Things have gone too far on Facebook confession pages

Published: September 13, 2013
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These pages are not just fun and games - they are promoting a culture of hate and are a severe breach of privacy.

“Anum, it was so gross. Nobody had noticed my hair before, but now I feel like the whole world is ogling my scalp,” Zara winced and clutched the receiver so tightly that her nail beds turned white.

“Err, no. Why don’t you forget about that stupid confession? Just keep your head high,” I paused, hunting for more motivating words to throw at her end. “We all know you don’t wear a– a wig” I gulped.

“Of course, I don’t. The confession on SMC Confessions — our university’s Facebook page — said ‘Today, I finally saw Zara of first year adjust her wig in the girls common room’,” she made a futile attempt to remind me.

“That is the point. Your hair is natural. We know that. Why care?”

“But the wig was only an excuse to taunt at my thinning hair…” Zara protested.

“I know, I…” I let the words out as a whisper over the phone.

“No, you don’t know. This is suicidal. Just because my hair is vanishing, they all get the chance to confess weird things on social networks. And the comments… they are brutal.”

She almost screamed.

“Oh God, why don’t I just die? I don’t want to go to university again…” she was frustrated and hung up soon after with a resigned “bye”.

At first, I sat down thinking about how hyper-sensitive and hyper-reactive a girl can be just because someone anonymously posted something foolish about her looks for the world to take note.

On social networking websites like Facebook, I have come across almost every educational institution’s ‘confessions’ page. The trend has been there for a while but the hype is still alive in my university and probably many others.

As I tried to put myself in Zara’s shoes, I realised just how hurt she really felt. How she looks does not have anything to do with anyone else and yet, someone out there had an itch and for the sake of mere fun, she/he posted offensive remarks, clearly mentioned Zara’s name and didn’t bother to reveal his/her own. What bravery is that? You are brave enough to post derogatory remarks about another person but are too much of a coward to post your own name with it?

People carry their own personas and sentiments; you may feel like the ‘joke’ you cracked is harmless and only light-hearted humour but that does not necessarily mean that the person you are targeting will feel the same way. Confessions can be real fun, I admit, but only when the fun does not override our values, mannerism, respect and tolerance for others. I have read and equally enjoyed reading confessions that talk about puppy-love, funny incidents and other ‘shareable’ stuff. That makes sense.

Unfortunately, what these pages are being used for instead are absolutely shocking and purely cruel motives.

Posts that targeted a young boy with feminine looks, the girl with a bright orange cell phone or my poor friend who has trouble with hair fall can cause permanent damage to their self-esteem!

And the charade does not just end there. The callous post is then ‘Liked’ and commented upon by equally insensitive people who seem to think that pointing and laughing at someone else’s weakness makes them part of a superior league, when in reality it only makes them look malicious and sadistic.

In an effort to stand up for my distraught friend, I personally messaged the page administrator to deactivate the page or, at least, remove such posts, but the only reply I received was,

 “Sorry, our rules do not include removal of posts.”

In return, I asked how they could so blindly put up such insulting posts. Frustrated I persisted and asked,

“Do you even read them for once? Why don’t any rules apply to the selection of post-able posts?”

I received no answer to this.

I then thought of replying to the post about Zara directly and try my best to put a stop to the nonsensical things that were being said about her. When I scrolled down to the post, I realised that not only did the post have over 120 comments encouraging this behaviour, there was a rather crass joke that was liked by 225 people that read,

“Must be an outcome of perming. Please contact Zubaida Aapa for hair treatment tips before you really buy a wig.”

This post was paired with an array of smileys and 225 ignorant people cheering the offensive post on.

Resigned, hopeless and feeling utterly helpless in my efforts to stop this fire from spreading further, I felt like the only thing I could do now was burst into tears.

