Website publishes student confessions

Anonymous confessions are nothing new. With PostSecret, the now-deceased LikeALittle and Craigslist, among others, there is something about the Internet that people can trust with the biggest secrets that they would never tell their friends.

For UC Berkeley, there is a corner of the Internet known as AnonCon. At the end of each semester, a LiveJournal page opens up to anonymous commenting until the last day of finals.

The site is a procrastination gold mine and home to all sorts of posts, including real confessions and requests for advice, attempts to hook up and sexual oversharing and, of course, trolling (the Internet’s version of pranking).

The roots of AnonCon are a bit of a mystery, even to those heavily involved. The current LiveJournal community was not the first version, but it was established after AnonCon was banned from an official UC Berkeley LiveJournal.

According to the profile of the group, AnonCon was created in 2008 and currently hosts 26 journal entries and 124,901 comments.

As is tradition, the group opened up on the last day of classes, Nov. 30, at 11:28 p.m. There are 518 comments in this incarnation as of press time, and the numbers keep increasing. During some semesters, the count has reached 10,000.

The anonymity of the group is what brings people to it. As third-year UC Berkeley student Benj Shapiro puts it, “No rules or restrictions: I think that’s a liberty people really like — in small doses.” Shapiro posts each semester, regularly checking the group and occasionally commenting on posts, like when he feels others need support.

Other students are less participants and act more as spectators. UC Berkeley senior Leah Stone goes on AnonCon sometimes, but “not religiously,” and has never posted before. Before finals, it’s “catharsis for some but entertainment for most,” said Stone. “It’s funny to see people I know being talked about … be it funny or sort of sad.”

Nevertheless, AnonCon is not for everybody. UC Berkeley senior Paul Williams, who does not frequent the site, sees it as a place where stressed-out students unwind and participate in “witty banter” with one another.

While it is an open forum, the lawlessness is not appealing to some students. Williams never felt compelled to log on to AnonCon and says the prospect of doing so is intimidating.

From reading the confessions, it is obvious AnonCon is a mixed bag. On one hand, there is heartfelt confession and warm support. On the other, comments can get repetitive, derogatory and just plain mean. Shapiro said he’s seen some tasteless jokes, especially pertaining to more serious issues in the community. And then, there are the trolls.“A lot of it is trolling … it’s funny but gets old,” said Stone.

Ultimately, AnonCon not only provides an outlet but also strengthens the campus community, albeit in “a sort of underground way,” according to Shapiro.

There is a fleeting nature to the connections made and the community created, as every semester, AnonCon ends. No more salacious proclamations or genuine moments — until the cycle starts again next semester.

Contact Fiona Hannigan at [email protected].