Admins discuss ‘SFA Confessions’
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 23:02
Last week a Facebook page administered by SFA students went viral in less than 24 hours. The “SFA Confessions” page went from no likes to more than 4,000 and more than 5,000 people talking about it since it went live on Thursday.
To find out more about the people behind the page, the page admins were anonymous interviewed via the Facebook page.
“After a few people liked it the page caught on. Other people were posting statuses, tweets and just talking about the page so much that other people liked it and talked about it,” the admins said when asked how they got the word out about the page. One person started the page but quickly realized he needed more admins to keep up with the demand for posts. To keep his identity anonymous, he recruited two close friends to serve as admins.
“Besides the (three of us,) only about four or five people know who we are. We’ve only told close friends and family,” one admin said.
The purpose of the page is to allow SFA students to anonymously “confess” secrets. Posts range from funny and embarrassing to serious and deep secrets.
Anyone interested in posting a confession simply follows a link to a Google Doc where they can submit their confession. No personal information is required to submit the confession.
“(The posts) are completely anonymous; there’s no way for us to find out,” an admin said. “Unless people message us their secrets, which they have been doing, we can’t tell who submits what.”
Although there are no rules regarding content of submissions, the admins do use discretion when deciding what to put on the page. The page description says that no “exceedingly inappropriate posts” will be put on the page.
“We want to be careful to avoid libel, so we don’t post things that specifically call people out,” one of the admins said. Sometimes we may edit confessions to take away names and specific locations. What we deem ‘exceedingly inappropriate’ are confessions that are explicit in sexual nature and confessions that can start hurtful/career ending rumors. We try to keep it PG-13.”
People who have been called out by name in posts have contacted the admins with concerns about their identities, and the admins said they have taken those posts down.
A concern for sites such as these is cyber-bullying, or bullying that takes place on electronic platforms.
“We don’t consider the page or the confessions we post to be cyber bullying. We deleted the statues calling out certain groups or organizations or people,” an admin said. “As for the comments other people post, we think those could be considered cyber-bullying. We don’t condone people talking down to one another, however it’s impossible for us to go through each comment section and censor them. But we have blocked specific people who have been exceedingly rude to others.”
Dr. Adam Peck, dean of student affairs, said that while the page does qualify as free speech, not all speech is protected, and although the posts are anonymous, students can still figure out who is behind each post.
“I think that Facebook or any electronic medium can provide a place for cyber-bullying or libel to take place, but there is nothing inherent about these that cause it to be that way,” Peck said.
While the admins expressed concern about facing punishment from the University, or having the page negatively impact their college careers, they said they hadn’t been contacted directly.
“We got scared that we would face serious consequences, and (didn’t) want to face any punishment from the school. We’d be willing to work with the school if they have a problem with the page,” according to the admins.
To avoid conflict with the University, the admins changed the profile photo of the page from the SFA logo to a photo of Stephen F. Austin, the man.
“The administrators of the page were right to remove the logo of the University. University marks such as the seal and logo are protected under state law. The use of the acronym ‘SFA’ or ‘SFASU’ are also protected under law,” Peck said. “However, I hope that it would be clear to those who use Facebook that the University neither owns nor operates Facebook or this page in particular.”
Since the creation of this page, other similar Facebook pages have popped up, such as “SFA Love Confessions,” “50 Shades of SFA” and “SFA Greek Life Confessions.”
At the end of the interview, the admins expressed their intentions for creating the page.
“We created the page for fun and in the spirit of SFA. We hope everyone else can have fun with it too, and won’t be offended by some of the things posted. We’re not trying to give SFA a bad name but give students a place to anonymously confess things to. We love our school, and think this page is a good way to build community in the campus. We’ve posted things about people overcoming suicide, eating disorders and other trials, and we want people to know they have this support system. We’ve posted the Suicide Prevention Hotline and the National Sexual Assault Hotline numbers in our description for people seeking help.”