It has been weeks now, and such posts continue. The constant traffic and rise in such Facebook pages shows how rapidly this trend is growing. Every time I cross the hallways in my university all I hear are hushed whispers of the next poor soul being targeted, sneaky echoes of laughter ricocheting off the walls and in some dreary corner, the silent murmurs of fear, despair and loathing from the last victim.

Every single person in the university now wants to maintain a low profile for fear of becoming the next victim of this shameful game. I don’t know when I will be next, I don’t know which aspect of my life will be inappropriately, and rather disproportionately, targeted and I am not sure how I can protect myself from it either. Neither does anyone else.

These pages are not just fun and games – they are promoting a culture of hate and are a severe breach of privacy. The consequences of an insulting post can be fatal – there are many people who will not have the courage to stand up to these posts, and that could lead to grave outcomes.

As for Zara and the others, they will, hopefully, find a way to cope. In the meantime, we need to quickly identify the rather blurry line between what is funny and what is belittling before someone gets seriously injured. The person to blame is not just the anonymous body that posts such stuff; even those who read, ‘Like’ and comment are equally involved. We all are!

Let’s play the confession game safely and if we can’t, let’s quit it completely. It’s not worth ruining someone’s life.

Have you or anyone you know ever been bullied by a Facebook confessions page? Share your story with us! Email [email protected]

Anum Zakir Khan

Anum Zakir Khan

A prospective doctor at Sindh Medical College, who is an avid reader, a tennis fan and enjoys writing.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Outsider

    The issue raised is very a pertinent one. The virtual world of social media is getting anarchic and absurd day by day… however, the real concern is how the “Social” has invaded the “self”; our self-esteem and self-perception is being defined by the “Social” out there. The victim continues to mourn while the “Social” continues to wear an evil grin. Recommend

  • http://www.sparklingsmakeup.com/ Huda Sheikh

    Facebook bullying is a new form of our mental degradation…the so called social media is used as a tool against many, I am facing one such experience and now ur post made me think to share it on this platform too…
    RegardsRecommend

  • Parvez

    If I am not wrong from the movie ‘ The Social Network ‘ I gathered that the original concept of Facebook was to promote exactly what you described.
    This Facebook thingee looks like it’s not so much Facebooks fault but the users………..I’ve kept myself away from this as I feel that if I know the water’s freezing then I’d be stupid to jump in especially if I cant swim. But then again I am told that it’s advantages far outweigh its drawbacks.
    Liked the way you wrote this.Recommend

  • Ali S

    These idiotic things are being said and done by future doctors. What a shame.Recommend

  • broken chooza

    Liberals wanted ‘Freedom of Speech and Expression’, here it is, now enjoy this and face the music.
    If you don’t like these games don’t follow these, but let other people enjoy these.

    they are neither touching you, nor harassing you, just using their right of freedom of expression.

    Wasay Zubaida aapa wala joke was awesome, also ORANGE mobile lol! Recommend

  • SS

    Sorry to say this but kids these days aren’t self confident as they use to be…Recommend

  • MBS

    Very sad to hear this…i think the Good and mature admins do have a policy of either not posting the entire confession or removing the names from it. Look at “MCS Confessions” for example.
    I strongly condemn this kind of rude and derogatory behaviour. Recommend

  • emmess

    One can’t do anything about such pages but one thing is for sure that it shows the background and upbringing of the people who are active on these pages.Recommend

  • 007

    What a lame blog!Recommend

  • Indian

    I passed out of medical college shortly before social networking became a part of daily life..Now I read about children in the West commiting suicide after cyberbullying and I wonder how children of the next generation will cope and how,we as future parents can help protect them from these issues – which we grew up without.Recommend

  • GHULAM ABBAS

    THIS PIECE OF WRITING ASSURES THAT THERE ARE SENSIBLE PEOPLE WHO HAVE THE COURAGE TO WRITE ABOUT THE SOCIAL ATROCITIES DONE BY OURSELVES.Recommend

  • Raza

    Why not just leave Facebook? Its a waste of time. Why do we need to open up on social media anyway?Recommend

  • http://sadeunique.wordpress.com Sade

    Did you bring this to the attention of your school administrators? My school had a page like that, but it wasn’t on Facebook. They forced the page admins to shut the site down. It’s cyber-bullying and a lot of schools are taking that seriously now, because of the harm it causes. You should bring it to a higher power. You could seriously save a life. People kill themselves over this. So don’t give up!Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    Parvez you are my favorite person from the ET community.

