon Mar 18, 2013 4:10pm EDT
 
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By Stephanie Simon

(Reuters) - "I'm a compulsive laundry room thief," says one Facebook confession. "I'm the reason the 'Public Urination is Illegal' signs were put up at Coyote Village," says another.

"I sold books for the semester to go to South Padre for spring break ... Gotta pay for the booze somehow," reveals yet another poster.

By turns rueful and raunchy, these anonymous admissions pop up on 'campus confession' pages unofficially linked to scores of high schools and universities.

Like many social media trends, the confession craze captivates teenagers and 20-somethings - but alarms teachers, law enforcement officers and counselors.

"It's another creative venue where kids are able to say hurtful things, and that's frustrating," said Sameer Hinduja, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center at Florida Atlantic University.

At the same time, the pages can sometimes offer a catharsis of sorts, attracting heartfelt disclosures from students struggling with depression, alcoholism or eating disorders. Classmates often respond with links to counseling sites and offers to talk.

The anonymity of confession pages is at the core of their appeal, and they use a simple workaround to Facebook's general insistence that people use their real identity on the social network.

Students who set up confessional pages must do so under their real names, as per Facebook policy. But they can choose to cloak their identity as page administrators. To keep posts anonymous, they use free online survey tools such as SurveyMonkey or Google Forms. Confessors simply click on a link to open up a blank box where they can type their tell-all.   Continued...

 
The sun rises behind the entrance sign to Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park before the company's IPO launch, May 18, 2012. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach