The confessional is where Catholics go to confess their sins, to be given absolution, to be forgiven. Like Chico’s own online Vatican, the Cal State Chico Confessions Facebook page is loaded full of scandalous confessions just waiting for public absolution. Or in some cases, a righteous public shaming.
In recent months we’ve been pulling apart our collective community closets, taking our own inventory, tired of walking a fine line between debaucherous and disgusting. And now, we can count among our inventory a Chico State Confessions Facebook page. “Greeeeaaat,” I thought. I wasn’t the only one that thought it was in poor taste, the administration at Chico State asked that the page be taken down. Butte College’s confession page was taken down on April 1st, leading people to believe that it was an April Fool’s Day joke.
After reading through too many confessions, I decided I had to know who the sleazeball(s) who created this Facebook page were. I sent a message asking for a meeting. To my utter delight, they agreed. I envisioned one or two pasty-white, hulking jerks from So Cal—the kind of guys that wear v-neck t-shirts, Mr. T starter kits, and jeans that look like women’s jeans with all that tacky embroidery on the back of their pockets. Or maybe they were just from Fresno, who knew? Either way, they had to be awful, right?
I met with three of the four administrators of Cal State Chico Confessions and they could not have been a geekier bunch. They are all freshman at Chico State and Southern California natives. “I was really thinking you’d be more douchy,” I said disappointedly. How did these three unassuming, soft-spoken, seemingly nice guys come to be the admins of what is quite possibly the most visible and vile evidence of Chico State’s party problems? They laughed and told me about the conception of Confessions.
Leo, the chattiest of the really reticent, barely-chatty bunch, “My friend goes to Cal State Pomona and he made a confessions Facebook page there. He’s the one that told me that I should start one for Chico. I mean if Pomona’s page was good, then Chico’s has to be really good, right?” The group felt Chico’s reputation as a party school would definitely lend itself to some badass confessions. It was practically a matter of pride.
How it works is pretty simple. Confessors follow a link posted on the Facebook page (www.surveymonkey.com/s/YBQM26J) to submit their confessions. Confessions are submitted anonymously and the admins have no way of knowing who you are, contacting you, or calling your mother. Once you’ve confessed and hit submit, you go into a queue to be reviewed by the admins.
“We get about 100 [confessions] a day now. It’s crazy,” said Bird. They knew Confessions had potential to be popular, but they didn’t realize how many people they were really reaching. “When we went on Spring Break, we took two weeks off and thought nobody would really notice, but so many people were like, ‘Hey, when are you gonna post more confessions?!’” Leo said with a laugh.
They can’t post all the confessions they receive and wouldn’t even if they could. They filter out posts with racist comments or bigoted language. They also toss out the clearly over-embellished confessions about the amazing partytimes that are clearly born out of somebody’s imaginary Internet fantasy come to life. But even with these filters, there are plenty of scandalous confessions to go around. According to the admins, they also filter out personal information and names. This wasn’t the case in the early days (three months ago) of Confessions, but name-shaming quickly became a huge problem.
Now, some people might say that websites like Confessions are glorifying everything about Chico State that needs to change. The excessive booze and partying, the drugs and sex…I mean, when the nurse at Chico State just casually says, “Syphilis is going around. Be careful,” nobody bats an eye anymore.
I asked the boys what they thought about being accused of glorifying bad behavior. Leo responded, “You know, yeah…but the thing is, the community regulates itself. If somebody [confesses] something, the community will let them know what they think about it and give them advice or tell them that they’re wrong.”
Then, they related a story about a girl that sent them a Facebook message, without going through the anonymous link. She reportedly confessed that she’d been sexually assaulted and the admins, without displaying her name or contact information, posted her confession. According to the admins, the community quickly rallied around her and offered words of encouragement, as well as information about how to get help, and advice. In response to criticism that they shouldn’t have posted such a personal and awful confession, an admin replied, “she came to us, she sought us out, and sent us that message, knowing what the site was all about, looking for help.”
This particular instance seems to provide an example of the possibility of a positive outcome, an anonymous support system. It can be a place where students, far from home with nowhere to turn, can go to throw a lifeline into the ether.
No matter what side you’re on or how you view Confession sites, I think we can all agree that sometimes replies to confessions can quickly turn into a scene from Lord of the Flies. Often the responses to confessions are more scandalous than the confession itself, especially when commenters are responding from their personal Facebook accounts.
Any time spent perusing the Chico State Confessions Facebook page may leave you feeling like there aren’t enough showers in the world to make you feel clean. And this online confession trend is popping up everywhere. Long gone are the diary days, these anonymous Facebook confession pages are burning down college campuses across the country. If PostSecret and Reddit had a baby, it’d probably look a lot like Cal State Chico Confessions—poignant personal confessions with poor spelling, while also not being true most of the time. Whether these confession sites are actually community regulated and therapeutic is up to the reader and, maybe more importantly, the confessor.
Have something you need to confess?