    That’s all I wanted to say. No, it isn’t relevant to the blog. Sorry. Continue. Recommend

  • Anon

    Can you pass on this advice to your friend hope this helps:
    I personally know this vitamin biotin has helped a lot of people with thinning hair. She can start with 1000 mcg, and go onto 5000 mcg or 10,000 mcg pills. Its a safe vitamin as it is water soluble and the body flushes out the excess. it’s a proven growth food for hair and nails., but it may take up to 3 months to start noticing a difference, so ask your friend to be patient. Also ask your friend your friend to get her iron levels checked and even a scalp biopsy so she knows the exact cause of her hair fall. If its gradual thinning related to high levels of DHT, than taking saw palmetto (a herbal DHT blocker) in addition to biotin with help her a great deal (although its recommended for women to take in small dose upon advise of doctors) If she cant find these meds in pakistan ask her to use iherb.com it has good deals and shipping is quiet cheap too.
    All in all ask your friend to be patient, pray regularly, and surround herself with positive people. Dont let the pettiness get to her, trust me what goes around comes around, she will find happiness at the end of a dark tunnel, while bitter who have no qualms about passing callous insensitive comments will get what they deserve in the end. God has a way of fixing things in the end.
    She is still young, and I have seen alot of people recover lost hair. Some patience (vitamins and hair treatments can take upto a year before you start noticing growth), lots of research online on diets, hair tips forums where people have recovered from this ailment, positivity and prayers help. In the end she has to take a stand and put up a good fight. Otherwise the world is just looking for an excuse to drag you down.Recommend

  • socko

    Actually some people are taking Facebook too seriouslyRecommend

  • socko

    Do not keep worrying about something that you do not have any control over…

    You surely have full control on yourself… If you dont like something abt facebook, do not force yourself to use it… just avoid it
    Recommend

  • socko

    Moderation of TribuneBlogs seems to be a lot better than Tribune.com.pkRecommend

  • Nasir Mehmood

    Very nice topic and yes nice written .this is simply brutal what goes on in social networking sites
    Ita just everyone should carefully use this platform. I recently heard of a teenage girl suiciding just cause of harsh comments.which is so heartbreaking. It doesnt seem to get any better in ethics .Recommend

  • Lubna Aziz

    @broken chooza
    With all due respect, I beg to differ.
    “If you don’t like these games don’t follow these, but let other people enjoy these.
    they are neither touching you, nor harassing you, just using their right of freedom of expression.”

    I’m sorry, but this isn’t football or candy crush that you’re talking about. In this particular case, the other people were ‘enjoying’ the game at the cost of the integrity and self-respect of a human being. This definitely comes under harassment. The current definition of health encompasses mental well-being too, and these bullying and defaming activities surely affect that.Recommend

  • Umar R.

    solution.

    STOP using FB…. duhh!!!Recommend

  • Muhammad Sohail

    Every technological or science invention has uses and abuses. Our Paki society is still going through the evolutionary phases and infant when compared with the highly civilized societies of the world. Given the situation, the kind of societies when exposed to such things which once were abandon and prohibited, they are more prone to misuse these technological advances.
    The writer has raised a good issue which would surely help our users of social media. The writer at one side has showed her self to be a compassionate and caring friend of the victim but at the same time, while mentioning the name of victim, she has made more publicized the victim, making her nationally known, the victim must not have felt good but worst even more than that facebook page. Recommend

