There’s a strange rush that comes from confessing anonymously on an internet forum. As I hit the “enter” button on SurveyMonkey, I suddenly feel a surge of power. Ah yes, I have just shared a secret with 1,000 strangers! Excellent! I lie in wait for a few days in the hope that my confession will get more “likes” than the one below it.
Those of you who read Claremont Confessions (CC) regularly know that someone has been stealing my tamales (not kidding). While I’m pretty irritated with this, I am almost more frustrated by the anonymous apology I received. I will never get an in-person apology from the tamale thief or reimbursement for the $10 of food that I lost. I appreciate that the person came forward eventually, but I really don’t think they would have if CC hadn’t been available to them. The anonymity determined their choice, not their sense of right versus wrong.
I’ll confess something here: I enjoy Claremont Confessions, but I think it can be an abuse of power. When people have the ability to say anything they want without consequence, it’s easy to say hurtful things. I can’t tell you how many flame wars or political debates I have seen, and they almost always end with one person being ganged up upon. While I admit to being a spectator (sometimes with a little popcorn) to these arguments, I’ve also seen Claremont Confession be a forum to insult people’s beliefs.
Claremont Confessions does a good job of adding trigger warnings and refusing to publish the names of specific people, but it’s impossible to censor harmful ideas. I’ve seen a lot of sexist, racist, and homophobic confessions make their way onto the page. While the confessors may not actually subscribe to these beliefs (I hope not, certainly), an anonymous forum is the perfect place to say these harmful things. By hiding behind a veil of anonymity, it is possible to say anything without fear of consequence (other than a few nasty comments). When people have this power, I think it’s human nature to try to push the boundaries — say something a little risky — but the line has been crossed on multiple occasions. Without quoting specific confessions, I’ll say that I’ve seen people make incredibly derogatory posts towards feminists, especially in the past week or so. In addition, there seems to be a theme of making really hurtful confessions about the Asian population in Claremont, which is unacceptable on every level.
I don’t have a problem with CC continuing to exist. I think it’s a great resource for people who are struggling with personal or emotional problems, and, I’ll admit, it’s a fun source of intrigue. However, a lot of inappropriate things have been posted recently that call into question whether or not unlimited anonymity should be given to college students who are likely to abuse it. I’ll say this: think before you post! (Also, think before you take someone else’s tamales, but that’s a different discussion.) You never know who you could hurt or what damage you could do to the people on the receiving end of your confession. Be mindful of those around you! And be mindful of yourself! If you think you may be racist, sexist, or homophobic, reach out to talk to a friend or club, not a Facebook page! You deserve to have a real conversation about your beliefs.