There was a time when college students used bathroom walls or
personal ads in campus newspapers to express their love or disdain
But why do that, when you can put the same stuff on Facebook for
the world to see? Particularly on sites designed for just this sort
Pick any college in the area, and you are likely to find at least
one of these so-called confessions or secret admirer pages dedicated
to its students, who are promised anonymity.
You'll find students expressing lust or loathing for classmates.
You'll read complaints and compliments about instructors and
roommates, confessions of cheating and a lot of playful banter.
It's what used to show up (and probably still does) scribbled out
as graffiti, said Steve Jones, a communication professor at the
University of Illinois at Chicago.
"It had a certain confessional quality," Jones said. "Some of the
intent is pretty much the same."
To some, the sites do offer the potential for cyberbullying and
general harassment. And like anything else on the Internet, there's
always the danger of discussions veering into controversial waters.
Still, most agree these sites serve as an outlet, offering
students a forum to let others know what they're thinking. And they
provide a quick and easy way for students to learn they've caught
Take, for example, a post that popped up a couple weeks ago on
the Wash U Admirers page: "Julian Clarke is bangin in those red
pants today. yum."
Clarke, a freshman from Westport, Conn., laughs about the
posting, while admitting to some conflicted emotions.
"As much as I was flattered by it, it was a little creepy,"
Creepy or not, it's one of the prices we pay for living in such a
well-connected society, said Greg Lastowka, a law professor at
Rutgers, who specializes in technology issues.
People have always talked about each other. Now it's just easier
to become aware that you are the subject of someone else's interest.
But that, by itself, does not constitute harassment.
"Some people don't want attention and don't want people talking
about them. They might find that uncomfortable," Lastowka said. "But
we have a First Amendment tradition in this country."
Aside from ego boosts and entertainment value, the anonymous
posts and the reactions they draw also offer insight for those who
read the pages, said Kristen Faddis, a junior from St. Louis at
"It's interesting to see how people think on campus," Faddis
said. "It's my community."
And while some worry that the anonymity of these confession sites
could lead to malicious postings, Faddis and other users say the
conversations are, largely, humorous and light-hearted.
"If you've seen a lot of the comments, we're pretty tame," Faddis
Yet that's not always the case.
The Wash U confessions page is actually in its second life after
an earlier version was shut down after someone posted a racial slur. …