By Emily Harris
At this point the secret is out: Washington College Confessions has become a full blown campus-wide issue that has engaged most of the student body. What started as an attempt to allow students to share their deepest darkest secrets and wildest Washington College tales quickly spiraled out of control into an open forum for derogatory comments, often directed at individuals and organizations on campus.
As a member of some of the organizations and clubs that were mentioned on the page, I can honestly say I’ve heard worse. People talk, and it is expected that some students will perpetuate stereotypes and negative attitudes towards certain groups. However, it is a problem when these sentiments surface on the internet for the entire Facebook and Twitter universe to see.
Students obviously lost sight of the fact that a prospective student could happen across the page, and that would be their first impression of WC. The posts about mystery vandals and sexcapades were surely entertaining, but not everyone at WC is urinating on everything in sight. Even worse were the comments mentioning students by name. The goal of the site was anonymity—why ruin it by using names and putting individuals at risk? Honestly I was disappointed to watch students willingly tear each other down in such public way.
No matter how inconsiderate the comments were, I always found myself going back to the page. I was still enjoying the posts that were (relatively) appropriate, and part of me was curious to see how bad it would get before the page was shut down altogether. Eventually, the original page was shut down in response to a campus-wide email from the Honor Board. The Honor Code may seem irrelevant in a Facebook setting, but I think all students who were cast in a negative light by the anonymous posts would agree that it is something we should take more seriously when representing our school online. Students are eager to uphold WC’s hard-partying reputation, and this page clearly indicates that drunken shenanigans are alive and well on campus.
Within a week the page amassed well over 600 likes before it was shut down by the student who created it. Within hours, two new pages surfaced, rekindling the sharing of crushes and every shameful thing WC students have ever done. I see no problem with an anonymous forum where students can vent, but let’s keep the personal attacks to a minimum shall we? Mentioning fellow students, and even professors in a negative way could be considered libel. They may be intended as simple acts of rebellion, but I sincerely hope the newest confessions pages do not go down the same path as the original.
Even though the consequences of WAC Confessions are not far reaching, we’ll see how long that lasts. The whole situation brings up using common sense on social networking sites. It’s simple: think before you post. You never know who will see what you write; even if it is anonymous it could still threaten the reputation of the College and associated organizations. Let’s be honest, we would all be miserable if someone sat us down for a long-winded lecture on cyber bullying. We’re all adults here, and the internet does not provide a free pass. If anything, what is said there is more permanent and even more damaging to others, since it is out in the open for everyone to see.
The new WAC Confessions page may continue to provide students with another excuse to procrastinate, and I probably won’t be able to break the habit myself. There’s nothing wrong with confessing our sins, but before you incriminate someone else, remember we all make mistakes. Don’t put someone else’s mistakes on the internet, because it would be unfortunate if someone returned the favor. Everyone on Facebook can see WAC Confessions, so let’s keep it classy.