Confession pages aren’t a new thing. In fact ever since I came to college, there has atleast been one active page that was special and unique in its own right. Given recent events, with the lockdown and quarantine, naturally people are glued to their phones and are extremely bored. It is this unholy union that makes confession pages thrive and grow.  But please don’t get me wrong, I personally happen to be neutral to such pages and also happen to follow some. So when I was asked to write a report about confession pages, I knew I’ll need a far wider opinion than the one I have currently. So by interviewing a number of people who belonged to all 3 segments- those who wrote confessions, those for whom confessions were written, and those who were just there to watch and get some gossip I constructed this report to enumerate the many merits and demerits of these pages.

I’ll first start with the good

Let’s just agree that if we asked a group of people whether or not they like gossip, they would either respond in the affirmative or we could safely conclude they are lying. In fact, gossip and everyone’s inherent love for the same is the root promoter of confession pages. Everyone loves a scandal- Endless discussions, predictions on outcomes, and arguments on which side is right is part and parcel of the deal. Whether or not this nature within us is good, bad, or ugly is the subject of a completely new article. And in times such as these, gossip is the one thing which is engaging a group of people who in most scenarios have little to nothing to do. It is a means for people to keep themselves busy albeit in a highly unproductive manner. 

Secondly, most people love attention and confession pages put the spotlight on a certain individual or group, either in a good or bad light. When it is something good about them, people feel flattered and also feel a lot better about themselves. This is another good aspect of such pages (I understand the equal probability of people getting confession in a bad light, I will discuss the same in the next section of the article). As I write this, I recall this one confession which came out recently on a popular confession page, by a 2009 graduate from IIT KGP, who wrote a long and detailed post on how his batch suffered similar issues and came out stronger due to the recession in 2008. This is a classic example of how people can use the same platform in the most effective and beautiful manner ever. Another fine example is of harmless and nice confessions which are meant in good faith. On speaking to a girl, who received such a confession she admitted to feeling flattered and touched by the same. Lastly, but possibly the most important point which must be brought out is how these confession pages give a voice to people who are either timid or afraid to raise their concerns, problems or emotions on their own. This manages to have some good impacts like raising general awareness or throwing light onto those aspects of a person which are usually unknown. 

Now, coming to the bad

Now here comes the dilemma to me as the writer of this article-Every statement and argument I have made is completely voided if the confessions are hateful, vulgar, and worst of all vengeful. To quote Oscar Wilde-“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, he will tell you the truth.” These confession pages are essentially mask purveyors and it is alarming and deeply disturbing to observe that the general nature of most of the posts is hateful and vulgar. A rather close friend of mine gave excellent arguments as to the very inherent problems of such confession pages and why she honestly believed it was doing more harm than good. In her words – “For one, there is absolutely no way to verify the claims put on such pages giving untold power to those who wish to inflict harm. The person who is accused has no effective and quick way to defend themselves if something about them is written.” This causes a lot of fear with respect to a person’s public opinion the moment a hateful or false confession comes up. The individual is simply put under the lens of all those who follow the page and has to spend their time and effort trying to win people over to their side (naturally one of the most efficient approaches to combat the issue is not to give two hoots about the same, but naturally the same cannot be expected from everyone and is highly dependent on the gravity of the accusation). Worst of all, in spite of all these efforts, the thought and general mistrust will linger in the minds of the audience, something extremely harmful to the accused. The perpetrator, on the other hand, walks away scot-free with no damage done whatsoever. The antithesis of the point above regarding most people loving the limelight also comes to play here. Introverts and individuals who hate such attention are bombarded by messages from those who know them putting immense pressure and helplessness on such individuals. Next, coming to the vulgar part, posts which tend to objectify a person or tend to highlight disgusting and sometimes disturbing actions are simply pathetic and spread a wrong image and message to many people out there. I don’t need to tell you that it is extremely important to maintain a certain sense of decorum and respect to a person irrespective of who they are and how they look. Nevertheless, it is deeply upsetting to note that a lot of people, again under the shield of anonymity happily forget these inherent rules and principles which are instrumental to being a well mannered, asset to society.

So what are the solutions?

A lot of people agree that the solution is to set up far more powerful filters to protect people from the various problems caused by these posts. This power however solely rests upon the admin of the page. An admin at the end of the day is still a person with personal feelings, grudges, emotions, and beliefs. And at the end of the day, the admin is also shielded by anonymity (though in most cases I understand why it is essential from the admin’s point of view). The most effective way to get the best of both worlds in my opinion is by having a page that allows harmless confessions while censoring those confessions which are vulgar or hateful. To add on to this the admin must be accountable with their name on the bio, to ensure that a person knows whom to contact in any event. Last but not the least, the confession page must quickly and effectively delete a confession if the person in context wishes that it be removed.

More than anything else, one must understand that it is important to maintain discretion when using online platforms. Irrespective of the counter measures taken, having a sense of decency and courtesy is crucial in the online space. Let us all try our best to reduce hate and increase appreciation for one another.

Pulse reached out to one of the prominent confession page handles in NITK and the following is a Question and Answer with the page admin.

  1. What was the intention behind creating the page?

This page was created by one of my friends out of boredom. We thought about expanding the page to make it something like a forum where you can anonymously raise any issue or complaint, or let out your feelings. As for now, we have a Google Form, where the only option is to enter the confession. We don’t take any personal details.

  1. How are the responses from both the confessors and audiences?

There are every kind of response we receive like lewd comments, lashing out, personal issues, typical crush confessions, people abusing admins. 

  1. On what basis do you post the confessions?

We post confessions we like and often confessions that have more disposition among the audience. Often, we post some controversial confessions too in order to gain followers, and we try to avoid revelations with too many personal details. 

  1. Your overall view about the page. Did it meet the expectations/intentions?

Well, it’s a fun thing to have a page like this, sometimes we do get frustrated when people force us to post something that we are impuissant of, like some personal details. Initially, we had no problems in putting up personal details, but that didn’t turn out to be a good idea as people really take it offensively and it’s very easy to get your page banned for a day from posting if ample people report it. 

It does create an impact if the confession is serious enough. It did, especially among the first years. Impact as in when you have enough audience and attention, you can make people listen. So often there are issues students don’t wanna talk about publicly and when we post them, the issue gets due attention and the word travels

To be honest,  more than the impact, people just love gossip and they hate to admit it.

  1. Do you think it’s fair to spill the beans openly that may have a traumatic effect on the target at the receiving end without being accountable for the trauma that the target is undergoing?

You can’t put it as fair or unfair confessors are writing their thoughts and most of the time, they can be/are unauthentic, and you can’t really worry about authenticity when in anonymity.

It’s fair because that is the whole purpose of confession pages. While it’s not fair to the person targeted, so we don’t post those confessions where a particular individual is targeted with too many hints.

There’s a fine line between confessing and writing things to defame someone.