I Have Something To Confess

The culture of school gossip pages leads to the crossing of boundaries and establishes potentially dangerous patterns of social pressure. So why does it never seem to be fully left behind?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

It seems, once again, that we never learn our lessons. Last year, Spectator writer Ushoshi Das published an Opinions article titled “Anonymity: The Price of Rankings and Confession Pages,” which detailed the insensitivity of school confession pages and, in particular, the rise and fall of one account, @stuyvesantsophcrushesondaside. The article demonstrated how these kinds of accounts can toe the line of cyberbullying and deeply affect students’ self-esteem. So why are we making this mistake again? Confession pages always seem to go out in flames. It seems that even if they truly strive to be an anonymous “safe space,” their content all too easily crosses the line. Yet, we find new ones popping up year after year.

This past year, @stuy.crunchy on Instagram has become a Stuyvesant-wide gossip and advice account with a common format of anonymous Google form submissions. As of mid-November, all posts were deleted, and the bio was changed to a gravestone. In the end, the account numbered more than 700 followers. It was rumored to have been shut down. As I write this article, two similar accounts have popped up and are quickly gaining steam, one even admitting to being a @stuy.crunchy follow-up account (their bio reads, “im sick of all these confessions pages filtering stuff and this school is boring enough anyway so *shrug emoji*/ R.I.P. stuy crunchy *disappointed emoji*”). It seems like this is far from the end. 

Though its demise remains a mystery, it is clear that while the account was running, the content that could be regularly seen in their posts was nothing particularly new or surprising. These ranged from normal questions (“where can I nap in school undisturbed”), the usual gossipy confessions (“saw a couple in the hudson stairs”), all too familiar rankings (“top 10 east asian sophomore boys”), and beyond. Surprisingly, I was mentioned in a post that was a response to a prior confession along the lines of (“please does anyone know of wlw juniors at this school?”). The response confession listed around 20 apparently “sapphic and single juniors.” Though I am out and most other people on the list were, too, this raised a major red flag with me. 

At first glance, I found it funny, even flattering, before thinking harder about the impact. There is something very private about any facet of identity, and even more so with sexuality. It is obvious that outing someone can be ignorant and even dangerous: to take an anonymous person’s word that the people in the list are LGBTQ+—and that they are okay with that being shared with everyone who may come across the post—is blatantly oblivious to the possibilities that this could bring trouble to the people involved. Though the queer community and culture at Stuyvesant is strong, public outing is far from what we need, and not how to meet new LGBTQ-identifying students. I went as far as to send a direct message to @stuy.crunchy about my issue with these types of posts, and I got a very understanding and conscious response about how they were going to keep my comment in mind to do better in the future. There seemed to be no malicious intent from anyone at any stage of the process, but as much as I hoped this was a one-off, I can only look at the current proof of the opposite. One of the new confessions pages came out with a carousel post in which one of the slides read the form response, “where are the *pride flag* freshmen!?” Do we really need to let this snowball again until we realize that something needs to give?

I want to acknowledge that it is very easy to enjoy confessions page culture. At its root, it is comforting to be able to express your opinions anonymously, ask for advice without judgment, and vent to people who understand. I am more often than not complicit in this because, for the majority of the time, it is fun. I cannot pretend to be holier than thou when it comes to gossiping, but the inherent nature of these public accounts makes it so that blurring boundaries is entirely too enticing and even inevitable. There is a difference in the power dynamic between regular in-person gossip and the freedom allowed in a public online space.

Unfortunately, it is the edge of inappropriate or especially targeted declarations that attracts such a devoted audience. Our longest-lasting school confessions page, “Stuyvesant Confessions,” created on Facebook in 2014, has never really been under similar scrutiny. From what I’ve seen, they rarely name names, don’t get into super big controversies, and primarily stick to sex and poop jokes. While their posts still gain significant traction, it seems that their niche is sophomoric humor and general life rants. And while there certainly is a place for that, it may be past its prime. The page’s 3317th post was on October 25, with the following one posted on November 16, an unusually long hiatus. From a September post, when confronted about being “super PC [politically correct] and not funny now,” the admin denied the accusations on their part and said that, “yall have the most boring ass confessions none of them are degenrate [sic] anymore.” Perhaps the other option, instead of blowing up and shutting down, is slowly fading out and becoming obsolete.

Whatever it comes down to, maybe anonymous gossip and social media dishing will always exist. After all, we are in high school. Most things do blow over; most people don’t mind. But I would urge people to think about the consequences of anonymous online spaces like these and to develop their own opinions if and when things get taken too far.