In focus: Confessions go social as students and professionals turn to Facebook to open their hearts

Stories of mishaps with friends, getting caught in compromising situations and proclamations of love by secret admirers are a few ‘confessions’ seen on the Facebook Confessions pages. As students of colleges, schools and other institutions open up about themselves, Hyderabad has seen about a dozen confession pages cropping up in the last few months, including one called ‘Hyderabad Confessions’.

While students are excited about their new found forum, schools and parents are less thrilled; several confession pages of colleges across the world and even a few institutions in Mumbai and Bangalore have been shut down. For the uninitiated, users of these pages can post their ‘confessions’ on these pages. Though the pages are moderated and usually linked to schools, colleges or companies, confessions are submitted anonymously through Google Docs or Survey Monkey. The views expressed therein, page administrators insist, are completely personal.

The page administrator of the NIFT, Hyderabad confessions page created the page to serve as a space for people to “pour their hearts out” about things they were otherwise afraid to share. The person behind the Google Maps page says it’s much more than that. “I believe that confession pages are a platform where people can relive their memories and get in touch with old friends too,” he says. The same is true for the doctor who started the Gandhi Medical College page who says; “I just graduated from GMC and the years here have been a roller coaster ride with some experiences unique to a medical school. These range from sarcastic answers in ragging sessions, being chided by professors to awkward situations with patients.”

Pranks to exam fear

The pages, serves as a space where college mates and colleagues can revel in each others secrets and shared experiences but in complete anonymity. Generally the posts reveal fun stuff from pranks to jokes to crushes, but a few others touch upon serious issues like bullying, exam fear, stalking and more. The most ‘Liked’ posts are the passionate proclamations of love, loved more for their comic value than sincerity.

Posts that receive the most comments, however, are the controversial ones, “with everyone wanting to get their fair share of controversy and finally blowing things out of proportion,” according to another page administrator. Sometimes, as in the case of the IIM confessions page, students open up about issues they don’t otherwise broach under the watchful gaze of the administration or peers worried about the ‘brand image’ of the college.

While this could easily become a place where students and colleagues can come to each others’ aid in difficult situations, the anonymity is turning the page into a forum where people hurl insults or simply air their own dirty linen in public. “Recently the Osmania Medical College confessions page was taken down due to several highly controversial and demeaning posts,” informs the page administrator of GMC confessions, adding that he promptly deletes any post that attracts a lot of negative attention. The comments section where most controversy is brewed, is unfortunately beyond administrators’ control. “Every confession page must have some rules; abusive comments, confessions or insults will not be published,” says the page administrator of Teegala Krishna Reddy Educational Society’s page.

Apart from greater control, it also helps if the page administrator ensures that membership is limited to people who actually belong to the institution. Surely with the right amount of moderation, these pages can become a public forum for a constructive discussion of internal problems.