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Online Rumors Have Real World Consequences

by Sal DiMaggio

Most Montclair State University students know of the Instagram account @montclairstateconfessions.

The account, with over 6,000 followers, is widely known for posting students’ anonymous confessions about what goes on in Red Hawk Country, from the raw chicken at Sam’s Place to rants against professors. Additionally, the account has been an active voice in speaking out against the sexual assault claims that come from students and is a strong advocate for victims.

But recently the account has been a subject of controversy for selling an archive of confessions on its website. In these confessions, the owner of the account does not censor anyone named in them, leaving those people subject to any judgment that may come from those confessions.

The problem is that these rumors being put out there are just that, rumors.

There is no proof to back them up whatsoever, and yet the owner of the account seems to have no concern about the impact that this may have on many students’ lives.

After facing some backlash, the owner of the account said that the confessions were not to be taken as fact, but that does nothing in people’s minds. Once a rumor spreads, it doesn’t stop until proven wrong, placing the burden on the accused to fend for themselves. All because some person on Instagram wanted to make a few bucks.

The fact that the account is doing this for money raises some ethical questions as well.

Telling people they can see rumors about their peers for cheap if they use a promo code says a lot about how much the person behind the account cares for the consequences. Almost as if they care more about making money than keeping innocent people’s reputations safe.

Some may question why I am speaking out against this. “Mind your business,” they might say. “This doesn’t concern you if you have nothing to hide.”

While I don’t have anything to hide, the reason why I’m so passionate about this is that I know what it’s like to have a false confession made against me.

Now, I wasn’t named in a confession, and this was months before the person now in charge of @montclairstateconfessions took over. But let me tell you, it does not feel good to have false accusations thrown at you online, and to know that someone you thought was your friend broke your trust.

It was right before winter break began, and I remember scrolling through Instagram in my bed. I came across the post, stopped and read it again. It took a second before the realization set in: the post was about me, and someone I care for very much.

Because I wasn’t named in the post, luckily I didn’t have to deal with any social consequences.

However, the person who had made the post had taken a private conversation that I had with someone else and completely twisted it to make me be seen in a negative light. What’s more, they admitted they were thinking of plotting against me to ruin my relationship. And here they were, spilling it out to all of Instagram. All because, as they admitted later, they were jealous of my happiness.

I’m not going to name the person who wrote the confession about me. They deserve their privacy as much as I deserve mine, and I would be a hypocrite to expose them here. Whatever they are doing now, I genuinely hope they are doing well.

I do know that some of what might be in this archive is true and that the accused don’t deserve to be shielded. But I know firsthand the pain of seeing somebody trying to expose and harm you on social media.

Cyberbullying and cyber harassment is no joke, and @montclairstateconfessions’ latest actions raise the question if they are helping this kind of behavior thrive.

As a journalism major, it’s ingrained in me to find the facts before releasing information. If a story can’t stand on its own merits, it doesn’t deserve to be published.

While @montclairstateconfessions may not claim to be doing journalism, the owner might want to consider taking a page out of our playbook for once. Just because you stand behind the shield of anonymity doesn’t mean you don’t bear the responsibility for what you do.

So here I am imploring that @montclairstateconfessions stop what they are doing.

I have great admiration and respect for how you are speaking out against sexual assault, and I think you should redirect your focus toward goals like that. But you have to realize that naming people on the internet in rumors has real-world consequences, whether you care or not.


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