The rise of Tiger Confessions since last October has generated plenty of discussion around campus, as the Facebook page’s popularity seemingly exploded over winter break with no signs of letting up. Many have contributed to the important conversation of how this page, which now boasts over 6,000 posts, is affecting Princeton’s culture and how we should respond. These discussions have included an interview with the founder, known by the pseudonym Ty Ger, in The Daily Princetonian, and a recent op-ed by Managing Editor Samuel Aftel.
It is known that the Tiger Confessions page is completely anonymous for both posters and administrators, and this may be the most consequential element of the page. As Aftel noted in his column, “the anonymous platform’s popularity bespeaks the performative invulnerability and emotional repression of the University’s social culture. It seems that many Princetonians find Tiger Confessions a more effective source of therapy and community facilitation than their classmates, not to mention other in-person, non-anonymous University resources, such as RCAs or Counseling and Psychological Services.”
While it’s certainly true that the page offers a space for free expression that may not otherwise be possible, the anonymity is a double-edged sword; the Facebook page offers students the opportunity to voice their grievances and express repressed emotions without consequence, which can be an extremely cathartic and helpful, but also harmful in some cases.
The positive side of these anonymous posts is that they allow for students enduring difficult issues to discuss their concerns without fear of judgement or personal consequence. Posts about weighty topics such as mental health, racism, sexual assault, and suicide are not hard to find on Tiger Confessions, proving that there is a demand for emotional support that is not being met by other services such as RCAs and Counseling and Psychological Services.
These posts also have the ability to offer insight for other Princeton students into what kinds of problems their classmates are dealing with, something that can only serve to make us more sensitive to each other’s needs and personal difficulties. This is an undeniably valuable characteristic of Tiger Confessions.
On the other hand lies the dark side to the anonymity that Tiger Confessions offers. As is the case anywhere on the internet, anonymity gives people the ability to post content they would otherwise not want attached to their name, and this content can often be harmful.
Tiger Confessions is often the site of political debates that start after someone posts an intentionally edgy, controversial, or stereotypically unpopular opinion, often in a fashion that exhibits how the poster has no real intention of promoting a meaningful conversation.
Posts in Tiger Confessions about how annoying it is that liberals get triggered so easily, or random posts about specific political policies, while certainly not the end of the world, are not substitutes for real political discussions.
When such subpar political commentary becomes ubiquitous through the popularity of Tiger Confessions, it creates the impression that actual discourse between students of different political leanings is really occurring, something that would be truly valuable. In reality, however, all that’s happening is nameless people shouting their opinions into the digital void. The anonymity of the group precludes any type of real conversation from happening because nobody feels obligated to defend what they say and, consequently, their own reputation.
A more significant danger of the page lies in the possibility for invasion of privacy. While posts complimenting people on their attractiveness can be flattering or fun between friends, they have the potential to create feelings of discomfort if one does not appreciate strangers commenting on their appearance on a platform that the whole school can see. This practice can easily turn into something malicious.
A post about a nameless, attractive student that describes their appearance and when and where you saw them could make it easy for others to identify the subject of the post, something this person did not ask for and may not want. In fact, a similar phenomenon was noted by a confession on Feb. 24, in which the poster told of how Tiger Confessions was used by someone to further his unwanted advances on a female student he had met at an eating club.
It is not for any one student, including myself, to make the judgement of whether or not Tiger Confessions ought to exist. If anything, the page seems to be becoming more popular, with Ty Ger even feeling the need to recruit more admins.
The page will live and die by our collective decisions to post, comment, and read. The solutions to the issues I have raised may lie somewhere between simply living with these negative consequences, more censorship by admins, a removal of anonymity from the page, or shutting it down completely.
Tiger Confessions is merely a vehicle for our thoughts. As such, it is our responsibility to decide the culture of the page and to determine what kinds of online content we promote as a student body.
Benjamin Gelman is a first-year from Houston, Texas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.