The student paper here, The Mancunion, claims to be the biggest student paper in the country. Generally speaking it is well produced and well written. It is also invaluable for me to read at the moment as I am still getting my feet under the desk. A lot of student politics can tend to tiresome and the debates a bit shrill, but outside of that it is an enjoyable read. I was fascinated to read an article last week about the popularity of a Manchester University Facebook page which is ‘for students to write about the deepest secrets and most outrageous stories’ . Called .‘University of Manchester Confessions’ it was started over a week ago and encourages students to anonymously write “hilarious, embarrassing confessions,” to then be posted. Among the submissions are tales of sexual debacles, alcohol-infused blunders and halls of residence pranks. Evidently this is all the rage in uni’s up and down the country, tapping into a trend for public confessional culture which is generally for entertainment purposes and normally harmless. However we do know that occasionally vulnerable people are exploited, and do things for their 5 minute of fame which they regret for the rest of their lives – a la Gerry Springer or Jeremy Kyle (in the UK)
I was fascinated by this – partly because we are right across the road from the Union and the Mancunion’s offices. And in the Holy Name church we have 120 confessions a week, many of them students. The contrast is quite striking. The healing that can go on in the confessional is very powerful, quite frequent and an honour to witness as a priest. But that private sacred confessional is in contrast to the trend of public confessional. The generation of undergraduates spend a huge amount of time in a virtual road – where the private is being abolished. As Google and Facebook have admitted we live a new world where Silicon Valley has given up on privacy. They see this abolition of privacy as a mission to change the world. As Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook said they are capitalising on three trends — First, a trend “from anonymity to authentic identity”. Secondly, a trend from “wisdom of crowds to wisdom of friends” and third, a trend “from being receivers of information to broadcasters of information”.
I am concerned about this – as I am not sure that this is as healthy as these huge companies think it is. Students are vulnerable and use social media unwisely at times. I though it might be good to write a reflection for the Mancunion compare public and private confessional culture. I emailed the editor and offered this too him – as of yet – no response ………….