About two weeks ago, an unknown user created a Facebook page entitled "AHS Confessions." It had a link to a Google Form of the same title, the prompt "You know what to do" and a blank text field; submissions to the form were transferred to the page as individual posts by the moderator. But as the name suggests, the process enabled contributors to submit any sort of material or message anonymously. And in its brief existence, anyone who took the time to scroll through may likely have taken another, long look at Aragon.
A good number of the posts were lighthearted, ranging from professed love to guilty pleasures. Others were lustful, voyeuristic or sincere confessions needing professional attention. And then there was the threat.
A few days after the page's creation, a cryptic post emerged which made reference to a shooting and the date March 21. Various students who saw the post notified the Aragon administration the following day. The post and then the page itself were deleted shortly thereafter. On Thursday, March 21, a noticeably heightened security presence was observed on campus, with about half the student population marked absent.
Over the next couple days, the private security personnel left, leaving a small number of police officers milling about school. And over time, the tension induced by the online threat seemed to fade. Astonishingly enough, in the aftermath of the incident, a new Aragon Confessions page was created with a statement to the effect of "Others schools have this so why can't we?" While the page soon evaporated, the fact that someone lacked minimal foresight and set up another confessions forum -- especially given the circumstances surrounding its predecessor -- continues to astound me.
In spite of recent events, I do recognize that a confessions page is not without its merits. If anything, it does present a unique environment that encourages a sense of community. The optional anonymity as both a viewer and contributor does enable that to a certain extent (although the page activity by way of comment threads was largely perpetuated by a small number of die-hards). Yet ironically, the absence of transparency was the concept's greatest flaw.
As viewers and contributors, most (if not all) students did not know the identity of the moderator(s). Yet, the moderator had complete agency over what content was accessible (i.e. posted to the Facebook page). Keep in mind that the high school administration has little to no direct visibility on student Facebook activity. What if the moderator decided not to post the threat? No one would know. And what if the incident happened?
In many ways, the relatively small size of Aragon makes these questions more relevant. College confessions pages have become increasingly commonplace and, beyond the varying degrees of participation, there's not much that distinguishes the confessions content of one school from another.
The idea of a confessions page overall, though, does reframe the debate about social media and the health of relationships. Some argue that the tools to stay connected with more people ultimately isolate and confine individuals. That might be true, but maybe what we need to take that first step reaching out to others is a blank filter -- a clean slate devoid of judgment. I'm saying this with, not the voyeurs in mind, but the actual confessors. Someone once said that the most ignorant have the biggest megaphones and the tallest pulpits but, with a confessions page, the personalities and the preconceptions become immaterial.
You don't have a name.
Sangwon Yun is a senior at Aragon High School. Student News appears in the weekend edition. You can email Student News at firstname.lastname@example.org.