Public masturbation, vandalism and rampant drug use are everyday occurrences on campus – if you believe University of Hawai‘i Confessions, a Facebook page that publishes anonymous “confessions” that may (or may not) reveal the sordid side of paradise. But what the site really reveals is something far more disturbing than any so-called confession: UH students prefer to stew in apathy and laugh at misfortune in lieu of taking action to change the university for the better.
The page is set up to operate with full anonymity and openness. The confessions themselves are collected through SurveyMonkey, and an administrator posts new “confessions” every few hours. A disclaimer buried on the “About” page encourages readers to remember that the posts are not guaranteed to be accurate or even from UH students.
The stories may be from anywhere and anyone, but UH students are the ones flocking to the site. UH Confessions was established on Jan. 23, and by Feb. 14, the page had accumulated more than 10,000 likes. The most popular posts boast more than 700 likes, though most posts tend to average about 60-100 depending on the topic.
Topics themselves vary wildly from love confessions to complaints about UH Mānoa to, more frequently, claims of wild debauchery and dissolution. If the site is to be believed, every flat surface on campus is coated with layers of bodily fluid, and passersby should avoid sitting or even standing near trees by Hamilton Library.
And if the comments are any indicator, UH Mānoa students love the site and are enthralled by its flow of stories. Almost every post has comments of both support and dissent attached. Even via word of mouth, it is safe to conclude that students are interested and excited to read new confessions every day.
RIGHT WORDS, WRONG PLACE
There is no need to pass judgment on those who claim to grow extensive marijuana gardens in their dorm rooms or those who claim to have gotten to know all the football players intimately. What an individual does with his or her private life is of no concern to anyone else, and it may be that many of the stories are made up anyway.
More alarming than the posts themselves are student reactions to the confessions.
When more than 200 people like a status that calls all white girls on campus “sluts,” what does that say about the campus’ attitude toward women and sexuality? Perhaps that explains why reports of sexual assault have increased by more than 1,000 percent since 2009, according to the 2012 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report for the campus – and those are just the ones that are reported.
Why are students willing to voice their dissatisfaction with university policy and administration to an anonymous Facebook page instead of to the school’s administrators? If we have concerns, and we have enough to say about them so as to have a reasoned and thoughtful discussion in the comments, then why are Chancellor Tom Apple’s campus-wide conversations attended by so few students?
More than 10,000 people can like a page and spend hours poring through it every night, but our athletes often play to empty stands, and our school newspapers lie on newsstands unread.
We can and should be better than this. We have the time – so we should use it. We need to be just as engaged in our real lives, our real campus, as much as we are with a page full of lies.
The students of UH Mānoa are better than those represented by UH Confessions – but unless we turn off our computers and reengage with reality, our campus will never reflect that.