Confessions of a dangerous kind

Confession pages of students of various colleges on Facebook show a disturbing trend of online bullying and sexual obsession.

Published: 23rd March 2013 07:47 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd March 2013 10:26 AM   |  A+A-

Does that sound cool? What do students think? If you want answers, all you need to do is visit the confessions page of the college/university in question. Imitating their US counterparts, students of various colleges and universities in the twin cities have recently started what are called, confession pages, on Facebook. Just so you know, we have picked up a few posts from confession pages of Eflu, UoH and St Francis at random.

These are just the tip of the iceberg. Confession pages are supposed to be gossip, funny where any student can post anything under the cloak of anonymity. And, they do post anything and everything. The respective admins (students obviously) seem to be under the impression that it’s cool and important to allow freedom of speech. Such pages, however, have become open platforms for expression of sexual desperation and bullying – the prey could be a fellow student or a professor.

Sample this from UoH page: “This is for a great Professor.... Please stop flunking students who have opted for your course out of compulsion to take the compulsory paper. you know, nobody likes you in this department. stop bullying the students. we students are not your slaves, neither you are the great highness. stop treating your research scholars as your slave or servant. nobody would ever like to do research under your supervision...period..!! sincerely, a poor soul.”

How does this affect the professors? One whose name we cannot reveal has been so upset that he has made up his mind to quit. Tina Fernandes, a psychology teacher, admits, “Many of us cannot handle criticism. It will definitely harm one’s self-esteem, confidence and reputation.” She believes that anonymity induces unethical behaviour online.

The fact, however, is that not many managements and parents are aware of these confessions. Jackqueline Paul, a teacher and a parent of two sons, is absolutely horrified to read the posts. “The kind of hatred mongering against teachers, institutions we see on such pages is horrifying and totally unfair. Teaching is a noble profession. Even as a parent I say, such things should not be encouraged.” She strongly believes that parents should keep a track of what their children are up to.

Colleges such as Villa Marie College for Women, Loyola Academy Degree and PG College as well as BITS Hyderabad and Muffakham Jah College of Engineering and Technology (MJCET)  all have confessions and almost all were started just a couple of months back.

But not all students, of course, want to appear “cool” and post anything and everything. Kesaban Roy, an MSc Chemistry student at the University of Hyderabad, points out, “The kind of anonymity a confessor enjoys, the admin of the page should ensure that such anonymity is also given to the person being referred to. Otherwise, it just becomes a form of internet bullying.” A student from Eflu, Karthik Kumar, agrees. “There is a thin line between confession and disclosure. Confessions are something which make your heart light.The whole issue of anonymity is also leading to a lot of lies just for the sake of gossip.”

If the person being targeted is a fellow student as it happened on the page of St Francis College for Women, it makes matters even worse. The college was forced to request Facebook to delete/ban the confessions page after a parent lodged a complaint stating that his ward was ‘defamed’ in one of the posts which called her a ‘nobody.’ FB, however, refused to oblige.

Facebook pages like these were banned by a few universities in the US which objected to the impact they had on their brand image and also students as potential employers could, if they wanted, investigate an applicant’s profile including his/her confessions.

However, right now, college/university authorities, who are aware of these pages, are wary of highlighting the issue beyond a point. “We know that such pages exist but since it is a students’ matter, we do not want to interfere,” said Uma Joseph, Associate Professor and coordinator Internal Quality Assurance Cell at St. Francis Degree College for Women.

UoH Vice-Chancellor Ramakrishna Ramaswamy expressed concern about the possible misuse of the page. “The only thing I am concerned about is that the page should not be used to slander anybody, whether faculty or a student. Mentioning names and making the comments too obvious to point out a person are not healthy though I do not have anything against a general peer-to-peer counseling,” he observed.

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