Varsity Confessions Pages: A Double Edged Sword

2013-06-05 08:25

Although varsity Facebook confessions pages carry with them a very rich student voice, it can’t be disputed that careful consideration is imperative in protecting other students from opportunistic character assassins.

Most, if not all, universities have a Facebook platform where students anonymously (at least that’s what everybody believes) confess their clandestine deeds, most embarrassing moments, and secret admiration. Given the anonymity promised to ‘confessors’, posts are highly candid and really exposing.

Many are funny, some are unsettling, while others are heartbreaking.

Students finally get to communicate their frustrations.

And stories such as that of a particular student from KZN who is pleading for advice to escape the 37 year-old married sugar mommy snare refuse to leave my mind. What a confession. “I thought I had NSFAS as debt, but now I have a sugar mom to pay. Help,” cried the confessor.

Well, my view is that these pages are sharpened on both sides, and depending on how we, as students, conduct ourselves on the platform, we determine which side should cut and for what reasons.

Going through most of the confessions on these pages, one notices shared struggles across participating universities. In my university specifically, confessions that range from sleeping at lecture halls when nobody is there to off-campus students rolling out the toilet paper at campus restrooms as they either can’t afford buying it or have better plans with their money reflect the realities of student life.

Explicitly, boundaries of taboo topics are crossed as lengthy discussions about preferences of homosexuals are held on the threads. Our homosexual friends finally get the platform to be heard without any ignorance-based judgment. They enjoy the stage to also reminisce on their nights out with partners, their sexual encounters, and their admiration for some dudes on campus. Whether we agree with them or not, the stubborn fact is that they too get the chance to embrace unforgettable memories.

Certainly that cannot be an exclusive right for straight guys.

Why be hostile?

It’s a confessions page, after all.

One of the observations I made is that some of the confessions made by fellow students make us aware of who we are, what we have, what we do, and what we don’t do. They are a wake-up call not to rest on our laurels, thinking everything is all sweet and tasty around us.

Learning about the extent to which other students go for university survival teaches the privileged to appreciate their relatively well-off status. Consequently, when one walks around the campus one does so in absolute consciousness of the dynamics of the institution, the plight of brothers and sisters, and the stupid things people post for love. Ultimately, a common identity is cultivated.

We all know about one another.

We all experience similar setbacks.

We all have crushes on some girl from a female residence.

It is even more commendable to realise that there is not a single racial, sexual, and academic group that is discriminated against (my observations so far). All students laugh at the same joke and ridicule the same absurdities. White students seek advice on how to get Black girls, and Blacks confess their crushes on other races.

Unity is promoted.

Moreover, the platform affords participants with the opportunity to spot like-minded people to invite into their friendship spaces, thereby expanding their networks, which is a significant part of university life.

However, those running the pages have a huge responsibility in their hands to tread sensitively on some offensive confessions. Like a double-edged sword, these pages will inevitably cut someone, either for good or bad intentions. The degree of pain is proportional to the message behind the cuts.

Universities boast a diverse population of students, all with varying levels of emotional intelligence.

Some students have amazing senses of humour, while others are too quick to take offence when being implicated in any of the confessions on the pages.

As a result, those in admin of the pages must have an all-rounded discretionary intelligence to ensure that a published post doesn’t break a fellow student down.

Posting a secret admirer’s confession is one thing, entertaining personal attacks another.

Admittedly, this may prove to be highly challenging as it’s not only about the obvious black or white colours. There are some grey areas in the middle, painted by the complexities in people’s psychology.

Broadly, the responsibilities do not only lie with administrators of these pages. As students we should always apply the concept of a reasonable-thinking person before we post. The golden rule of life — reciprocity — is invariably applicable regardless of the setting; be it physical or online.

So, it’s always advisable to do unto others online what you would do to them in person.

Aspiring leaders on some campuses have criticised the pages as a waste of effort, which is partly agreeable. Nonetheless, these pages actually are break away sessions for students to have fun and learn about others. Being a student is a massive task. So we really need some means of escapism away from our daily routines of serious talk. Life can’t only be about serious faces. Loosening up and opening ourselves to 'madness' can help reduce our stress levels amid exams.

Who knows? A united student voice against certain societal challenges may be birthed by the commonalities shared by students through their confessions and comments. We could potentially have ‘Confessors Against Child Abuse’ or ‘Confessors In Support of Rape Victims’.

Those of us who have leadership positions in our universities learn how to respond to media allegations and how to interpret humour. Inescapably, one day in our professions someone will say something about us, and on these pages we somehow gauge our ability to stomach criticisms and speculations.

It hurts.

At the end of the day, the sword with double cutting edges remains. The other side represents openness and a shared space, while the other symbolises probabilities of hurt, vulnerabilities, and the story of a never-healing emotional cut.

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