Comments about little love stories, confessions on who said what to whom, random instances of revealing dark secrets of someone’s fight, link-ups and hook-ups, happenings of a party the night before, hate and love comments are common posts that come about on “Confessions Pages”. All these things, while being interesting, bring with it an infringement of personal space, and leave people stranded for recourse, because there is nothing they can do about it. Such is the implicit and structural violence of confession pages.
The long hours spent on scrolling Facebook feed, and the heightened sense of importance given to social media in our everyday lives, have made us prone to be interested in other people’s lives. The culture of gossip is implicit to social media surfing. People thrive on knowing such things, and others who know them, make an explicit effort to ensure they disseminate the information before it is too old. Such chatter does the rounds, hear-say rumors are formed, and comments are exchanged, opinions are given, related stories are shared, and it’s an established form of communication that connects a community.
These pages only cater to a closed group of individuals. All those people who join a confession page, are either connected through an institution, or a school/college, employee community, society, or have all visited an event, or are engaged in a common hobby or activity. In all scenarios, the people are acquainted, thereby, making each person there interested in the other’s life. While people are willing to gossip, no one is willing to be the face of it. This makes the anonymous nature of these confession pages, a perfect fit for people to engage in such communication. But, at what cost?
The veil of anonymity has always been a powerful tool to generate voices; voices that demand change, voices that challenge systems, or voices that create conversation. It has always been easier for people to talk in a group, or when their identity is not revealed, especially when the topic is controversial or demands attention. The fear of revealing identity, the social backlash of
being judged, or the embarrassment of being the center of attention, dissuades many from initiating conversation, taking up an issue, or voicing their opinions, as people prefer a cushion in the garb of non-identity. While this may be a catalyst for people to bring up certain things, it is a larger encouragement for people to say whatever they want, false or frivolous things, and then get away with it.
Due to the anonymity, these people operate with impunity. There is no threat of coming under the scanner. With anonymity on their side, there is no consequence or punishment for the people writing anything on such pages. People are prone to writing false things, sometimes in jest, with the intention to start a funny rumor; sometimes with malicious intent to defame someone, or to take revenge for something. In all these instances, there are no checks and balances. Stories are cooked up, names are taken, people are linked, lies are written, and people are just defamed, because the perpetrators know that they are safe.
As the posts on such pages are immediately circulated within a known community, the news spreads fast. People start talking about it. Rumors are created, and there is character-assassination of the individual in question, through juggled opinions. The inherent value of truth is diminished. No one cares about what is right or wrong, whether the news is true or false, as there is inherent belief attached to information found on social media. Even if there is counter-speech, once the information is out there, there are people who believe in the information, and it is difficult to reverse their perceptions. If something cheap is said about a person, then their image is tainted.
Even if the post in taken down within minutes, the damage is done. There is no possible way to retract information once it is disseminated. The individual has been robbed off his dignity, by an unknown person, probably having some fun by creating a rumor, which now makes life difficult for this individual, to be around this group of people, without being ostracized. Their image is tainted, and it will be difficult for him to be normal within a group, with taunting looks, and sly comments.
These pages, with their anonymous nature, actually promote a sense of free-speech which leads to a blatant abuse of the anonymity. The lack of self-censorship to filter the false and the frivolous, in fact, the encouragement to do the exact opposite, coupled with the information being circled within close quarters of a known community, perpetuates a sense of violence against any individual who happens to be involved in the line of fire. The institution of these pages itself, structurally, facilitates such violence against the dignity of individuals, and the abuse of anonymous speech. Besides, it leaves people with no legal or social aid to mend what’s lost or retaliate in any form. The false reliance on such pages for masala (literally spicy, intended here to indicate gossip) news is entertainment at the cost of someone else’s sanity.
Of course, the pages are fun. Of course, you get to know about things happening around you; but, the trade-off for such banal benefits is way too high. The seriousness behind the joke is expensive in terms of sacrificing an individual, by the unknown, with unknown consequences and invisible relief.