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Shahan Ali Memon.

samemon@andrew.cmu.edu
Course : 76-101.
Contribution Paper

I Connect. But I Confess A discussion on the effect of


'confession pages' in our lives.

Abstract :
By replacing roses, diaries and candles with pages, birthday reminders and 'likes',
social media has affected the way we interact with people around us. These tools
which include pages and groups have started affecting our lives enormously by
providing us with platforms where we can say whatever we want without facing
immediate consequences. Confession pages are also such platforms which have
gone viral these days. Many confessions on these pages give room to the users
to make fun, taunt and lay allegations on eachother which often lead to drastic
reactions and even trigger people to suicide. Ironically this is not one-sided. Where
at times, the 'confessor' makes fun of a specific person, many a times, the
confessions are very emotional and are followed by some one-liner sarcastic
comments which can actually cause distress for the confessor who would then
think of his/her feelings as vague and those that nobody cares about. Moreover,
since the comments are not anonymous, they would infact ruin the relationship of
the 'confessor' and the 'commentor'. Not only do confession pages affect
individuals but because they are followed by the name of an institution, they also
cause harm to the reputation of such institutions. Thus my paper shall discuss how
these confession pages, an instance of tools on Facebook are affecting our
relationships negatively, triggering cyberbullying, and causing harm to the identity
of schools and universities. The importance of the issue lies under the fact that if
these pages are disconnecting us rather than integrating us, then our offline

Shahan Ali Memon.


samemon@andrew.cmu.edu
Course : 76-101.
Contribution Paper
relationships may be on the verge of becoming victims of social media and thus
may get hurt.
Introduction :
Confessions pages are pages on Facebook (and other social networking
sites) used by students and alumni of respective school or college to post
anonymous confessions. From some obscure stories to crushes on classmates to
personal struggles, there are many things chronicled on a particular Confession
page. Because of its anonymous nature, it is highly popular among teens. EC
Confessions is one of such student-made confession pages which revolves around
a community of Education City Qatar which is comprised of universities like
Carnegie Mellon, Texas A&M, Northwestern, Virginia Commonwealth, UCL and
Georgetown. The page has reached more than 1000 followers most of who
blatantly belong to the different universities from EC. The page is very active and
serves as a platform for people to post confessions related to their university and
also personal lives. The important aspect of the page is of course the confessions
in the form of posts. But what is more important here in our discussion is the after
effects i.e the way that confession is treated later by the people who comment on
it, or the way a confession treats a specific set of people for whom it was posted
and what are the after effects of that.
Posted on April 12th 2013 on the EC Confessions page, 'Confession #3484'
goes like : "If CMU wants to continue hosting successful events, they should really
stop giving 'her' the microphone. Really." The confession was a consequence of a
recent event of "International Day" that took place in Carnegie Mellon Qatar on
10th of April 2014 and was directed to the host of the event. A comment on the
post followed as "Who the heck is her? [..] and who are you ? [..]" on which the

Shahan Ali Memon.


samemon@andrew.cmu.edu
Course : 76-101.
Contribution Paper
'Confessor' again posted a confession clarifying in "Confession #3508" as "[..] by
her I meant the International Day event's anchor who, pretty ironically, liked (my
previous) post." Being a student of Carnegie Mellon myself, I know the host
personally and I am aware of the fact that this is not the first time, she has been
targetted on EC Confessions. And she is only one of the many people who are
targetted on Confession pages like that of EC. There have been many such cases
around the entire cyber media. These pages make us skeptic about the authors
and researchers who argue the tools on social media are a boon rather than bane,
that is to say, that they help us connect rather than disconnect. In my paper I shall
analyse the different confession pages around Facebook these days and look at
how they are affecting not only our personal lives, but also our professional lives.
Through my research I shall argue that these pages are not only affecting us
individually and causing harm to our relationships, but are also harming the
reputation of different schools and institutions.
Literature Review:
The social media tools like pages, birthday reminders, groups, status
updates, etc have been discussed by several social media supporters to be a boon.
The first idea that prevails in the minds of social media supporters is that it helps
bring people together. In other words, it connects us to each other on the basis of
our hobbies, interests and common ideas. In this regard, David Kirkpatrick (2010)
in his book "The Facebook effect" says that tools like pages, profiles and groups
help us know similarities amongst each other which triggers us to know each other
and get together. Another author Nicole B. Ellison and her colleagues (2007), in
the article "The benefits of Facebook Friends: Social capital and college students'
use of online social network sites" endorse the idea of social media providing us