  • DASH DASH

    its SADRecommend

  • http://[email protected] zia

    Well,pages like these r jst for fun..they r not meant to ridicule some1..its about time we should deal with these thingz maturely..n asking to stop them or behave properly wont make them stop…but taking things in a light vein especially those said wth the sole purpose of fun..wud certainly do..so grow up n enjoy these!Recommend

  • nikhil manek, india

    @author. i love facebook confession pages. but you are right, it cannot become a platform for hurting feelings or emotion of some people. we should not hurt anyone feelingsRecommend

  • raza

    its true confession pages are becoming a menace for many people..
    my first experience of this kind of thing was from a similar page in As level but the staff and student of the campus acted ruthlessly.
    the still unknown admin deleted the page of threats of calling FIA cyber crime department
    now again here at a new institution I find myself in cross hairs of unknown people.
    unfortunately the Facebook confession page is designed to properly cover admin’s “behind”
    and the only known thing about him is that he is a pass out.. trying to take down(hack) the page and delete it is still very difficult for a newbie hacker(specially if it uses Google docs) ideally technically and physically advanced students should take measures ( hacking the page, tracking the admin & and forcefully take down such pages) which can save their fellows from such situations.. Admins of many pages are stubborn and wont easily delete their pages..
    these things will very soon cause the institutions to create a social media monitoring cell which undoubtedly rub some students the wrong way..
    personally i confession pages can be a lot of fun if people don’t play cheap shots there just to degrade someone..Recommend

  • http://www.reddit.com/r/exmuslim TombOfAthena

    Too bad you have made things worse for you friend. By putting her name on here and linking the page. Did you even ask before writing a post about her?Recommend

  • abdul waheed smcian

    dear author i dont understand why you have made your article so obvious that its meant to be written for the person whose already being mocked on the confession page. dear readers i appreciate your kind words on the article and respect your views but let me tell you what this writer has done already she have posted her article link all over the facebook and all he people who were mocking the so called zara obvious her name changed in the article is now mocking her more that an article about her is on the express tribune too. i understand what confessions page are made for but she should have talked about the whole page or whole topic in general discussion rather making it too obvious which confession and whose mocking shes talking about. the people connected to facebook, confession page and this article obviously all in our university are now sharing this article to make more fun of her. So anum zakir khan kindly remove you sympathy act from this blog because you haven’t done any good except bringing more misery to that poor fellow. your sympathy writing is costing someone more who is already paying price for something she haven’t bought and stop sharing your article on the Facebook too. you want to talk about confession page you could have talked about it in general or atleast make a confession fake one which does not exist you just changed the name and created more mess for the fellow who was already getting mocked by others and now you are no different than them think about it. Readers i encourage you all to think about it too before making such act.Recommend

  • Zaha Bhagat

    So true and upsetting!Recommend

  • Samrah

    It is well-documented and nicely written !! Many individuals are confronting such situations and yeahh it needs to be taken in consideration.Recommend

  • Nabeeha

    I agree. I don’t think they should post any bullying and obscene texts. That only spreads negativity. But the sole purpose of these pages is to spread these respective vices.Recommend

  • Liz albert

    Agreed with you anum but in my view the people posting on these confesssion pages are only those people who are whether against you or your friends .
    Other people around would gossip but they dont have so much time to post in these pages.Recommend

  • SK

    Lol all the schools even malls have them ._.Recommend

  • AZK

    @002574bc20b96b06f4e64b04d8411ca0:disqus Thank you for your thoughts. Confessions are anonymous and you can’t really see the confessor is a who. The who could really be anyone. And anyone is a vast field, fitting everyone.
    As for others, we can’t quite say how much time they themselves waste not just gossiping, but actually going about it and trying confessions themselves.
    This confession-mania is an epidemic. The worst part? You can’t distinguish the non-confessor from the confessor. It’s a blind pinch game.Recommend