Fostering community: A behind-the-scenes look into @uofconfessions
By Kara Koblanski, December 12 2021—
If you have or are currently attending the University of Calgary, it is likely that you follow or have at least heard of the famous Instagram account @uofconfessions. Racking in a whopping 14.1 thousand followers, it’s safe to say that the account has created an entertaining place for students to share their thoughts, opinions and hallway crushes on the page. But how did the account evolve to this level of popularity? And what impact does it have on the U of C community?
The Gauntlet sat down with one of the original creators of the page, along with an Admin who was one of the first hired, to get a behind-the-scenes account on managing the page, unpacking confessions and the influence that the account has on student life.
@uofconfessions was created in September 2018 by two women of colour who were, as voiced by the creator, “wish[ing] for a way to connect.” Admin, who joined a few months after the initial startup, described his thought process at the time.
“I am a first-year, I just got thrust into this whole community thing and I feel no sense of real connection to my campus.”
This desire for community is evident in almost every first-year, as the switch from high school to university is a whole new ball game. Followers came quickly and soon the page was running at full speed. From two students managing the page to now 12 employees, @uofconfessions has no doubt established its relevance in the campus community.
With upwards of 200 confessions submitted in a day, the account has had to learn how to adapt and operate at much higher volumes. Admin describes that they have “diversified into a bunch of different teams” consisting of a finance team, an outreach team and the content creators team, of which Admin is the head.
With numerous different buildings and vastly conflicting majors, it can be hard to find a place to share common thoughts with their campus community. The @uofconfessions page satisfies this desire to share. Whether you’ve witnessed the craziest moment on campus and want to spill or have just written the hardest midterm ever, the account’s easy-to-use submission form connects you with your fellow students in just a few clicks.
The complete anonymity of this format allows every student the shared ability to find relations on such a large campus. According to the creator, the purpose of the page’s intention was to create a sense of “online community.”
However true, it is undeniable that due to the anonymous nature of the page, there is something to be said about the page’s overall “wallflower effect” as both the Admin and those submitting confessions are 110 per cent anonymous.
The aforementioned “wallflower effect” works wonders for the Admin, who stated that they enjoyed sitting in in-person lectures and seeing people scroll through the page, or for shy students who crave connection yet want to avoid the awkward social interaction. But could this effect also foster division?
In response to the alarming confessions that come in quite often, the account developed a system to establish which confessions get posted and outlines this through four core questions.
“The first is, ‘Has a post about this topic in this voice been shared today already?’ Would the student body greatly benefit from reading from a certain topic a second time?’ The next one is, ‘Do students have some sort of way to relate to the topic that goes up, be it that they disagree or agree with it?’ The third question is, ‘Is this confession largely harmless to the student body to read? Do I run the risk of overly disgusting or offending people?’” Admin said.
“That’s why we have our strict rule that you cannot name someone in a negative light using their actual name.” To which the creator clarifies that this rule “goes for professors as well.”
Admin continues, “And finally, does this post follow the actual written rules of post submission,” said Admin, as defined on their Instagram page.
Admin clarifies that he needs to be really careful about the material that goes up, to make sure they’re having a positive impact and that they’re not having a negative impact. The team’s regard for a “positive impact” is largely underscored in their response to worrisome confessions, which are, unfortunately, a given with anonymity.
They note receiving a handful of harmful confessions with people disclosing suicidal thoughts. Admin confirmed that whether or not these confessions were sent in a joking manner, it was still their “job” to “take them seriously.”
Their go-to option now is to recommend them to the Student Wellness Centre or the crisis line at 403-266-4357. Nevertheless, anonymity evidently poses a risk factor to @uofconfessions.
“People are really good at feeling empowered when they know that no one’s tracking them.”
Luckily, it should never and has never escalated to where they needed to contact authorities and the page intends to keep it that way.
Contradictorily, the anonymity of the page attracts a whole lot of love as every Thursday, an enormous amount of crush confessions pour in for the weekly “Friday Feelsday.”
In one week, the page had received 314 crush confessions sent in for the renowned “Friday Feelsday.” If you follow the page, you’re likely well aware of “Feelsday” which consists of pink fonts highlighting confessions that are all about hallway crushes, love declarations and weirdly vivid sexual fantasies.
“I’ve read some not-comfortable fantasies on this page, we don’t talk about those,” Admin laughed.
You might be wondering the significance these confessions have on the U of C campus community, and if anything genuine comes out of these fanciful confessions to which I would say, you’d be surprised.
For some people, @uofconfessions can provide the platform to connect and find out their “missed connections” or crushes. Admin notes at least two relationships were formed because of the famous “Friday Feelsday” posts.
With the gradual return of in-person learning, the interest in Fridays has skyrocketed with the workload of just “Feelsday” being a multiple-hour process.
The creator mentioned that “Feelsday” was expected to take quite the hit during quarantine and online classes, but people found a way — Zoom crushes.
Students found themselves dressed up and turned their cameras on for Zoom, as Admin recalls, with the hope that they would get a “Feelsday” confession written about them. The popularity of “Friday Feelsday,” with in-person learning or online, confirms the overwhelming desire for connection in any form possible, whether people are utilizing the account to make friends, look for love or merely agree over a shared opinion.
While the confessions page shares a fair amount of gossip and tea on the university, one would be remiss to overlook the element of togetherness that the account promotes. The creator of @uofconfessions recalled a particular moment where she observed a notably positive change on the campus and with its students because of the confessions page.
“Three years ago”, said the creator, “there used to be a guy at the train station who would hand out newspapers every single day for so many hours — this guy was dedicated. And no one would take them. But he can’t leave until he gives out all of his newspapers. So we posted a confession about it and the next day, everyone was taking newspapers and the guy was so excited.”
It was their most liked confession for months.
“He’d be ready to go home a lot earlier than usual which was just super wholesome. And then one day, he left. He finished his job. And since then, every once in a while, we’ll just put up a post like ‘Remember Newspaper Guy?’ and everyone gushes about him. Such a positive memory.”
“Newspaper Guy” encapsulates the impact that @uofconfessions truly has on the campus community. Their ability to make a genuine change on the campus is where the page’s importance lies. Sure, not everything on the account is groundbreaking or revolutionary, but their capability to create more interactive student communication generates a stronger and united student body and therefore a stronger campus.
This effect of fellowship lingers much longer than any controversial confession or gossip that gets posted. Allowing students to connect more on the confessions account gives them the opportunity to connect more to their campus and thus create positive social change.
Managing and maintaining @uofconfessions proves to be hard work, especially with the account growing more by the day. But the significance the account has, not just on the readers but also the Admin, substantiates the overall relevance of the page.
“I think the most enjoyable part of all this,” said the Admin, “has been having a chance to interact with so many community members that I would never be able to speak with normally. People from every faculty, from every corner of this university.”
He maintains that the best part about the confessions account is having a nice community around him and being able to forward that to a bunch of people. @uofconfessions continues to grant the student body stronger access to their campus and each other, solidifying its place as a staple element of U of C culture.
The future for the confessions page is “generally sticking more or less in the same direction” as confirmed by Admin “but [there are] other ideas that are ready and upcoming for the future.”
You can submit a confession at any time using the link in bio on the @uofconfessions Instagram account.