Shahan Ali Memon.


samemon@andrew.cmu.edu
Course : 76-101.
Contribution Paper
with beneficial tools like pages which ultimately bring us close to eachother. Ellison
et al. state that, "Facebook members can also join virtual groups based on
common interests, see what classes they have in common, and learn each others
hobbies, interests, musical tastes, and romantic relationship status through the
profiles" (p. 1143). Building on this, Burke et al. (2011) also agree that tools on
Facebook develop relationships. Burke et al. say that features like a "like button",
inline comments, messaging, wallposts and photo tagging signal friends that their
relationship with eachother is meaningful enough to merit an action. In this regard,
Burke et al. state that, "sending and consuming News Feed stories, profiles, and
photos should allow a user to keep track of a much larger circle of friends and
acquaintancesespecially those she doesnt have the time to write to individually,
or with whom some social barrier prevents her from directly engaging" (p. 3). All of
these authors support the use of tools provided by social media and believe that
using them would benefit us socially by connecting us and increasing our social
capital.
On the other hand, we have social media critics which argue that social
media is disconnecting us rather than connecting us. In this regard, Stephen
Marche (2012) in his article "Is Facebook making us lonely ?" says that Facebook is
increasing narcissism and exhibitionism. According to Marche, one study showed
that people who use Facebook more have more narcissistic traits than others.
Author says that this narcissism caused by Facebook is actually preventing us

from creating strong ties with people and eventually making us lonely. Dr. Larry
Rosen (2012) in his book "iDisorder" complements Marche and tells us that this
narcissism and carelessness towards other peoples' feelings makes us selfcentered and isolates us. Talking about Facebook's negative impact on our

Shahan Ali Memon.


samemon@andrew.cmu.edu
Course : 76-101.
Contribution Paper
relationships, author Sherry Turkle (2011) in her book "Alone Together. Why we
expect more from technology and less from each other." argues that facebook
gives people opportunity and power to say whatever they want to say without
cost, and this excess of freedom causes people to say things which would hurt
other people, and thus break connections.
Most of the authors discussed above look at the issue of Facebook
connecting or disconnecting us from a general view of its impact on our behaviours
which ultimately harm our relationships. In terms of a specific case of pages on
Facebook, social media critic, Madeline Novey (2013) in her article "Cyberbullying
effects 'harmful' in wake of controversial Fort Collins Facebook pages" talks about
how the students around the social media are impacted by damaging content and
conversations shared online via pages and groups. Madeline says that rumors and
gossips about people on certain pages on Facebook can cause long-term
psycholgical effects like depression. Talking of confession pages in particular,
author Swati Deb (2013) in her article "Effects of Confession on Social Networking"
argues that these pages do not provide any intellectual pursuits to the students.
According to her, they drive students to a vulgur way of entertainment. She quotes
a Delhi school teacher and agrees with her who said, "I am afraid these confession
pages offer more chit chats on sex, love affairs and worse in the suggestive lingo."
The social media critics give us views of how social media is affecting us
negatively by hurting our relationships. Moreover, some of the authors have
discussed particular issues related to pages and confession pages. However, there
has been a little research on how these tools like these pages and groups might
infact lead us to worse situations and trigger worse behaviours like cyberbullying.
The connection of social media tools especially confession pages along with

Shahan Ali Memon.


