Confessions seem to bring out some of the strangest admissions in people, and last night, Twitter was no exception. Starting at around 4 p.m. March 22, the hashtag #ConfessionNight began making its way through the Twitterverse with confessions ranging from “Guys, I’m gay” to “When I was born, I was, very briefly, the youngest person on the planet.” The trending of this hashtag, though, is only the tip of the iceberg.
There has been an upswing in the numbers of confession-style websites over the last several years, and it has likely become more appealing because of the anonymity involved. Colleges and universities are becoming far more attuned to the confession sites and the potential messages they may see on them. While some of these sites are truly designed as sites in which students open their hearts anonymously, there are many hateful messages that may appear on these same sites as well. This can send a message that could push a student who is struggling with his or her mental health to dire action, which is why university and college officials say they are concerned.
Confessions such as, ““I might be slutty, but I have so many funny stories to tell later in life that it’s all worth it,” have appeared on social media sites, and a Facebook page that was designed to be a safe haven for students to anonymously share stories that they could not our should not otherwise share became a focus of cyberbullying, according to the Johns Hopkins News-Letter.
#ConfessionNight is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the strange admissions that cropped up Saturday night and on other confessions-oriented pages. There are a number of websites designed for students to post their anonymous confessions, such as Bored@. The site is designed as an anonymous social network. Ideally, anyone can post whatever they like, provided they meet the rules of conduct, which includes no racist or sexually-charged comments.
The site at Dartmouth College has an offshoot site such as Bored@Baker, a reference to the school’s Baker Berry Library. Current and former students are the only ones with access to the site. However, an investigation was recently launched after a student reported she was sexually assaulted after her name was put in a “rape guide” that was posted to Bored@Baker. There was no sexual assault reported to campus officials in connection to the post, but it turns out that the offender is currently going through the college’s disciplinary process.
Social media is starting to take an increasing front seat when it comes to criminal investigations, largely because of the confessions that are cropping up on a variety of sites. For instance, in the case of the rape of the 16-year-old girl in Steubenville, Ohio, social media figured rather prominently, as it has in over 80 percent of cases, according to a 2013 survey done by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The IACP Center for Social Media reported that 86.1 percent of the 500 police departments surveyed used social media for criminal investigations in the last year. In addition, nearly 96 percent of those surveyed use social media in general. In fact, there have been many would-be criminals who have confessed to their crimes via social media. In 2012, for instance, there was a man from Vietnam who confessed to murdering his girlfriend on Facebook, and he was later arrested by police from Ho Chi Minh City.
#ConfessionNight is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to online confessions. Somehow, there are criminals who have openly confessed to crimes on social media, in addition to people confessing to less innocuous “crimes”, such as thinking their sister’s ex-boyfriend looks like Sid the Sloth. Regardless of the motivation, people continue to feel the urge to confess everything on social media. Whether it’s due to the anonymity and the lack of eye contact, people are apparently feeling more comfortable confessing their thoughts and goings-on in a social media forum. It marks a distinct change in how people interact with each other.
By Christina St-Jean