Have you ever had a secret so big, you just couldn’t help but share it? Maybe a secret crush you’re dying to admit to, or something you did that’s been weighing on you? Several hundred other Cal Poly students understand. They are sharing their innermost thoughts in one of the most public forums they can — an open Facebook page.
But have no fear … it’s all anonymous.
Cal Poly SLO Confessions, a Facebook page that provides students with a forum to share their thoughts anonymously, began Dec. 12 during winter break, and since then has quickly gained more than 1,700 likes, with posters anonymously submitting everything from declarations of sexual preference to struggles with depression.
And one student is behind it all.
Computer engineering freshman Justin Cellona said he began the website after he saw one of his Facebook friends like a similar page for the University of California, San Diego.
“I saw that (the San Diego confessions page) was popular and that people were joining it, so I thought, ‘What if I created my own?’” Cellona said. “It was super late at night, and I was bored, so I made the page. And then eventually, someone took a chance on it and posted a confession, so then I started posting it and the people started liking it and it went from there.”
Cellona’s purpose was to bring the Cal Poly community together through Cal Poly SLO Confessions.
“If people feel like they don’t have a lot of friends or they don’t know who to talk to about something, they can post it anonymously and are therefore not being judged,” Cellona said. “Then they can get feedback, or advice, or help with whatever it is.”
One of the huge appeals of Confessions is the anonymity — a factor Cellona takes extra pains to uphold.
The page provides users with a link leading to a website powered by Google Docs where the confession can be submitted, at which point the page administrator will receive and post it. This setup prevents even the page administrator from knowing the name of the submitter, Cellona said.
“(The Google Doc) has no tie to Facebook whatsoever, so that’s completely anonymous,” Cellona said. “I read it from the Google Doc but it’s just complete text; all I know is what time they submitted it.”
Cellona said he now receives approximately 40 submissions per day. This is only a small portion of the Cal Poly population, but is significant considering the short amount of time the page has existed. Facebook analytics on the page show that its popularity has been steadily increasing since its inception.
The confessions range from lighthearted and joking — such as “I like VG’S” or “I’m Spiderman”— to those encompassing more serious issues, such as questions of sexuality and even suicide. These serious confessions, at first, left Cellona worried.
“When I saw those I wasn’t really sure what to do,” he said. “But reporting it I don’t think would help because it’s anonymous even to me, so I don’t know who that is.”
Cellona said he thinks the community aspect of the page helps those posters in the end, though.
“I posted (a fake suicide one) to see what would happen, and luckily there was at least eight people that wrote responses saying why they should not, and so that was what really opened my eyes to what this confessions page could be,” Cellona said.
A less somber question some students encounter is whether or not their submitted confession will actually be shared on Facebook.
“I posted a confession and it didn’t get posted,” food science freshman Laura Yassa said. “It was a way to see if it would get posted or not.”
Cellona said he does not post everything that is submitted simply because he sees many that are not necessarily confessions, but comments on the page.
“I try to post strictly confessions,” he said. “I can tell when some of them are fake because they’ll be a quote from a movie or something, so if it’s a real confession I’ll post it.”
Cellona also made a point to post a description of the page, stating that it is not meant for people to reach out to anyone specific.
“That defeats the purpose; they’re not going to know who you are, so just writing about a person when they don’t know who you are is not going to help the situation,” Cellona said. “So I kind of wanted to remind people that because it’s anonymous and no names are being thrown around, we can’t necessarily help with what you should do or give advice because we don’t know your situation.”
Cal Poly SLO Confessions is not alone in trying to start a movement within the university.
Similar pages have cropped up, such as Cal Poly, SLO Compliments, which works along similar lines of anonymity. In the case of Cal Poly, SLO Compliments, however, the page shares the name of the person being complimented.
In addition, several Confessions “response sites” have surfaced.
One of these is Confession Responder, a Facebook persona which attempts to advise those who submit confessions by commenting on the specific confessions themselves.
Cellona said when he reached out to the Confession Responder, the only identification he received was that of “your friendly neighborhood Confession Responder.” Confession Responder could not be reached for comment.
Cal Poly students seem to have reached the general consensus that the page can do more help than harm, even if it is just as a distraction.
“While I’m not so into posting my secrets, I think it’s really cool to be able to read a variety of confessions — from silly to serious to sexual,” industrial engineering senior Victoria Francis said. “It’s something that even if just online kind of brings classmates together.”
Biological sciences junior Jason Shapiro echoed the sentiment that the page is mostly just entertaining.
“I think it’s just a fun page to look at because some of the confessions are obviously fake, but hilarious,” Shapiro said. “Also, it’s cool to see how other students are actually feeling about their lives at school and at Poly.”
The page has received a slight amount of criticism, mostly based on its content.
Cellona said a lot of the submissions he receives involve party culture. Although he acknowledged that this may have a negative impact, Cellona said he attempts to keep the controversy to a minimum.
“I try to prevent that by not posting names or anything, but one person did suggest that some of the things were not appropriate necessarily,” Cellona said. “But I think that’s kind of just an aspect of college. Take what you may of it, but that’s just what it is.”
The future of Cal Poly SLO Confessions is ambiguous, but Cellona said he plans to simply continue what he is doing.
“That’s someone to talk to even if they don’t know it’s you, but they give advice and help and so it’s really the Mustang Way; helping each other out in that sense,” Cellona said.