samemon@andrew.cmu.edu
Course : 76-101.
Contribution Paper
cyberbullying and how these confession pages are damaging our personal and
professional lives has been overlooked, and thus my research would be based to
fill this gap.
The anonymous nature of Confession pages triggering hatred among
people:
Almost all of the confession pages on Facebook are followed by the name of
a school or a university. That shows that these pages are meant to induce a sense
of community among the students of a particular institution. In other words, they
are meant to bring students close to eachother, connect, and have fun. The idea of
the creation of Facebook is also the same to connect people as Kirkpatrick

says, "Facebook is bringing the world together."(p.16). Ironically enough, these


days, these pages on Facebook are infact doing the opposite. They are inducing
hatred among the people of a particular community. This is basically because of
the anonymous nature of the confession pages which gives people more
opportunity to spread biased hatred. Recently a post on EC Confessions triggered a
huge conversation on the post via comments. The post was deleted later because
of its offensive nature. The post was made by an Indian guy who talked against
Qatari people and targetted their nature and behaviours. As a matter of fact, we
can't be sure that the confession was actually made by an Indian guy but the post
itself included the phrase that "I am an Indian and [...]". The post was followed by
many Qatari and Arab students who condemned the post. Prema Hoque, a student
from Northwestern University Qatar, talks about that Confession and says, "Social
media is indeed a platform that provides connectivity on a global basis. However, I
also believe that it has become a place that provides people an excuse to make
comments that are offensive and often perpetuate hate. Hidden behind their

Shahan Ali Memon.


samemon@andrew.cmu.edu
Course : 76-101.
Contribution Paper
computer screens and their "anonymity" Most people don't hesitate before making
comments that are against someone's ethnicity, culture, race, religion, gender or
even their body type. In fact, most of these comments quite often end up in
arguments that can be categorized as "cyber bullying"." Prema goes further and
says, " Stating your opinion is one thing, but using your opinion to demean others
is a whole different concept that is taking place on a large scale via social media.
For example, recently I witnessed a couple of confessions being posted on a
confession page by an allegedly Indian person though I am not sure if they were
indeed Indian because it was anonymous- and they made some really offensive
remarks against Qatari culture and people. The confession gained a lot of attention
in a few minutes, people retaliating back with more offensive comments against
Indians and even resorting to comment , "go back to your country if you don't like
us so much you're useless to us anyway". For someone who's an avid social media
user, such misuse of the platform saddens me. "
Education City is a mix of people from different universities and different
cultures and nationalities and such confessions are not only promoting hatred
among people from different cultures online, but may also affect their relationships
with eachother offline. This is infact the opposite of what social media was made
for i.e connecting people. Thus such pages are actually becoming a threat to our
relationships and are infact harming them. And so, we are inclined to be skeptic
about the claim made by the social media supporters like Ellison, Burke and
Kirkpatrick who argue that Facebook is connecting us and increasing our social
capital.
Confession pages as a platform for a new form of cyberbullying :
According to the U.S. Legal Definitions, Cyber-bullying could be limited to

Shahan Ali Memon.


samemon@andrew.cmu.edu
Course : 76-101.
Contribution Paper
posting rumors or gossips about a person on the internet bringing about hatred in
others minds; or it may go to the extent of personally identifying victims and
publishing materials severely defaming and humiliating them. Now this kind of
bullying can be done anonymously as well and this is what the Confession pages
on the Facebook are promoting. Due to their anonymous nature, they are a safe
platform for people to post anything they want to post against eachother without
facing immediate consequences. The post on EC Confessions page against the
host of the event of "International Day" in Carnegie Mellon is one such example.
Recently a new confession was posted on the same page : "#3542 : There is this
limping dude from TAMUQ who thinks he is House MD or something. He's just a
creepy jerk with an attitude and who hits on me. Omg I would love to kick your
*** ." The post was targetted towards a student of Texas A & M Qatar and was
clearly offensive. Ironically, though the confessor is anonymous, the person for
whom the confession is made is not anonymous and the confessor gives clear
hints about who he is by providing us with his attributes and where he currently
studies. This makes it an embarrasment for the person who is targetted and hence
we call it cyberbullying.
Ironically enough, the confessions on the page are not only targetted
towards students, but also degrade teachers. Confession #3534 on the EC
Confessions page goes like "This post is dedicated to Dr. B M.. a professor at A &
M : hate your curves and all your edges , [...] All your lessons, all your T.A's exam
review sessions [...] I don't know what exactly you were teaching, but I am sure
that it wasn'y physics." The confession gives a clear identification that it is
targetted towards the physics teacher from TAMUQ with the initals DM. So these
confession pages are not only bullying students but also teachers and giving clear

