Saturday, February 16

UCLA Secrets provides outlet to anguished, but can have negative effects

(Rachel Zhu/Daily Bruin)

(Rachel Zhu/Daily Bruin)

UCLA students can anonymously share their darkest secrets online with the touch of a button.

On the UCLA Secrets Facebook page, students submit posts about their beliefs, experiences with anxiety and even posts to find their crush on campus. The page has more than 14,000 likes on Facebook and receives about 100 submissions per week.

Hannah Schacter, a doctoral candidate studying psychology, said she thinks the controversial nature of the posts intrigues viewers and contributes to the popularity of the page.

The page has four administrators who are either current UCLA students or recent alumni. The administrators said they wished to remain anonymous to avoid discrimination and to preserve the secrecy of the page.

After the murder of professor William Klug on campus in the spring, an administrator and 2014 alumnus said he realized the UCLA Secrets page was a key part of the mourning process for some students.

“I think this was one of those crucial … moments of bonding together on our page as well as on campus,” he said.

The page often deals with posts related to anxiety and depression, topics that the administrators said are difficult to truly help with, since the posts are anonymous.

The administrators added they always provide the number for Counseling and Psychological Services on such posts.

Many students simply use UCLA Secrets as a way to have their voice heard while maintaining their privacy.

Schacter said she thinks this type of anonymity can create both a supportive atmosphere and a negative arena for online harassment within minutes.

She described a post she read on the page from a student who felt he had not made enough friends on campus and was lonely. Schacter said the outpouring of support the student received from others in the comments section of his post is an example of the benefits of anonymous pages.

“Because it’s anonymous, it offers a venue for people who might be more inhibited face to face to seek out support or … solidarity,” Schacter said.

However, like many other websites and apps based on anonymous posts, the administrators have to determine what they should share without infringing on the rights of the students.

Other anonymous online forums such as Yik Yak have caused controversy in colleges across the country because they allow students to bully others anonymously. Last year several activist groups filed a letter of complaint accusing Yik Yak of facilitating online harassment.

[Related: Catherine Liberty Feliciano: UCLA should not ban, but regulate Yik Yak]

The administrators said they judge each post individually and determine whether it exposes the identities of other students or is a credible threat. In the past, they reported threats to police. But because the original posts are difficult to track, they no longer report them.

“There were some obvious trolling and some controversial (posts) that run against our own diverse beliefs,” UCLA Secrets said.

The administrators added they post most submissions anyway, since they are the words of students who submitted them.

“It used to be so difficult for me to post secrets that sounded ignorant, but after some time I sort of just got used to it,” said one of the administrators, a fourth-year psychology student.

Schacter said she thinks negative and positive posts are equally balanced on the UCLA Secrets page.

“When I was looking at the page, I thought it was kind of remarkable how much variability there was in terms of it seeming like a really positive and supportive venue versus a really nasty and negative sort of media space,” Schacter said .

Schacter added she thinks the controversial and unpredictable nature of the posts is likely part of what intrigues viewers.

“Sometimes this may result in some controversial posts, but overall, we think this has been a truly wonderful experience for a very vibrant, diverse Bruin community,” said one of the UCLA Secrets’ page administrators, a fourth-year political science student.

Pashmeen Kaur, a second-year applied mathematics and economics student said she submitted a post to the page just to see what it would be like to have her post read by the whole school.

She added though she uses the page for fun, she thinks anonymous outlets like the UCLA Secrets page are good for people who need someone to talk to, but do not want to reveal their personal problems to friends.

[Related: Whisper app builds community through shared secrets]

“The ability for students to express themselves anonymously without facing any sort of consequences as they would in person, (is a big part of it),” UCLA Secrets said.

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