Anonymous Confessions pages are surging in popularity on high school and college campuses. Why? | Town Square | Palo Alto Online |

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Anonymous Confessions pages are surging in popularity on high school and college campuses. Why?

Original post made on Mar 6, 2020

Anonymous Confessions pages offer young people a place for unfiltered expression. But they also raise questions about censorship, free speech and safety for their student-moderators.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, March 6, 2020, 6:44 AM

Comments (11)

5 people like this
Posted by Jon Keeling
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 6, 2020 at 8:30 am

I am a huge fan of Facebook Confessions.

It is great that students have this resource. Initial post is anonymous but replies are not. It is truly inspiring to see fellow students responding to provide support for those who reach out to express frustrations which at times are as severe as expressions of suicidal thoughts.

As a parent, I am tempted to jump in more often than I do. But I do not want to seem overwhelming or "lectury." I want the students to handle things themselves in general. But when I see that my thoughts or life experience may help, I carefully craft my response, often mentioning other resources such as CrisisTextLine, with whom I've worked as a volunteer "Crisis Counselor."

I applaud the moderators, who are doing an excellent job that in some cases actually saves lives.

10 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 6, 2020 at 9:25 am

I would also think you dont want schools affiliated with Confession pages because of adults who regularly check it out on a daily basis. ADULTS , parent or not, having nothing better to do than read teenager's post. Liability factor? Huge.

9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2020 at 10:53 am

I can see pros and cons with this.

Back in my day, the number of people who told lies about what they did on weekends was enormous. People often tried to outdo each other with their scandalous tales.

I would imagine that reading some of these a certain percentage would be completely untrue, just another way of getting more "likes" than anyone else.

3 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 6, 2020 at 11:49 am

It seems like a good thing that we all reset our ideas of what the range of human behavior and feeling is ...
but nothing is anonymous on the Internet, and one way or another everything out there is out there forever.

Is there really some scheme where they can ensure anonymity? Somehow I think if someone confessed to something awful enough, like taking the top off an ice cream container in the supermarket and licking it, they would get found? ;-)

9 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 6, 2020 at 11:57 am

How "anonymous" are these sites really? Anything can be hacked, sometimes very easily. Palo Alto Online has been hacked. Even major corporations like Yahoo and Experia have been hacked, leaking tons of private user information. The people submitting confessions to these sites had better be ready to be exposed by name.

5 people like this
Posted by sunnypa
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 6, 2020 at 12:15 pm

Thank you Erin and all the Gunn Confessions moderators for acting so promptly and responsibly at the time of the threat to our school!!! You did a HUGE service to our community and saved us from a potential disaster. THANK YOU for continuing to provide a voice to the Gunn students while monitoring the pulse of our community. VERY GRATEFUL!!!

3 people like this
Posted by question
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2020 at 3:02 pm

What is wrong with Stanford that they still can change the duck syndrome?

5 people like this
Posted by question
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2020 at 3:02 pm

What is wrong with Stanford that they still CAN'T change the duck syndrome culture?

7 people like this
Posted by Rev. Prescott
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2020 at 3:32 pm

There have always been private outlets for confessions.

In some instances, it involves seeking redemption for one's past transgressions & sins.

All are forgiven if one accepts the tenets of their individual faiths & belief in oneself while striving to abstain from dysfunctional or self-destructive behavior and/or thoughts.

The cohesiveness of society is predicated on people towing the line.

3 people like this
Posted by Openness
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2020 at 4:47 pm

It sounds like the "Confessions" outlet is useful for students to off-load their thoughts and feelings. I think it has its value. On the other hand, as parents, I think we should encourage kids to learn to communicate their thoughts and feelings about situations and relationships. It's hard to open up, to communicate to solve problems, so kids need to be encouraged to do so regularly with people of all ages. They need to practice taking that risk to communicate for a purpose and to feel the near-magical power of communication when it serves its purpose. Oftentimes, it seems kids get very angry, anxious, and depressed when they feel stuck and unable to communicate. But, again, communication feels like risk, so people tend to go into avoidance mode. The problem I see with anonymity is that, while it can ease communication (as here online), it doesn't give young people the practice of taking calculated risks that become crucial to getting to know and trust others. It puts this sort of risk-taking practice off. The value of developing well-rounded communication skills is not only for academic or career advancement but, fundamentally, to form meaningful and trusting relationships. We need young people to understand this and to be willing to foreground online and face-to-face communication as incredibly beneficial to their future lives.

Like this comment
Posted by Jon Keeling
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 11, 2020 at 1:32 pm

I have done extensive research and volunteer work in the mental health space and have mentored students for years (not just through my work as a teacher for the past 36 years but also through the fabulous, a mentoring program I am trying to replicate for Palo Alto).

Although I understand the concern of some people regarding preferring students to speak with peers and parents, etc, rather than expressing their thoughts/concerns/hopes/fears through an anonymous forum, please understand that some of these students feel uncomfortable "coming out" to people who know them and this anonymity can be very helpful. Crisis Text Line has done outstanding work and part of it is due to its anonymous posting. That said, the identity of people responding is not anonymous. People on Gunn Confessions can see who I am when I post there. I am fine with this. But if Facebook Confessions had been around back when I was in high school, there is no way I would have posted to it had it not been anonymous; either initial posting or response. I am encouraged by students who post support for their peers on this forum. I have a good idea of what many of these kids are going through because I went through similar things when I was their age.

Yes, it would be great for many of these students to reach out to parents, teachers or therapists with their concerns. But I think it is great that they have this Confessions option as well.

full disclosure: Although I wasn't quoted in this article on PA Weekly, the author interviewed me for it.

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