Shahan Ali Memon.


samemon@andrew.cmu.edu
Course : 76-101.
Contribution Paper
hints on who the teacher is. This can ultimately cause a serious harm to the
reputation of a particular teacher which can then lead to a serious frustration
among a particular teacher.
The confessions that we discussed so far were not as direct. Sadly, there
have been confession pages which allow students to post direct confessions
against anyone they want. One such page is "LUMS Confessions" made by the
students of Lahore University in Pakistan. The 15th confession on the page goes like
"Dania Nadeem is a b*tch. [...] (content omitted because of its vulgarity) She loves
him (aurangzeb). Bloody wh*re." The post was very offensive since it disclosed a
particular person's personal life. The post was followed by 8 likes and 15
comments. One another example of such a confession is confession #421 from a
confession page "St.Bonaventures Qasimabad Branch Confessions" which goes like
"Ali hassan and rida thebo are in relationship". This shows how personal
information of an individual is targetted and made fun of on such pages on
Facebook. This can cause serious stress and embarrasement and can lead to
serious consequences like depression, suicide, etc. The irony is that these
consequences are not only a result of the post, but can also be a result of the
comments posted on these posts. Confession #421 that we just discussed was
followed by comments which actually made fun of the targetted audience. This is
the second aspect of cyber-bullying through confession pages where the people
who comment on the confessions make fun of the person who confessed. Most of
the times, these confessions are very emotional and nobody can be sure in what
state of mind these confessions are posted. But if we go through the comments,
they are pretty sarcastic most of the times. On EC Confessions page, there have
been confessions which were very emotional but were followed by sarcasm or a

Shahan Ali Memon.


samemon@andrew.cmu.edu
Course : 76-101.
Contribution Paper
satire. Ironically, these comments get more likes than the post itself. Now when the
confessor comes back to check his/her confession, it is very likely that if the
confession was serious, such sarcastic comments would cause distress for the
confessor. Moreover, the confessor would hold grudge against the person who
commented sarcastically since comments are not anonymous. This ultimately
hurts relationships among a community.
Confession pages - a threat to the reputation of institutions :
As we already discussed, confession pages are followed by the name of a
school, college or a university. Since these pages are public, it is very likely that
many non-students would like such pages. As a student of Carngie Mellon myself, I
have joined Confession pages of Northwestern University and many other schools.
Now when these pages are public, the activities on such a Facebook page reflect
the image of the students studying in such schools who intentionally or
unintentionally bully, make fun of eachother and spread rumors about eachother.
This ultimately degrades the reputation of many schools and universities
associated with that page. Moreover, with the increasing use of social media by
the employers these days in recruiting for jobs, it might become a greater problem
when they see activities of the students of a particular university doing unethical
things which might harm the job prospects of the future students of the university.
This is the reason, many schools and colleges are now concerned about such
pages and have been trying to close them. "FAST-NU Confessions" page related to
a university in Pakistan called "FAST-NU", and created by a student of the
university, has been closed three times so far and has been recreated for the
fourth time. I was a student of this university in the past and the Confession page
used to be a platform for people to write offensive and abusive posts targeting

Shahan Ali Memon.


