“OMG you are so right. That b**** got no life #forrealdoe,” says one post. “ __ is so attractive. I would wife that boy up,” said another. “__attracts the ugliest girls on campus,” said yet another.
Both rueful and raunchy, these and other anonymous tweets have popped up on “Adult Confession 757,” a Twitter page that was unofficially linked to Virginia Wesleyan College. It contained posts that were exclusively about VWC students or organizations.
This page popped up on Twitter a little over a month ago, and within days had more than 300 followers and 75 tweets.
“It’s nice for students to be able to have a means to communicate as a community, and I think it’s great that social media is that outlet,” said Director of Batten Center and Recreational Sports Jason Seward. “When it is used properly, ‘properly’ being the keyword here, it is a really effective way of communicating to bring a community together.”
In the Twitter page bio, there was a link to the website ask.fm, a social media platform that allows people to anonymously submit questions or statements to various accounts on the site.
The people running the page received the submitted statements from students and then selected which “confessions” made their way onto the Twitter feed.
“At first I thought it was weird,” said junior Jessica Wood. “Now, after it’s been up for a while I still think it’s really hilarious.”
However, not all students thought the page was as simple as it claimed to be.
“It’s pretty scary,” said sophomore Gabe Higgins. “It definitely hurt people and I don’t really think they understood what they were doing. It got past the point of the original idea that it was supposed to be, and morphed into an anonymous cyber-bullying account.”
“I think that ‘VWC Confess’ started as a harmless posting board for students to communicate confessions, that was spiraling out of control,” said Seward. “What has been posted has negatively impacted this campus and affected a number of students, faculty, staff, parents and other community members. The anonymous comments are disgusting, they are tasteless, and they are what I call a virus among our community.”
The page’s name was “VWC Confess” at first, and was changed, according to a tweet sent out by the account, “due to pressure from administration.”
“We were not involved in asking the page to change its name,” said Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Enrollment Services David Buckingham. “However, from what I heard, the Tweets are offensive, vulgar, untrue, and crude. It was an attempt to be funny that didn’t reach its goal.”
Currently, the Twitter page has been shut down. The account sent out tweets that stated it was due to the administration of VWC. However, the school was not aware the page was shut down.
“We were working with Twitter to figure out who was running the account, but we hadn’t heard from them. At this point, that is all the info I have,” said Seward. “I wasn’t even aware that it was removed until this afternoon.”
According to Twitter’s rules section, “You may not engage in targeted abuse or harassment. Some of the factors that we take into account when determining what conduct is considered to be targeted abuse or harassment are: if you are sending messages to a user from multiple accounts; if the sole purpose of your account is to send abusive messages to others; if the reported behavior is one-sided or includes threats.”
A number of students have sought counseling because of comments made about them on the page.
“I think the best word to describe is ‘hostile.’ I would definitely consider it a form of bullying,” said Associate Director of Student Counseling Marea Hyman. “I think it negates the sense of community that we have here on campus, and perhaps the bigger issue is the lack of communication skills that our society has as a whole. We have become such an electronic society, with little face-to-face contact, which is essential in being able to communicate most effectively. I could go on and on about social media sites encouraging folks to express hostility and rage, rather than working toward a goal or resolving a conflict.”
Students have voiced varying opinions about the page’s being taken down.
“I thought it was interesting how the page claimed to be a ‘confessions’ page, yet instead, the majority of the posts were opinionated comments from people who obviously took advantage of the site’s anonymity to say rude things that they would never say to the faces of the people they posted about,” said junior Amari Agee. “Just a true testament to the realization that enrolling in college doesn’t make everyone a mature adult.”
“I think the page being taken down helps avoid drama and tense situations amongst the student body. The page enabled people to say possibly hurtful things because they had the ability to hide behind the security of it being completely anonymous,” said a sophomore who wished to remain anonymous.
However, not all students are happy the page was shut down.
“Honestly, I found the Twitter confessions page to be interesting and caught myself checking it throughout the day,” said junior Andrew Petrey. “Being a commuter, it gave me insight on things back on campus.”
“I am kind of glad the page was created so the school can see everything that it’s doing wrong, but I’m happy it got taken down because it was getting out of control,” said junior Estelle Goli.
Regardless of the sentiment, the page has left a strong impact on campus.
“Things like this are so fleeting, here today and gone tomorrow,” said Buckingham. “No good can come of this if its is hurting so many people. When something like this persists, we have to stand up and say ‘No, this is not who we are.’”