When Confession Hurts

I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about an article written by a friend at BostInno.

In her piece, Lauren dissects the Facebook trend inspired by PostSecret[insert your college here] Confessional. You can find the entire article here.

Our own campus has its own slew of [insert your college here] [insert other word here] pages on Facebook. Like Lauren explores in her article, Emerson Confessional started as a fun account. It was cute. It was silly. And then it took a turn in some serious territory. Students share stories of sexual assault, depression, self-harm, suicide attempts and drug use.

And I worry. I worry about a student holding the names and identities of so many personal stories. I worry about a student holding a secret over other students. I worry about students one-upping each other. I worry about an entry triggering an emotional response an average college student isn’t equipped to handle. I worry about why students reading aren’t recommending people to go visit our Counseling Center or the Center for Health and Wellness. And, I worry about casual administrators seeing this unfold and how we react (or, even IF we react).

Someone has told me this is no different than the JuicyCampus craze a few years ago… but I disagree. Unlike with JuicyCampus, our own students are holding the gossip. They’re the ones with the names and stories. If your story is power, people participating in this craze are giving their power away.

When do we say enough is enough? There are students (and staff) savvy enough to understand this is a loaded and potentially unhealthy avenue – but they continue to read it, continue to send their own confessions and continue to feed into this frenzy. The competitive desire to one up each other is dangerous and unhealthy, to say the very least. When do our students realize by feeding into this frenzy that they are part of the larger issue?

Is anyone else dealing with this on your campus?

What are you doing about it?

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When Confession Hurts

4 thoughts on “When Confession Hurts

  1. As a big fan of PostSecret, this post hits home. I often save posted secrets that resonate with me and use them as motivation and support in some tough times. That being said, I know they also trigger negative, destructive thoughts and feelings that can take time to recover from. I’d like to think I’m a little bit farther along in developing appropriate and effective self care strategies, but you raise a troubling point around how these same secrets may just as easily shame the same people they’re trying to help. The need for attention and it’s (false in my mind) correlation with support is also a scary issue here – if I share it I’ll be validated and while that may normalize the experience for me it may also reinforce dangerous habits. I’m not sure I have a ‘how’ yet for this one, but encouraging students to seek supports and working to remove the stigma associated with taking care of your mental health is an important step.

    1. Always encouraging support and safety is the most important step. If i believed in one development theory, it would be Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Gotta take care of them before they can become the amazing people they’re destined to be.

      Thanks for the comment. We’ll find the HOW together.

  2. Wouldn’t it be interesting if student health services used platforms like confessional websites to engage students who normally would be too afraid to come into the offices? Of course there would be some privacy/legal concerns to address, but if this is a way students feel comfortable expressing their struggles, shouldn’t we be there to support them?

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