samemon@andrew.cmu.edu
Course : 76-101.
Contribution Paper
different students directly. Eventually the university Dean came to know about this
and took immediate action to close the page. In this regard, Noora Siddiqui, a
student from FAST-NU, Karachi talking about the severity of the isssue said, "Being
a girl myself I know that in a culturally conserved society in Pakistan, if a girl's
relationship or breakup story is discussed, or if she is taunted by someone on a
public platform like confession pages, it is considered disrespectful by many
families. Such matters are very sensitive and can cause serious issues amongst
families. Since these confession pages are named after a school, if anything bad
happens, families would blame the school administration. This is where the
school's reputation comes under danger" Noora goes on further stating the story of
the shutting down of the FAST-NU confession page, "When the administration of
FAST-NU came to know about the page, they called the most popular students of
each batch who were more active on social media, and they threatened them that
if they are involved in the creation of the page, they must shut it down or they will
be expelled." Noora says, "That page was run by one of my friends. He
immediately shut it down. However, many other versions of the page have been
created."
FAST-NU page is just one of such pages which shows how serious of this issue is.
There have been many universities around the globe which have been shutting
down these confession pages because they have been harming the reputation and
identity of the school or the university itself.

Conclusion Skepticism towards the social media supporters and the


solutions:
Controlling confession pages is not impossible. There are some solutions

Shahan Ali Memon.


samemon@andrew.cmu.edu
Course : 76-101.
Contribution Paper
which not only prevent us from the misuse of Facebook, but also preserve the
purpose of pages which is connecting people. One solution is to filter any negative
or offensive comments or posts on such pages. This can only be done by the
admin of the page itself. This solution is already being used by the admin of EC
Confessions who has deleted all such confessions that existed on the page just
recently. Another solution which is integrated with the first solution is to put such
pages on the 'read only' mode such that people may only send confessions and
nobody can comment or post sarcastic or offensive comments. This would
preserve the purpose of the page itself and would not trigger grudges against
eachother.
Many of the social media supporters talk about the boons of the tools on
Facebook and other social networking sites. They argue that these tools which
include pages,groups, comments,etc are connecting us towards eachother. But if
we look closely, that might not be the case and such pages and groups might
infact cause a greater harm than good, and confession pages were just an instance
of such pages which are infact triggering hatred among the people. Not only are
they inducing hatred, but are also used as a platform to bully eachother due to
their anonymous nature. Moreover, due to the association of such pages with the
schools and universities, the reputation of a particular institution may also be in
danger. This analysis makes us all skeptic towards the claims made by social
media supporters about the bounties of Facebook,twitter,etc and we are inclined to
think if that's really the case because if there is a problem with every tool that
Facebook provides us with, there's definitely a need to trim and take actions to
control them for the betterment of the society.
References :

Shahan Ali Memon.


samemon@andrew.cmu.edu
Course : 76-101.
Contribution Paper
Burke M, Kraut R, Marlow C. 2011. Social capital on Facebook : Differentiating uses
and users. ACM : 571-580
Ellison N B, Steinfield C, Lampe C. 2007. The benefits of Facebook Friends: Social
capital and college students' use of online social network sites. Journal of
Computer-Mediated Communication. (12) : 1143-1168.
Kirkpatrick D. 2010. The Facebook effect : The inside story of the company that is
connecting the world. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Marche, S. 2012. Is Facebook making is lonely. Retrieved from :
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/05/is-facebook-making-uslonely/308930 [16th March 2014]
Rosen L D. 2012. iDisorder: Understanding our obsession with technology ad
overcoming its hold on us. Macmillan.
Turkle S. 2011. Alone Together : Why we expect more from technology and less
from each other. New York : Basic Books.
Novey M. 2013. Cyberbullying effects 'harmful' in wake of controversial Fort Collins
Facebook pages. Retrieved on [26th April 2014] from :
http://archive.coloradoan.com/article/20130327/NEWS01/303270045/Cyberbullying
-effects-harmful-wake-controversial-Fort-Collins-Facebook-pages.
Deb S. 2013. Effects of Confession on Social Networking. Retrieved on [26 th April
2014] from : http://womanspanorama.com/index.php/2013/november-2013/550effects-of-confession-on-social-networking
Thanks to :
TA : Sana Britto, Instructor : Silvia Pessoa.