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tiger-confession

About a month ago, the popular Facebook group Tiger Confessions shut down. Its moderator, who went by the alias Ty Ger, did not offer any public announcement; most of the group’s 5,000+ members just woke up to see a blank page when they tried to scroll through the group, as many did on a daily basis. A lot of students expressed sadness at the group’s closure, almost a year after its creation.

Tiger Confessions brought a lot of the campus together, and students have been quick to rebuild a similar community. On the new Facebook group Tiger Confessions++, members have largely shared the same content. But if we are to engage in important dialogue about how to help one another and what needs to change in our community, massive Facebook groups aren’t the right platforms. We should be looking for new spaces to discuss and address issues on campus — spaces built on conversation, not confession.

It’s understandable why so many students felt the pull to Tiger Confessions. It was a space that offered an enormous array of ideas and opportunities. Students could anonymously compliment others, ask questions about academic and social processes on campus, and speak honestly about their emotional experiences at Princeton.

Being anonymous, the group seemed to be one of the only completely safe spaces to express one’s thoughts on campus. Posts were liked or commented on by fellow students, creating a sense of community and collective content that brought together different groups at Princeton.

The confessions, however, were not always a positive force, a compelling reason to close down Tiger Confessions. The nature of anonymous confession itself is very complex. For many people, anonymity seems like a shield. Their identity is kept secret, and thoughts that we normally wouldn’t share with strangers tumble out easily.

The irony, however, is that we never actually know the writer behind the Tiger Confession. The intimacy, then, is superficial — there is a lack of personal interest or connection to the person who is joking, complaining, or suffering. No matter how much an honest confession may affect another student and motivate them to reach out, it cannot have the same effect as opening up in an in-person conversation with each other.

As important as it is to acknowledge issues and challenges on campus, it is equally crucial that we find the right spaces for the right conversations. Anonymous, one-sided posts that collectively criticized and complained about Princeton only made the school culture feel more toxic and quick to tear down those with different experiences. For a group that originated as Tiger Compliments, a platform for anonymous appreciation, it is understandable why shutting it down seemed like the best option.

Tiger Confessions could never successfully create a genuine support group or sustain crucial conversations about personal beliefs, politics, and mental health. The growing number of posts per day that dealt with feelings of alienation, stress, and depression on campus, as well as those that called others out for differing beliefs, made the space feel very critical and negative, with little ability to have meaningful conversation.

As a feed that was updated dozens of times a day, it was all too easy to assume that the confessions together represented some sort of collective, largely negative distillation of the “Princeton experience.” In fact, when a few members tried to publish posts appreciating or praising aspects of Princeton, they were torn apart in the comments for being naive and unrealistic.

The shutting down of Tiger Confessions is an opportunity for us to find different platforms for different concerns on campus. A lot of it begins with promoting and rethinking existing resources on campus, such as Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) or Princeton Peer Nightline (PPN).

It may also mean creating new spaces online, where conversations can be held about significant issues, rather than a one-way “dialogue.” The community that Tiger Confessions brought together may continue through new groups such as Tiger Confessions++. We need to be more aware, however, of when confessions become the only space in which we may speak.

Kate Lee is a first-year from Austin, Texas. She can be reached at k.lee@princeton.edu.

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