Anonymity and the Ivy

Yale Daily News › Caroline Posner

Anonymity is undoubtedly the zeitgeist of Yale’s current social media activity. In the last few months, a fresh set of confession-centric pages has cropped up, most notably “Elihu Yale (Bulldog Admirers)” and “Yale Compliments II.” These pages offer students a platform to express admiration, respect and adoration for fellow students with a wide audience, minus the pressure or intimacy of signing their names. They’ve both taken off, with dozens of submissions that fill a spectrum from clever puns to sincere romance.

PosnerCThere’s another anonymous platform, though, that’s slightly older and significantly more intense: Yale PostSecret. The site takes its name from the PostSecret community, an art project begun in 2005 in which anonymous individuals mail blogger Frank Warren their personal secrets on handmade postcards; the cards are then photographed for display on the project website. Yale PostSecret, like the original project, allows Yalies to make anonymous confessions via Google document for display on the platform’s Facebook wall. Unlike the original project, which moderated the postcards for artistry and sincerity, the Yale confessions range from intimate tragedies to bad one-liners.

But with Internet anonymity, as we all heard in middle school, comes a number of concerns — and Yale PostSecret is certainly not exempt. A chance at invisibility, coupled with the promise of a wide audience, manifests itself in many forms: multi-paragraph monologues on feelings of desire, objections to campus stereotypes of full-tuition students, regrets about sexual relationships with teaching fellows. It’s also given rise to an alarming number of posts about suicidal ideations, lack of self-worth and episodes of humiliation. The heavier posts share a home with thoughts that make a mockery of the anonymous confession project: Right below a post confessing romantic infidelity is the status, “I kissed a squirrel and I liked it.”