A website where UNC Charlotte students can make anonymous confessions is building a sense of community among the student body, faculty, alumni and the greater Charlotte area, site administrators say.
The UNCC Confessions Facebook page was created in February 2013 for students to ask questions about life, love and school, as well as serving as a place to “confess” secrets without fear of being identified or judged, said Kim Amos, a UNCC student and the current site administrator.
“Our page is continuously growing in popularity,” she said, noting that more than 12,000 confessions have been posted since the page was established. “We have received several messages and emails from students thanking us for what we do and the assistance we offer.”
UNCC Confessions is not affiliated with the university, but similar pages are common at colleges and universities throughout the country, from smaller private schools to huge institutions such as Yale.
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“The Confessions sites on Facebook and Twitter are popular social media sites oriented to colleges,” said UNC Charlotte spokesman John Bland.
The current Facebook page stemmed from an existing confessions site that was not being maintained and was attracting little student interest, Amos said.
Amos, 24, has been one of the revamped Confessions site administrators since transferring to UNCC from Gaston College in August 2013. She began commenting frequently on the page, which has always been student-run.
She now maintains the page and makes sure the 200-300 posts submitted daily meet a few posted guidelines: Don’t use anyone’s name, no discriminatory language, no advertisements, etc.
Posts range from campus-oriented questions – “Can anyone tell me the pros and cons of buying a parking permit for Lot 6A?” – to requests for relationship help. Some confessors seem to go for shock or entertainment value, but overall the page gives students an outlet for expression and a forum to meet others, Amos said.
Is it really anonymous? Amos said it is: Even site administrators can’t see who submits confessions, they can only approve the posts.
With more than 6,500 “Likes,” or followers, Amos estimated the page has an online reach of nearly 30,000 people. She said one of the most satisfying parts about watching the site gain strength, however, is the resource it has become to so many.
In addition to listing numbers and links to campus resources such as police, counseling and student health, the Facebook page also links to a local rape crisis hotline, a national abuse hotline, drug/anger education and more.
The Confessions community and wider student body rallied behind one post in particular last October, when confession No.2600 outlined what the school meant to a student who had dealt with homelessness and depression and had contemplated suicide.
“This confession brought all of us together and defined our page,” Amos said. “A lot of people looked at it and shared it with their friends. It became popular very fast and really brought people together.”
After the confession received more than 900 “Likes,” T-shirts that read “Dear #2600, you’re not alone” were created and sold as a fundraiser for homeless youths.
Other fundraising efforts helped students displaced by an apartment fire and raised nearly $1,000 for a faculty member who couldn’t afford a required surgery for her dog due to her own medical expenses, Amos said.
“It’s crazy how something so simple can change someone’s life … just by giving them support,” Amos said of the page.
Site traffic picks up during the school year, she said, and popular topics focus on stress, depression and relationships.
“A lot of commentors say, ‘Message me for help, for support, if you need advice.’ They’re not as daunting as a therapist or a professional or adult. Peers can be a lot more helpful,” she said. “That’s amazing to me.”
The camaraderie on the site has led to several social gatherings, including a Halloween party more than 400 students attended. There’s a pub crawl planned for later this month and a logo design contest that’s open to students through Aug. 15 that site users will vote on.
“By bringing people out of their shell it creates … a large group of people that’s warm and welcoming. It’s really therapeutic,” said Amos.
Amos hopes to bring a few more students onboard to help maintain the site’s daily traffic before she graduates at the end of the fall semester. Though there’s no monetary profit, she said, the experience has taught her about marketing, event promotion and other skills.
“I’d like to hand it off to a fellow Niner and (have them) experience the success I have,” she said. “It’s interesting how social media has such a big impact and how easy it is to connect with people now.”