Anonymity builds community in ‘confessions’ group

by Lucas Thayer

Nobody’s perfect. Regardless, most Whitworth students can attest to the pressure of keeping up appearances. Whitworth Confessions, a page on the site Facebook, was created late last month to let people share openly without being judged. Word of the page has spread quickly, and in under a month the page has attracted over 1,100 followers.

Whitworth students — and the occasional Sodexo staff member — are encouraged to anonymously disclose anything they might be too afraid to admit with names attached. Cheers, jeers and confessions of secret admiration appear daily.

The submissions range from the mundane: “Okay here it goes… I used to cheat at heads up seven-up” to the risqué: “I like wearing lingerie on a daily basis. Just because it makes me feel sexy.” No subject is taboo, and according to a number of submissions, more than a few students are busy breaking the Big Three.

The page’s creator and administrator, who wishes to remain anonymous, would only agree to an interview over Facebook.

The founder got the idea from the University of Oregon’s Confessions page, and decided to follow a similar format. The confessions are collected through the data collection site SurveyMonkey.com, meaning the identity of the “confessor” is anonymous.

“I thought it was really cool and wanted it for my school. The idea of having a safe environment for people to express themselves anonymously and not be judged really appealed to me,” the founder said.

Over the past week, the site’s fan base grew at a rate of roughly 25 new followers each day. It’s even sparked a spin-off page, Whitworth Compliments.

“There is also so much support from the community through comments on some of the confessions and I think it’s encouraging for people to see others going through the same things they are,” the founder said.

It’s reminiscent of an anonymous confession that upperclassmen may recall.

Two years ago, a PostSecret program began at Whitworth, modeled after the popular website PostSecret.com. Whitworth students wrote anonymous confessions which were posted in the hallway outside of Sodexo.

While the program was only supposed to last the duration of  cultural awareness week, it was extended due to public support.

PostSecret ended last year after a student found the material to be “objectifying,” said Marisol Rosado, current chair of the Multicultural Advisory Committee.

Anonymous disclosures like those featured on Whitworth Confessions worry senior Caleb McIlraith. McIlraith said he is concerned about the real-world implications of online posts in his community, where there’s potential for real harm.

McIlraith is concerned that some of the posts on the page aren’t confessional, but for the sole purpose of gaining “likes.”

“There’s a lot of power in a confession. It’s tragic when it becomes spectacle,” McIlraith said. “There’s meaning in those posts far beyond the context of where they were said.”

Late last week, the Multicultural Advisory Committee voted to restart the PostSecret program. Rosado believes it will be a good way to raise awareness about issues affecting Whitworth students.

“There are students out there who might not feel comfortable sharing their views on campus,” Rosado said. “To realize that there are people who did not feel welcomed or part of this community, for one reason or another, is something that a lot of people don’t actually think happens on this campus.”

If complaints are filed against PostSecret again, Rosado said she is prepared to put up a fight for the program.

Rosado said that while discussions about uncomfortable topics can’t happen solely through anonymous confession, it’s a good way to get the conversation started.

“Everyone has their own experience, everyone has their own perspective on things. But it’s about whether or not the campus community is willing to listen to their voice, which is what I think Whitworth Confessions and PostSecret are trying to stimulate,” Rosado said.

Contact Lucas Thayer at lthayer12@my.whitworth.edu

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