OPINION: GMU Confessions and the effects of anonymity

Posts often serve as topics of discussion for readers (photo courtesy of Facebook).
Posts often serve as topics of discussion for readers (photo courtesy of Facebook).

With almost four thousand “likes,” the newly created Facebook page GMU Confessions has practically overrun the campus. It distracts students everywhere from their responsibilities and replaces them with hours of off-color entertainment and hilarious conversational topics. The confessions are so widely viewed that an oatmeal epidemic, shall we say, has stemmed from one unfortunate person’s account of their roommate’s blatant misuse of the breakfast product.

GMU Confessions, a Facebook page dedicated to GMU-related anonymous confessions, has amassed over one thousand published submissions in a matter of days. The page has entered the newsfeeds of thousands of Mason students and, unfortunately for some, has found its way onto the newsfeeds of their parents.

The creator of the page has not been publicly announced. Stories on the page vary from hilarious—usually illegal—shenanigans, actions done under the influence, disgusting roommates and weird habits, to overly revealing discussions of sexual exploits. Occasionally one will find some serious discussion of GMU’s practical strengths or shortcomings. There are also a few confessions that seem like legitimate cries for help, which have been met with astonishing support from many in the Mason community.

Some people may wonder why GMU Confessions is so popular. I attribute it solely to one thing: anonymity. Face it, we all have some thoughts, stories or habits that we wish to share with others; oftentimes, we refrain due to the fear of judgments being passed, or to avoid legal repercussions. The anonymity of GMU Confessions removes the fear of identification, leaving people more than willing to share their stories, opinions and thoughts. So far, the reaction has been mostly positive. Most of the confessions may be a little too off-color for my personal taste, but they are not problematic as a whole. I have to admit, I have laughed really hard at some of the drunken tales and “too much information” submissions, as have many others. There is nothing inherently wrong with telling others your thoughts, experiences and stories. However, it can be problematic when it is used in a negative manner.

With this anonymity comes a few downsides, including the loss of any sort of social decorum. Many of the things posted on GMU Confessions are sexual in nature. Though followers are likely to understand that the sex-talk will continue as a trend, there still should remain a filter between what is socially acceptable to say and what is not. Some confessions are outright disrespectful to sexual partners and, anonymous or not, I do not think that is okay in the least. People admit to lying, cheating and treating others horribly with seemingly little regret. People feel that being anonymous gives them the right to be malicious to others and to insult and belittle different types of people. As a victim of cyber-bullying, there is absolutely no excuse for that kind of behavior. Some have even gone so far as to bully specific individuals on the page, pointing to comments from public profiles.

Thankfully, the moderators of the confessions page have been absolutely fantastic at monitoring the blatantly harmful submissions—such as individual attacks—and not allowing them to be posted on the page. Though some people who post seem to have no common sense whatsoever, the moderators do. For that, we must be thankful.

Overall, I think GMU Confessions is something that really is beneficial to the Mason community. It is great to see Mason students, who would otherwise probably not meet, having discussions and open dialogue in the comments of these submissions. People let their opinions be heard and discuss them with other students. The confessions let many people feel that they are not alone in their quirky habits or occasional irresponsible activities. Even more importantly, people with emotional issues or horrible experiences who submit to the page can get help and support from other Mason students. Some students have been more than willing to suggest WAVES and CAPS as well as personal support for those anonymous people who struggle. That, in my opinion, is the most positive aspect of the page.

Mason students are a great—not to mention hilarious—bunch of people, and as long as this page is used responsibly, I believe that it can be a great glue to hold together such a large and diverse community.

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